By Vanessa Crispin.
Since the release of Alien: Covenant, reviews have been of a mixed variety, some praising it for paying homage to the original, while others dismiss it as Ridley Scott’s possibly last foray into directing.
And it is true, the latest film in the franchise is a mixed bag. The opening act establishes a firm connection to the original 1979 Alien movie, a small crew in hypersleep being rudely awoken before reaching their destination – this time to repair damages to their vessel, the Covenant.
It comes as no surprise then, that they should recieve a sudden transmission from a nearby planet.
From then on, the rest of the film presents a fairy predictable turn of events. While it is not, as fans feared, another Prometheus, it borrows from it in ways that it really shouldn’t – for example, we are again faced with befuddling existential dialogue from the android David, who serves no other purpose than to distract the film from the real villain we all came to see – the xenomorph itself. This is the real crux of the film, which could have been a lot more suspenseful if it had not been so dedicated to following the plot from its predecessor.
And not only do we get one David android, but two! Since the new ship contains an upgraded model, we can finally get the exhilarating stand off between two robot Fassbenders that nobody (except Ridley Scott himself perhaps) asked for.
Not to say that there aren’t stunning visuals – there are. The lush, yet dangerous planet that the small crew lands on is home to an ancient ghost city, of immense structures and towering monuments that strike one both with dread and amazement. You can tell that a lot of time and effort went into the art department for this film, and that H.R. Giger’s original designs were a lot more present in the minds of the creators than in Prometheus.
But beautiful surfaces cannot save an otherwise undecided film – especially when the script lacks those emotional punches needed to make us feel connected to the main characters, and thus care about them when they are attacked or injured. And, just like the trailer insinuated, once the xenomorph is released the plot follows a path not unlike that of a common slasher movie for teenagers.
It’s understandable that fans of the original four Alien movies are disappointed, especially when it comes to the treatment of the female characters in this film, as they are, in some ways, even more undermined and bullied than in the last effort. But it is also one of the most violent Alien films in a long time, steeeped in a much darker tone than the previous film, probably because this one was, despite the lackluster female roles, more geared towards fans of the original film.
To sum up it up: Alien: Covenant offers a lot of intriguing ideas and settings to rival our deepest, darkest fears – but does not quite know what to do with them once they are presented.
Vanessa Crispin is a freelance writer based in Stockholm, Sweden.