“Alien: Covenant” continues the slow march to summer blockbuster season

Say what you will about his final products, but Ridley Scott has spent quite a bit of time in the Alien world. From the aforementioned Alien to Prometheus, he has dabbled with xenomorphs more than anyone else. This week, he returns to the world once again with Alien: Covenant, a franchise outing that attempts to split the difference. It’s Scott trying to have his cake and eat it too. As you might have seen hinted over the past week or two by yours truly, I didn’t think it worked, but reviews so far have been divisive. Some love this flick, while others aren’t fans. In other words, it’s very much a Scott outing and a summer blockbuster.

The film is both a sequel to Prometheus as well as a prequel to Alien. Here, we follow the crew of the colony ship Covenant. Filled with sleeping settlers and run by a crew made up of couples, they’re bound for a remote planet that might be hospitable to life. Along the way, a problem with the ship costs the life of their captain, throwing things into disarray. Shortly thereafter, they discover a beacon leading them to an uncharted paradise, seemingly perfect for humans to colonize. Led by new captain Oram (Billy Crudup), crew members like Daniels (Katherine Waterston) and Tennessee (Danny McBride), and android Walter (Michael Fassbender), they set out exploring. It does seem tailor made for them. However, there is also a threat beyond their imagination residing there, in addition to David (Fassbender) of Prometheus fame. Once they realize the stakes, the surviving crew members must attempt a harrowing escape. Insert some xenomorph related brutality. Scott directs a script from Michael Green, Dante Harper, John Logan, and Jack Paglen. Other cast members include Demián Bichir, Nathaniel Dean, Carmen Ejogo, Alexander England, Callie Hernandez, Benjamin Rigby, Amy Seimetz, and Jussie Smollett, along with cameos from James Franco, Guy Pearce, and Noomi Rapace. Cinematography is by recent Scott regular Dariusz Wolski, while the score is from Jed Kurzel.

Personally, this movie let me down. Much more a sort of Prometheus 2 than anything too close to Alien, it frustrates by allowing Scott to focus where you’re honestly just less interested. Fassbender is excellent as David and Walter, but the whole cyborgs dealing with god like feelings and their nature with humans simply isn’t very compelling. Another series might handle that better, but here, it’s not what you want. Plus, the xenomorph sequences feel tacked on, as if Scott knew that Prometheus 2: Covenant, or whatever it would have been called, wouldn’t fly. Instead of going closer to Alien in the timeline, he shoehorns in the latter, reducing its effectiveness.

In case you forgot the piece I did last week, here is how I would rank Scott’s filmography so far:

24. 1492: Conquest of Paradise
23. The Counselor
22. Black Rain
21. Someone to Watch Over Me
20. Robin Hood
19. Exodus: Gods and Kings
18. A Good Year
17. Kingdom of Heaven
16. Body of Lies
15. White Squall
14. Alien: Covenant
13. Legend
12. Prometheus
11. American Gangster
10. Hannibal
9. G.I. Jane
8. The Duelists
7. Gladiator
6. Matchstick Men
5. Blade Runner
4. Thelma & Louise
3. The Martian
2. Black Hawk Down
1. Alien

Starting tomorrow, fans of Alien, and especially fans of Prometheus, can check out Scott’s latest dalliance with this franchise when Alien: Covenant opens. It won’t satisfy everyone, but it’s not your garden variety summer blockbuster, so there’s that. If you tend to enjoy Scott’s odder works, this could end up right up your alley. It’s ambitious, no doubt about that. There’s entertainment value to be had, even if it misses a shot at actual greatness. It’s slightly less disposable than the norm, so while it shamelessly sets up another Scott related installment in this series, it also skirts overt franchise-itis, as it were. Give it a shot if it seems like your thing…

Be sure to check out Alien: Covenant, in theaters everywhere tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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