The Reviewinator: Alien – Covenant (2017)

Am I the only one who’s noticed that Ridley Scott is going the George Lucas route with the Alien franchise? Not that that’s a bad thing, as he’s a far better filmmaker even on his worst day. But there has yet to be a prequel series that outshines or even matches the originals. And Alien was a franchise that never needed a prequel to begin with, given that the first movie introduced the aliens through happenstance, which will become increasingly more far-fetched with the continued additions of prior encounters.

10 years after Prometheus, the crew of the colony ship Covenant is awoken when a shockwave hits their ship, killing some of their crew. It turns out to be a human radio transmission coming from a nearby Earth-like planet they somehow missed until now. Upon investigating, an airborne alien spore infects some of their people, impregnating them with lifeforms that burst out of their bodies and attack the crew. And when their shuttle is destroyed in an attack, the remaining crew members find themselves stranded and being hunted by the newly-discovered creatures.

As a lifelong fan of the Alien series, I’ll admit that my expectations are nearly always quite high. While Ridley Scott’s directing style brings a nostalgic bit of familiarity, it’s not enough given the forgettable characters and uninspiring action sequences. Michael Fassbender is front and center in this entry, masterfully playing not one but two versions of his android character. But the rest of the characters are just bland archetypes; cannon-fodder for the xenomorphs. Speaking of which, where in the old movies the aliens were methodical stalkers who attacked from the shadows, here they’re lightning-fast and acrobatic martial-arts experts who can take on multiple foes at a time. This takes away quite a bit of the desired suspense, and definitely not the return to form I was hoping for.

The recurring problem with prequels is that it’s not enough to be entertained by them. You have to agree with them also. You have to be convinced that all of these events occurred before the first event. Specifically, you have to accept that all of these characters encountered the aliens before Ripley and her crew just happened across their crashed ship in the first movie. Prometheus revealed that human beings were created by an alien race they called “The Engineers”. Alien: Covenant has a strikingly similar revelation that completely changes the meaning behind the entire franchise. It’s fine for the movie itself, but in the grand scheme of the franchise, I found it to be quite heavy-handed.

Is Alien: Covenant a superior sequel to Prometheus? In ways yes, in other ways no. It keeps the story going at a brisk enough pace and Michael Fassbender easily steals the movie. It’s all the other forgettable characters that hold the movie back. But does it belong as part of the Alien franchise as a whole? In my opinion, no. If you’re a longtime fan, you likely won’t approve of the direction it’s headed in. The movie has some good dramatic scenes and a few creepy moments, but as far as prequels go, I just don’t agree with it.

2 out of 5

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