Say what you will about “Prometheus” (and there’s a lot that can be said), but it at least tried to be something different. “Alien: Covenant” on the other hand is trying to balance the headiness of director Ridley Scott’s Biblical allegory with the blockbuster need for gore and old-fashioned scares. It is not a smooth melding.
“Alien: Covenant” starts with the crew of the spaceship Covenant dealing with a technical failure and losing its captain. The remaining crew, led by Oram (Billy Crudup) and Daniels (Katherine Waterston), investigate a nearby planet to see if it is sustainable for a human colony. They meet David (Michael Fassbender), an android left over from the previous Prometheus mission, who is identical to Covenant’s own android, Walter. Things grow dire as the situation surrounding David reveals itself.
The film is nearly a direct copy of every Alien film up to this point: people wake up from hypersleep, discover an alien world, investigate it, discover an alien creature that picks them off one by one until the lone female with short hair uses her ingenuity (and an air lock) to vanquish it. This being the fifth film in the Alien franchise, the stories feel incredibly stale. Audiences need something truly original to care about.
Perhaps the xenomorphs are released on the creator’s homeworld and they need to band together with the humans they tried to exterminate to stop them. Or we witness the creation of the Queen Alien and have a film based off her. Or we focus on a world where the xenomorphs have totally taken control and a small rebellion must discover a way to take the planet back.
Or we continue to focus on the idea of creation and the robots who become obsessed about it. The best parts of “Alien: Covenant” are the conversations between David and Walter, two androids discussing their purpose and the human condition. David’s experiments are a great basis for an entire film and his narrative could carry the whole story. Instead, we have more space explorers, a forgettable cast whose sole purpose is to die and the same old story we’ve seen again and again.
“Prometheus” was a mess of a film that nevertheless introduced some interesting ideas and dynamics to the horror-sci-fi genre. It’s sequel plays it a little too safe while at the same time trying to have it both ways and the result is a rather unmemorable film. There are some good elements, but the whole is underwhelming.