UK Release Date: 12th May 2017
Runtime: 122 minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: John Logan, Dante Harper
Starring: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Guy Pearce
Synopsis: A crew of colonists heading towards a planet earmarked for humanity’s future take a misguided detour when they are drawn to a mysterious planet by a distress call.
Everyone wrote off the Alien franchise a few years ago, when original director Ridley Scott‘s reboot-cum-prequel Prometheus met with an avalanche of disappointing reviews. The movie was a more philosophical, thoughtful twist on the mythos that largely eschewed horror in favour of existential musings about the origins of humanity. The franchise has lain dormant since then, but it has been brought back to life with Alien: Covenant, combining the existentialism of Prometheus with the haunted house in space feel of earlier franchise entries. Suffice it to say, it’s a gigantic waste of time.
After a horrific accident kills many crew members aboard the titular colony ship, Oram (Billy Crudup) is left in charge of the ship, with terraforming expert Daniels (Katherine Waterston) as his second in command. The crew, with the help of android Walter (Michael Fassbender) and skilled pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), take a detour from their planned mission to investigate a seemingly habitable planet from which a distress call is emanating. There, they meet an earlier model of android – David (Fassbender) from Prometheus – who offers sanctuary to the travellers. It soon transpires, though, that the planet is home to a brutal alien threat.
There’s an identity crisis at the heart of Alien: Covenant that completely torpedoes the film. In trying to mollify those that criticised Prometheus, Scott peppers his new film with an array of horror sequences and splatter interludes that nod their head clearly at the original Alien film – a stripped-down scary movie. However, he is unable to let go of the philosophy that made Prometheus different, which creates a fundamentally messy film that is trying to simultaneously portray two very different cinematic styles.
The barmy clash of styles at the centre of Alien: Covenant could almost have been survivable if it had been backed up by a selection of strong performances. However, that’s something that is sorely absent. Katherine Waterston was sold prior to release as the second coming of Ripley and the film certainly tries to present her in that way, but she’s not given nearly enough to do to live up to that role. She’s an utterly tertiary character until the third act and, even then, her moment in the action spotlight is over in the blink of an eye. Like Noomi Rapace in Prometheus, Waterston’s character is short-changed in a film where the monsters are the stars.
Then there’s Michael Fassbender, who is handed pages and pages of dismal expository dialogue and the level of pseudo-psychology often spouted by stoned students with pictures of Bob Marley on their bedroom walls. Fassbender’s two roles are equally dull and the scenes in which the two interact seem to trail on almost infinitely, only interrupted when the time has come for a focus group mandated moment of horror. The rest of the cast may as well be faceless drones and, in fact, the only actor who emerges unscathed from the whole thing is Danny McBride, which tells you everything you need to know.
Alien: Covenant is a misguided and plodding story that has enormous problems with pace and lacks anything approaching originality. It has a drab plot that is unable to create any sustained tension from its randomly inserted flashes of horror, culminating in a twist so stonkingly obvious that a blind man could’ve seen it coming in the dark. Scott, though, seems blissfully unaware of the deathly frail state in which his franchise finds itself. In space, it seems, no one can hear you yawn.
Pop or Poop?
The once proud Alien franchise lies broken and battered at the feet of its creator, with Alien: Covenant making Prometheus look like an elegant masterpiece. It’s a slow, often tedious trudge through the mind of a filmmaker who long ago lost sight of what made his original movie a genre classic. This one is considerably more chilly than chilling.
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