REVIEW: Second ‘Alien’ Prequel Hampered By Foolish Characters, Faux-Intellectualism

Director Ridley Scott has once again ventured into “Alien” prequel territory, but like the 2012 picture “Prometheus,” his new sci-fi “Covenant” has too many flaws and doesn’t come close to the level of the 1979 horror film.

Scott’s latest endeavor in the genre tells the tale of a colony star ship on course to set up a society on a remote planet. Their trip to this new planet, which has been properly vetted and researched to ensure that it’s completely safe, hits a snag, though, when a space phenomenon causes a malfunction.

Not only does this result in awakening the crew from their hyper sleep, it also causes the death of their initial captain. In the immediate aftermath while the crew is checking the status of the ship, which is carrying roughly 2,000 passengers, they discover a signal being sent from a remote planet that’s closer than the one they’re going to that has breathable air and water.

So, instead of staying on course, the new captain (played by Billy Crudup) decides to explore the new planet that hasn’t been properly investigated or checked for safety. As expected, what they find is the extraterrestrial threat that’s been in movies since the late 70s.

Most often, the first few paragraphs explaining the movies’ story is kept to two, but, the last one had to be included here. Why? Because it includes one of the biggest detriments to Scott’s most recent picture.

The majority of the characters in this movie, from start to finish, make stupid decision after stupid decision. The first is mentioned above, with the captain and majority of the crew agreeing to go to a planet that hasn’t been explored and investigated to ensure safety. Immediately after that, they make another idiotic decision to send down nearly the entire crew to the planet, rather than sending their android Walter (Michael Fassbender) and a robotic rover or drones to test the conditions.

Yes, there’s more. When the crew does land on the planet, instead of wearing any type of protective gear to prevent diseases or anything like that, they just walk on the planet in simple military gear. Now, all of these kinds of decisions are on top of the more horror cliché types, such as going off by yourself alone in a dark area or following a villainous character into a basement.

This all made it very difficult to get into the story. Speaking of which, it just sort of meanders its way until the halfway point of the movie when the tie-ins to “Prometheus” start to make themselves known. This, to me, causes yet another issue with the picture.

As the movie introduces its connections to the 2012 picture and delves into them with the android character David (also played by Fassbender), who was in the movie “Prometheus,” the story becomes more convoluted with faux-intellectualism. That isn’t to say that it’s a negative to have an intelligent sci-fi movie, but this was done with hardly any subtlety and mostly just include David rambling on and on about creation.

All of this isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t deliver any entertainment when it comes to the aliens and their assault. The movie does in fact bring some action and thrills with the alien creatures attacking, but it’s all been done so much better in either the original or its 1986 sequel directed by James Cameron.

As for the characters, none of them are particularly memorable. The main protagonist, Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is basically supposed to be this movie’s version of Ripley instead of being a whole new character. The rest of the characters, meanwhile, are underdeveloped and as previously mentioned, make so many bone-headed choices.

On the former subject, the character development seemed to lack because of a choice in the filmmaking process to have all of the crew have romantic ties. Basically, every character in the crew has a significant other, making it seem like the audience was just supposed to automatically sympathize with all of these people because their significant others were in peril, rather than just naturally building the characters.

Then, there’s Fassbender, who has dual roles playing the new android Walter and the one from “Prometheus.” First of all, Fassbender is a wonderfully talented actor who has pulled off many award caliber performances in his career. However, despite his acting being fine, there were some choices Scott made in putting both characters Fassbender plays together.

To start off with, it really wasn’t needed for Fassbender to play Walter. In fact it could have been a bit more interesting if it had been a different actor playing.

(SPOILERS) Then again, if that were the case then Scott couldn’t have done the really obvious twist at the end of the movie. (END SPOILERS)

Secondly, David’s character, as previously mentioned, doesn’t really do much here besides babble on and do the same BS that he did in “Prometheus.” Also, David seemed to be a little bit too perfect here, as in it could’ve been more intriguing if the android had more malfunctions and had less high maintenance. This in turn could raise more questioning as to why he was doing what he did in the movie.

Overall, “Alien Covenant” is a rather forgettable entry in this new prequel series. Is it well made? Sure, Scott knows what he’s doing as a director, the film looks good and the special effects makes for a fairly nice visual experience. However, I also just got a good visual experience from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” which scored high in all the other aspects of a film. One is better off just watching the 1979 or 1986 movie again. 1 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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