After the 5 year wait for the sequel to Ridley Scott‘s “Prometheus” we finally have the next installment in the Alien saga that began way back in 1979. To be absolutely honest I wasn’t expecting very much from “Alien: Covenant” because of what I’d been hearing about it and the trailer I’d seen didn’t really inspire me to expect anything other than a generic mainstream multiplex friendly film. So I went in with very low expectations. Although it does have many faults I was surprised that it was better than what I was expecting it to be. The trailer made it seem like it was going to be a complete rehash of every element of all the previous Alien films. A bland greatest hits. Yes it does rehash far too many of  those elements, but does add one or two interesting elements. The trailer also actually does hold back on some of the surprises and important plot points.

In actual fact there is a short film prequel on YouTube I found to be far better and the film I expected from the sequel to “Prometheus”. Prologue to “Alien: Covenant”. Which adds context to certain aspects of “Alien: Covenant”:

“Alien: Covenant” is not an amazing film by any stretch, but I found it to be okay with some interesting and thought provoking ideas that are carried over from “Prometheus”. It has left me a little curious to see the next film in the series. It isn’t nowhere near as good as the far superior “Prometheus”, and certainly not approaching the same level as Ridley Scott’s “Alien” or James Cameron‘s “Aliens“. Two masterpieces made by film-makers at the absolute top of their game. It could be argued that they are their best films. Although, unlike nowadays, when both of those films were made film studios were still at a point where they were more willing to take chances. Especially in the case of “Aliens”. James Cameron unbelievably made a film that was completely different to Ridley Scott’s “Alien”. “Aliens” being more of a war film, whereas “Alien” was a horror film. To some it is a better film.

Different is something that “Alien: Covenant” isn’t. Not like, to a point, “Prometheus” was. It is an okay sequel to “Prometheus”.

The movie has more of the feel of an Alien film than “Prometheus” did. It is certainly the most bloody Alien film so far. It doesn’t skimp on that or alien creatures. Although nothing in the film for me matches the amazing enigmatic opening sequence of “Prometheus”. It definitely has the feel of  a film that suffered because of studio interference,which is more prevalent than ever nowadays with big budget studio films. Whereas “Prometheus” didn’t. That studio interference was in evidence early on in production of “Alien: Covenant” when it was announced that the title was to be changed from Paradise to “Alien: Covenant”.

It seems there was far more emphasis put on linking it in with the original Alien film than creating strong characters like there were in “Prometheus”, “Alien” and “Aliens”. Almost all of the characters are pretty generic and didn’t really engage me like they should have. They are just alien creature fodder and devices to move along the plot. There isn’t a great deal of depth to most of these characters, but then I was never expecting there to be because of the feel I got from the trailer. Katherine Waterstone‘s character isn’t as well rounded or engaging as Noomi Rapace‘s Elizabeth Shaw in “Prometheus”.

The two characters that stand out are those played by Michael Fassbender and Danny McBride. In actual fact Danny McBride, known for his comedic roles, was the biggest surprise to me in the film. He’s actually a pretty good in his first straight acting role. Something that shouldn’t be a great surprise because over the years many comedic actors have become highly regarded straight actors. He brings some depth to his character that doesn’t feel as if it was in the original script. Ridley Scott actually seems as if he was far more interested in Michael Fassbender’s character than any of the others. He was actually the standout of the all the characters. It seemed that his was the only character Ridley Scott and the writers were interested in exploring and fleshing out fully. The writing was pretty weak and not to the standard of “Prometheus”.

I went in with low expectations and found it to be a fun film that rattled along for its two hour running time. Really though an Alien film should deliver far more than that. Especially when it is prequel to classic films like “Alien” and “Aliens”. “Prometheus” set up some great ideas and themes that were not explored fully enough. I was expecting far more of an expansion of these. I wanted to see more amazing sequences like the “Prometheus” opening sequence that actually had something to say rather than just “cool” scenes. I found it to be fun, but forgettable. It didn’t leave me thinking about what I had seen the way “Prometheus” did.

It expands on one or two ideas in “Prometheus” and continues to explore a little more about the Engineers. Something that has me a little worried in the fact that I’m hoping that everything that is gradually being revealed in this film and the other films that may follow doesn’t spoil the mystery of the original “Alien” film.

It certainly has everything you would expect from an Alien film, but that’s  where the problem is with it. It is derivative of all the other films in the franchise. “Alien: Covenant” just doesn’t do enough things differently and hasn’t left the impression on me that “Prometheus” did. It felt like Ridley Scott bowed to studio pressure and gave the studio the generic Alien film they didn’t get with the far superior “Prometheus”. Ridley Scott has hinted that the next film is going to be a prequel to “Alien: Covenant”. Maybe the film Paradise he planned as the “Prometheus” sequel. It seems that the next film could be the sequel to “Prometheus” I and many expected. Well that’s what I’m hoping.

What I’m concerned about is that “Alien: Covenant” and the films that may follow will ruin the ambiguity of the original “Alien” with what I feel will be needless explanations.

I’ve seen far better films this year at the cinema, but I’ve also seen worse. I actually found the prologue on YouTube to be far more intriguing than the film we got with “Alien: Covenant”. It’s fun and a very bloody film with some interesting ideas that rattles along for a 2 hour film. It leaves me wanting to see the next film. Mainly in the hope that we will get the sequel “Prometheus” deserves, and certainly the prequel “Alien” deserves.

Karl Franks

“Alien: Covenant” official trailer: