2012 saw the release of Prometheus, the first prequel in the Alien franchise and Ridley Scott’s return to the series following the original Alien (1979). It followed the ill fated crew of the unfortunately named ship Prometheus on its expedition into deep space to search for the possible origin of mankind based on cave drawings of “Engineers” discovered worldwide by archaeologists including Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). Several mishaps, sabotages and terrifying discoveries later, such as the team in reality discovering they were on some sort of weapons testing planet or the revelation the entire mission was in fact a means for the team’s extremely elderly benefactor, himself on board, to ask the Engineers to prolong his life. At the end of the film the entire team was wiped out and the mission a failure. The only survivors being Shaw and the severely damaged cyborg David (Michael Fassbender) on Shaw’s insistence set off to continue the search for answers and to discover the Engineer’s true home world.
Alien Covenant set 10 years after the disappearance of the Prometheus follows the crew of the Covenant, ship carrying 2000 colonists plus embryos on its way to populate a new world. A signal is picked up during repairs after a catastrophic event which awakens the dozen or so crew members from hypersleep (and kills the captain), not wishing to go back to sleep they decide to investigate the source of the signal. The planet does not turn out to be as welcoming as they had hoped and the crew come across David who had been busy.
Reaction to Prometheus was mixed to say the least, this seems to have influenced the filmmakers and the direction of the series hugely. Rather than follow on as a more direct follow up to Prometheus Alien a Covenant for the most part throws everything out the window and presents us with something more akin to a remake of Alien & Prometheus than simply a follow up to the latter.
The one almost universally liked thing about Prometheus was the creepy performance of Fassbender in the role of the android David. Now I’ll agree that he was one of the. Eat parts of the film but that doesn’t mean they should have made the entire next film about him at the expense of literally everyone else. Also what’s better than one creepy Fassbender androids? Two of them of course.
This is made worse by the way the filmmakers apparently haven’t really learned from the failings of the previous film. We don’t care about any of the characters in this film as they’re slowly picked off one by one. They’re nothing but fodder and their bizarre frankly suicidal behaviour, itself drawing the ire of fans last time, is still present here. These people invite death upon themselves because that’s what we the audience are apparently there for.
Another smart move from Prometheus this film corrupts is that the filmmakers realised that as iconic as H. R Giger’s Alien designs are they’ve largely been run into the ground or parodied to death for the last 30+ years. Fans may still eat it up but to much of the audience Giger’s Alien is now about as scary as Boris Karloff’s Mummy after Laurel & Hardy were done with him. The alien egg no longer has the mystery or horror about it that it once did, now it’s just as predictable as a jack in the box.
I’ve heard this is a “return to form” for Ridley Scott but that’s only in the most literal way as he has created something which feels like a cheap (though much more expensive) imitation of a movie he made almost 40 years ago. Alien Covenant comes off as a soulless attempt to cash in on a long dry idea. The new ideas Prometheus did well to establish this fails to take advantage of instead attempting to rehash what Alien (1979) did well which doesn’t work anymore.
1.5 out of 5