The tagline for the original Alien warned that “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream”.
Almost four decades on and it feels like Ridley Scott has taken that sentiment to heart in the worst possible way.
Seemingly blocking out the many naysayers that warned against taking the franchise down the same path as Prometheus, he’s crafted a movie that’s a hodge-podge of the Alien of old and the eye-catching Engineer-led cod-philosophy Guy Pearce in an old man suit of new.
It’s no longer a matter of “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream” – now it’s the screams and howls of derision directed at the screen that Scott, the architect of arguably the finest entry in the franchise, seemingly refuses to hear.
This time round we’re following the voyage of the USCSS Covenant, a colony ship on a course to start a new life on a planet far, far away, which decides to investigate a rogue transmission on a mysterious and in-no-way-potentially dangerous planet.
What could possibly go wrong? Quite a few things actually, and we aren’t referring to the plot.
If you thought you’d entirely escaped Prometheus’ penchant for philosophical musings on the meaning of life as we know it, then the bad news is that, from the very first frame, we’re back in this same kind of territory with Michael Fassbender in tow.
In fact, Fassbender spends a good portion of the film, as robots David and Walter, pondering the existence of man. Did loaded miss the bit in Alien where Ripley stopped to ask the very same thing? Was that a part of Aliens? Or Alien 3 for that matter? No, and they were all the better for it.
Call us old fashioned, but we just wanted to see people running around a ship getting offed by aliens. This is only half that. As for the rest, well…
This Isn’t Blade Runner
If you want to see a film about human-looking robots dealing with the complexities of their existence, then Denis Villeneuve’s imaginately titled Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049, is out this October.
In the meantime, Blade Runner’s original director, Scott, has decided to fill almost half his latest alien film with scenes involving two robots, both played by Fassbender doing things like drawing pictures, playing a recorder and setting people up as incubators for face-hugging aliens.
Ash and Bishop were great in Alien and Aliens because they added to a story about a bunch of people running from Xenomorphs. Walter and David just distract from it.
James ‘F*cking’ Franco
We feared the worst when Franco’s grinning face popped up in the promo images for Covenant. Thankfully, his appearance is mercifully short, but it’s still strangely distracting, taking you out of the Alien universe with his daft, grinning face.
A Predictable Setup
Though fans were eager for an Alien movie that paid homage to the Xenomorph movies we know and love rather than something focusing on those weird Engineers again, Covenant finds a way to be both completely derivative while introducing new elements no fan in their right mind is likely to care for.
Answering a distress call from a random planet? Really? Again? And it’s the planet that was once home to those Engineers? Great. Because that was what all those great Alien movies were lacking – crap aliens.
Dr Elizabeth Shaw
Literally everything she did in Prometheus, as daft as it may have been at the time, has amounted to nothing in the grand scheme of things thanks to this movie. Think Hicks and Newt in Alien 3 and you aren’t far off whats’ gone on. Just to emphasise again: if you are expecting to see any trace of Noomi Rapace in this movie, get ready to be sorely disappointed.
The Greatest Hits
The Alien franchise is littered with memorable deaths and that’s not just restricted to the first two movies – Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection both boast some incredibly gory, elaborate demises that made them patchy but enjoyable entries into the canon.
Unfortunately, Covenant feels more like a greatest hits compilation played at fast-forward, with Scott recreating some of the franchise’s most iconic moments via a new bunch of characters viewers are neither properly introduced to nor care for, speaking of which…
Who just died?
Here’s a challenge for anyone watching Alien: Covenant: Can you name all 15 of the crew members we are introduced to? Because we sure as hell can’t. Now try the same with Alien’s crew of 7? Chances are you could probably say each of their names plus a little on their character. Same with Aliens.
More importantly, when the body count starts to rise in Covenant, you lose track of who is alive and who is dead. It doesn’t exactly help that several characters meet their end in near darkness or are introduced in one scene, only to die in the next.
Don’t get us wrong, there are some decent turns with Katerine Waterston, Demian Bichir, Billy Crudup and, most surprisingly of all, Danny McBride doing some fine things. Other than that, though, it’s a blur of bodies akin to most of the deaths from Jurassic World. Yeah, loaded hated that too.
Shiny new Aliens
Many of the headlines ahead of the release of the movie focused on the new look Aliens. But again, that detracts from what made the original films so good.
The look of the original Xenomorph was perfect – a beautifully terrifying beast that ranked among the most iconic in cinematic history. As the Nightmare On Elm Street remake proved, you shouldn’t mess with the look of your movie monster. In doing so here, Scott and the makers of Covenant find a way to make the Xenomorphs look less scary and a whole lot less believable.
Skewed Logic At Every Turn
It soon becomes apparent in Alien: Covenant that very little of anything makes logical sense. Why would a colony ship risk everything to go and investigate some mysterious planet? Why would a character go off and investigate something on his own on strange, unexplored terrain? Who is designing these defective robots?
There’s also the logic of the Xenomorphs themselves. It’s moved from characters simply being infected by face-huggers, to breathing in magic alien dust – a leftover element of Prometheus. Then there’s the face-huggers themselves, which no longer take hours to impregnate then kill their prey but mere minutes – basically whatever suits the patchy script.
Then there’s the ending, which is beyond problematic in terms of time frame and logic without giving away too many spoilers. One thing is for sure: you’ll be screaming inside, for much of the film’s two-plus hour running time.
Alien: Covenant is in cinemas this Friday. There is no post-credits scene.