Alien: Covenant, Surprising, Satisfying, but not Scary [Review]
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Screenplay by: John Logan, Dante Harper
Story by: Jack Paglen, Michael Green
based on characters created by: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir
Running time 123 minutes
Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity
The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape. Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
I squirmed, flinched, and jumped, but never felt the threatening suspense that made Alien uniquely successful. As an enthusiastic fan of the Alien franchise this may have been my most anticipated film of the year, and I can honestly say I was deeply satisfied, as a fan. I feel others in this same camp will be equally satisfied and excited to see the nightmarish alien return to the big screen. To those fans I say, you have just heard all you need to know, go enjoy this film, and something I will rarely say, you need read no further, because I might upset you.
Ultimately Alien: Covenant failed to deliver a high-tension thriller that will leave you double checking the dark corners of parking garages for weeks. While it came close, it simply felt like a highlights reel of Alien action. Each kill and death was telegraphed so far ahead the only surprises came from the sub-plots and intercharacter conflicts. At times, I feel there was more of an emphasis on graphic violence and gore than in cultivating the unnerving feeling of terror the film should exude. There are two primary failings the first, as mentioned was an abuse of the show-not-tell rule. Like any rule there is an exception, that is when you are trying to build suspense, for example, in the first Alien there were very few clear full shots of the creature, or as in Jaws, what we don’t see is as important as what we do. The second fault is Jed Kurzel’s film score, it simply missed the mark, and failed to add any dimension to the film, it may as well have been entirely absent.
Where Alien: Covenant absolutely succeeded was in telling a fantastically complex, gruesome story that posed as many questions as it answered. By completing the story begun in Prometheus we now have a complete origin of the terrifying Xenomorph. We also have a definite path forward, unlike with Prometheus there was no indication where the story would lead. Another success, and possibly my favorite part of the film, is the expanded origins of the synthetics David and Walter. These things all together add up to what I believe was Ridley Scott’s goal in making this movie, to enhance the franchise as a whole. Taken alone Alien: Covenant may not rate much above average, but taken in context of the series it is excellent, even if it didn’t scare anyone.