Ridley Scott returns to the monster that made him famous (or the monster returns to the man that made it famous, your call) with Alien: Covenant. Does he fare better this time around? Lee reviews.
Forget Alien vs. Predator, make room for the far less marketable Alien vs. Ozymandias. The hallowed carcass of Prometheus 2 finally bobs to the surface of the sordid lake it was tossed in, genetically repurposed and repackaged as an ideologically-driven reimagining of the original Alien film, and for what it’s worth, they’ve done the best they can with the concept.
Eschewing conventional prequel constraints like seriously having to tie in to a film made in the 70s, yet also not outright ignoring the desperate pleas from those thirsty Xenomorph fans; Alien: Covenant’s hybridised splicing of tense space marine murdering, gross body horror, and ponderings on the ever-spiralling creator vs. created parable makes for a generally entertaining and sometimes even quite memorable watch.
Android face-offs, airborne viruses, hostile planets; it’s par for the course with the “remake Alien” checklist, and if you’re into seeing small, mostly irrelevant twists on the same formula (or have never seen that formula before), you stand to gain quite a bit more from Covenant because it has you in mind two-thirds of the time. The other third goes to those who enjoy a little fanciful ribbing with higher concepts sneaking into their conventional horror movie, and if that’s your preferred slice, well, just be glad it’s there at all, really.
Cons mostly match with pros in this arena: chances are you have seen much of this movie before as it is essentially a beat-for-beat remake of Alien with the same frustrating genre conventions that Prometheus carried with it (interfering storm, broken comms between crew, “everyone who separates from the main character gets killed” syndrome), but with that comes a chance to reanalyse a formula remixed into modern storytelling conventions and introduce newcomers with something that does hit the mark remarkably more times than not. The placeholder genre characters play their part and have just enough meat on their bones to be supportable, the android battles of wit are remarkably fun to watch, and there’s plenty of worthwhile spectacle here to really engage those who don’t feel like reading along.
That said, a little more thought/money going into the proto-aliens wouldn’t have gone amiss. Some less hand-holding dialogue would have been appreciated too, because we’re really not going to get that lost here. And were these films always this long? Maybe it’s the fatigue of watching the same movie over again, or perhaps it’s just the sheer predictability of the horror regardless of exposure, but there has to be a snappier way of getting a doomed mission to spiral south a little quicker than this.
Still, without the clueless grasp of Lindelof piloting his good ideas into meaningless ambiguity as usual, Alien: Covenant feels like a package that gives just a little more than it gets, and that’s a good thing. We are now firmly done with the Prometheus experiments though; it won’t get tighter than this unless you ditch the Xenomorphs all together, and we all know that isn’t going to happen any time soon. What’s here isn’t perfect, but there’s plenty to chew on and recommend, just don’t overthink it and don’t expect too much from it and you’ll have a good time.
Good job also re-contextualising Prometheus less as a misfire and more as an over-long expansion on Alien lore, by the way. Scott must have borrowed the damage control team from Days of Future Past.