Alien: Covenant SPOILER-FREE Review
For those who don't know, I am a huge Alien fan. I love the first movie. It's a masterclass in suspense and horror filmmaking, done brilliantly by Ridley Scott. The sequel, in my opinion, is even better. Aliens is an excellent action movie, with great moments of suspense. I go back and forth on whether Aliens or Terminator 2: Judgment Day is my favorite James Cameron movie, and it's a tough choice. I didn't exactly care for Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection. To me, they're not even proper Alien movies. Then, Scott returned to make the prequel film, Prometheus. I think there were good parts about that film, but it was ultimately a let down. You can read the review I did for Prometheus, in preparation for this new movie, here. But the trailers for Alien: Covenant have been incredibly promising. It looked like a true return to form for the franchise, bringing us back to what made it so great. And I, for one, could not wait to see this film. I went in with really high expectations, and I was let down. Alien: Covenant is a decent movie, that doesn't have the same kind of narrative problems as Prometheus, but it never reaches the level or the heights that Covenant frankly should have reached.
A colonization ship, after receiving a distress call, makes a detour to an unknown planet, and horror ensues!
Once again, Ridley Scott nails the visuals. One of the best parts of Prometheus was how beautiful looking it was, and it's the same here with Covenant. This is a gorgeous looking movie, ranging from the cinematography to the production design. When you watch the behind-the-scenes features for Prometheus, you realize just how much time and care went into designing every little detail on that film, and you come to appreciate the hard work put into that aspect of the movie. And the same can absolutely be said for Covenant. This movie does a good job hearkening back to the franchise in terms of the score. At times, the classic Alien theme would be playing. Then, when it transitioned into more of the Prometheus part of the movie, that theme played. Having the two scores side by side was really cool to hear, and it was a nice treat for the fans. I also have to say that Michael Fassbender was absolutely fantastic in this movie. He plays two different synthetics (not a spoiler, it's in the trailers), and he brings so much to each character. He continuously reaffirms for me just how brilliant of an actor he is, and I don't think I've seen him give a bad performance yet. He is always on, and he knocked this one out of the park.
The problem is that this movie is incredibly underwhelming. For what should have been the movie to bridge Prometheus and Alien, and make everything come together... it just didn't. It explained a couple of things from Prometheus, which I enjoyed, but it wasn't as much of a revelation as I thought it should have been. They really only reveal one thing, which is key, but it's not the kind of "Ah ha!" moment we should have had, in putting all of the pieces together. It was just kind of a neat thing, more so than a game changer. They also completely gloss over the Engineers. They were such a huge and integral part of Prometheus that it felt really weird when they were barely addressed in this one. And once we moved past the Prometheus part of Covenant, and into the Alien element of it, it was simply the same old stuff we've seen before. There was no real significance to it, other than to just have a monster run around for fifteen minutes. Not only have we seen it before in Alien, but it was done significantly better then. With Alien, the film was building the entire time towards the climax. Every little thing builds on the other, until it ultimately pays off. Here, we have the slow burn and the build up, but it doesn't pay off in the way that it should have. And when we do get to the end, and the Xenomorph arrives, it's just a retread of what we've seen before. I do think this is a better movie than Prometheus. I don't think it suffers from the same kind of story issues that Prometheus did. I just think Covenant made some wrong decisions in what to make its story about, and did not take a lot of risks. This movie plays it incredibly safe, which is not what it needed to do. Covenant needed to be big and bold, and instead it just gave us everything we've seen before.
There were a lot of good elements in Covenant, don't get me wrong. I really like the idea of the Neomorphs and the backbursters. I thought this was really cool, and it brought something new and fresh to the franchise. There are scenes in this movie that really had me on the edge of my seat, even if all the big scenes are completely spoiled in the trailers. These were excellently well-made scenes, but there wasn't enough to the overall movie to make it this cathartic and satisfying experience. Instead, I walked away feeling like there should have been more than what we ultimately got. For the Neomorphs and the Xenomorphs, it was all CGI, which did not look right to me. They looked much better in Alien and Aliens than here in Covenant, and it's because of the use of CGI instead of practical effects. There's one shot in this movie that was clearly a practical effect, and it looked incredible! But 99% of the alien shots were CGI, and it just didn't look as good as I know the practical effects would have looked. I don't understand why Scott decided to use CGI here, because all of the creature effects in Prometheus were practical. The behind-the-scenes features stress Scott's desire to use practical over CGI. So why did he change his mind here? I don't know, but I do know that using practical effects for the aliens would have looked significantly better.
Overall, Alien: Covenant is a disappointment. It's underwhelming, and it plays it safe, when it should have been a lot bolder of a film. It doesn't have the narrative issues of Prometheus, but it just never becomes the movie it frankly needed to be. The Prometheus revelations in Covenant aren't as profound as they should have been, and the Alien elements are just a retread of what we've seen before. Mix that with poor pacing, and you get a really bogged down film. There's a lot of good things in the movie, though. Michael Fassbender was excellent. The visuals are all gorgeous, excluding maybe the unnecessary CGI for the aliens. I also really liked the new things Scott added to the mythology, such as the Neomorphs. Unfortunately, what should have been a bridge between Prometheus and Alien simply drags the story out longer to get more movies out of this prequel series, when we really only needed one movie to tie it all together. At this point, I'd rather see someone else come in to do the next one, but that's not going to happen.
What do you think? Have you seen Alien: Covenant? Did you like the film? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
Written by: Nate
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