Alien: Covenant

The beginning of this year, actor John Hurt died. As a kid, I sat shocked watching Alien on HBO, and seeing an alien burst out of his chest. Watching it happen again, in this movie, made me just wonder why we’re supposed to be exhilarated by that again. This film felt a bit like it was trying to reboot the Alien franchise. It also felt a bit like a lie. It’s called Alien: Covenant, but perhaps should’ve been called Prometheus 2: Covenant.

I expect a lot more from the Alien franchise, and a director like Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Black Hawk Down, Thelma & Louise, The Martian, Gladiator).

This movie picks up 10 years after the events of Prometheus. Apparently Dr. Shaw made interesting use of android David (Michael Fassbender), and you’ll get to see what happens to all of them when the crew of the Covenant hears the John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and has to go investigate where it came from. Hey…Denver did die flying a bizarre aircraft, so….

There are 2,000 people sleeping in pods on this ship, and some of them wake up after an asteroid hits. It’s similar to the underrated Passengers (Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt). Instead of going to the original planet they were going to colonize on, it’s off to a different planet to track down John Denver.

In the first Alien, Sigourney Weaver was such a bad-ass heroine. In this movie, we hardly get to know the characters, which means we hardly care about their plight. Katherine Waterston is Daniels, and she’s a lot less bad-ass than Ripley (Weaver). Danny McBride plays a character named Tennessee. That means he gets to wear a cowboy hat and talk tough. In one scene where he has to be serious, he says, “She was scared. I’ve never heard my wife scared.” It just felt so phoney. He works better in Seth Rogen movies.

Michael Fassbender is interesting. The opening scene introduces us to his character and how he thinks logically. Yet even that is less interesting now that we’ve seen so many android, A.I. type characters (and in much better movies like Ex Machina).

Billy Crudup is well-cast as the captain, who is in a little over his head.

The villain (I won’t spoil who that actor is) is interesting, although we get lots of exposition on their motives..

The aliens we see aren’t all that intriguing. Some look exactly like the creatures we’ve previously seen. Others just look…goofier than they are scary. And seriously, we need to give a rest to the tired scene of humans on another planet looking at a blossoming flower, only to have something jump on them and devour their face. It doesn’t scare you when you see it coming. In fact, nothing in this really scares you. It follows all the usual formulas and tropes.

Scott gives us the idiotic mythology about why these things exist. Come on, man! Just scare us and give us cool creatures. Sure, it was kind of cool hearing Fassbender spout off some Lord Byron, but a little of that goes a long way.

When I glanced at Rotten Tomatoes to see what some of the pull-quotes were from other critics, I laughed at the various takes they had on the original Alien tagline of “In Space nobody can hear you scream.”

I saw: In space nobody can hear you giggle. Another said: In space, nobody can hear you yawn.

Now, I didn’t find this boring. It’s just a case of been there/done that. A few interesting set pieces and visuals (and a cool ending), doesn’t mean this was a movie that needed to be made. The narrative is much too weak to justify its existence.

2 stars out of 5.