It’s been 5 years since Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s disappointing attempt to take back the reigns of franchise he birthed back almost 40 years ago. While I’ve learned to appreciate Prometheus over time, it’s an ambitious film that had Scott abandoning the hallmarks that made the franchise, to give us a prequel/origin story that promised to eventually tell us in future films how that ship with the engineer arrived at planet LV-426. After the negative fan reaction, Scott afraid to make the same mistakes as Lucas went back to the drawing board this time giving us a film carrying the familiar Alien moniker complete with Xenomorph, but still lacking what made the original films so great.
Alien: Covenant, aptly named for the ship currently on its way to colonize a new world, takes place 10 years after the events of Prometheus. When a shockwave damages the ship en route to its destination, the bridge crew is awakened from cryosleep to make repairs. Not wanting to go back into stasis, after picking up a faint transmission from Elizabeth Shaw the crew decides to investigate the source of the broadcast. This leads them to a planet that as it happens is an ideal candidate for colonization, but instead of a new home; they find the decimated world of the Engineers with David as its sole inhabitant. The landing party ultimately becomes his new test subjects, as one by one they are either used as an incubator for the alien spores or prey for the creatures birthed from them.
The biggest problem with Covenant is Scott’s once again fails to realize what made the Alien franchise so endearing to its fanbase. It wasn’t the slick production design or even Giger’s otherworldly Xenomorph; it was Eleanor Ripley’s struggle to find some kind of peace that kept fans coming back. These films were her story and I honestly thought Shaw was going to be our new Ripley, when she set off with David’s head to find the home world of the Engineers. Covenant was a chance to course correct with Shaw at the helm, but in order to give fans what he thought we wanted Scott ditched our malevolent creators and the woman whose faith led us to them. Instead Scott is content in giving us a film that jettisons those hefty ideas and questions, instead giving us a cliché slasher where the crew of the Covenant is simply regulated to fodder for David’s creations.
Covenant isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t really a good film either. It just feels like fan service for those that couldn’t understand the groundwork or ideology Scott was laying down in Prometheus. The film doesn’t do much to justify its 2+ hour runtime either since there isn’t a lot in the way of character development before Scott begins slaughtering the crew in new and gruesome ways. While Covenant ramps up the suspense and gore, the story is less like an actual narrative and more like an excuse to tie this series of visually horrific vignettes together while having almost no emotional resonance for the audience. Ultimately Alien: Covenant is another disappointing entry in the series that is pure style over substance, with only a glimmer of what made the franchise great.