Movie Review – Alien: Covenant
This is the sixth film in this franchise. It’s a horror series, a chain of monster movies. It’s also in the same vein as slasher flicks where a group of people will get trapped in some place and get picked off one by one. The fact that this movie follows that template shouldn’t be surprising, but the previous film broke from the template a little and presented that the franchise had the potential to go in a different, science-fiction direction than what we’ve seen before. That isn’t the case here.
This movie is the most typical. If anything, this movie is a beat-for-beat remake of the original 1979 film, which would put it in line with movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens that decided to copy the story from the first in the franchise but only changing the character names. This is not uncommon for sequels or in this case prequel, but the hope is that the sequel will be just as good if not better than the original. The Force Awakens did that. This movie doesn’t.
Even if you take this movie on its face, it’s not exciting or scary at all. It’s highly predictable, which wouldn’t be problematic if there were much thrills, compelling ideas at play or any significant character-building. The movie juggles about a dozen people who are crew members aboard a spaceship. It would be impossible to dig into each one. Half are usually fodder for the monster or serial killer. That leaves about six, which a two-hour movie could personalize and explicate, but this movie doesn’t do that either.
We don’t get to know these characters in the slightest. The only thing we learn is that for some reason, the crew members are all married to each other and one of them plans to build a log cabin on a new planet, but that’s more a Chekhov’s gun situation, or a card trick that’s less about developing character as just being a narrative gimmick. There’s also one character who’s supposed to be a man of faith, which is meant to play into the theme of this movie and the previous, but, other than echoing that theme, there’s not much more to it.
Like Independence Day: Resurgence and Star Trek Beyond, this is a sci-fi film with a very diverse cast. Unlike those two, this movie doesn’t have an Asian character, but, like those two outer-space films, this movie continues the trend of including gay characters in a blockbuster flick. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do justice to those characters by showing them having any kind of physical affection. We still have yet to see a blockbuster with a $100 million budget with two men kissing romantically.
Oscar-nominee Demián Bichir (A Better Life and The Hateful Eight) plays Sgt. Lope, the head of security. His husband is Sgt. Hallett, played by Nathaniel Dean, an Australian actor. The fact that they’re husbands is never said in the movie. I read it later on Wikipedia. The only hint of it is Lope crying over Hallett’s body, a trick pulled in Independence Day: Resurgence, and even then, it’s only a hint. Bichir’s reaction could just be one of a friend. There’s nothing specific about their relationship at all. When it comes to the other couples, there’s nothing specific to them either.
The previous film Prometheus was not a great piece of work, but it was better than this because it wasn’t just a monster movie. It was about its characters and some grander ideas. This movie picks up ten years later from that story, but those grander ideas are dropped for the most part. Prometheus was about creationism and challenging the God myth and what would happen if humanity met its creator or creators. That movie ended with the promise of humanity meeting its creator. This movie doesn’t follow through with that promise.
Prometheus introduced these characters called “Engineers,” represented by these seven-foot-tall, pale, muscular men. Instead of exploring these characters and talking with them, this movie becomes more about robots battling each other. Unfortunately, Star Trek: The Next Generation did an episode called “Datalore” that was about twin robots fighting that was way better.
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs and X-Men: First Class) reprises his role as David, the robot in question who is doing double duty. His character is just as nonsensical here as he was previously. He’s just evil for no reason and wants to create monsters but no explanation as to what his end game is. He’s evil just because, and unlike looking forward like Prometheus, this movie looks backward and wallows in pessimism.
Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality / nudity.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 2 mins.