The good news is that “Alien: Covenant” isn’t the ambitious-but-muddled mess that its predecessor, “Prometheus,” was. It’s a tighter, much more straightforward, horror film.
The bad news is, well, it’s hard to be that scared by something you’ve seen played out six times now since 1979 (more if you count “Alien/Predator” movies). “Covenant” is basically a greatest hits of the “Alien” franchise. And just like any greatest hits album — you’ve heard it all before.
The year is 2104 and a huge colony ship is bound for a distant planet. When the ship receives a very human transmission coming from an uncharted planet, Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) decides to investigate. After all, if this unknown world is habitable, they can shave nine years off their trip.
As you might imagine, there’s something ugly, violent and voracious on the planet’s surface. Also on the planet is David (Michael Fassbender), the android who was last seen heading for the planet of the engineers at the end of “Prometheus.”
Director Ridley Scott is once again at the helm of this second in a series of prequels to his groundbreaking “Alien” film. While he shows that he still knows how to deliver a taut, horrifying tale, he first broke that ground almost 40 years ago and doesn’t seem to have anywhere new to go.
These last two films have had a few interesting ideas but they all get shoved aside for more face-hugging, chest-exploding gore. I’m much more interested in the giant albinos but they never get to do anything and the meeting between humans and their possible creators goes nowhere.
I mean, am I supposed to be on the edge of my seat when some idiot sticks his head over a freshly opened alien pod? Do you expect me to still be shocked when someone starts convulsing shortly after an alien encounter?
And even though the actors change, the roles remain the same. This time around Katherine Waterston gets to be the indomitable woman who isn’t in charge but takes charge and drives the narrative. Danny McBride plays the down-to-earth guy who gives the film its small bit of comic relief.
And in a dual role, Fassbender gets to play both the evil synthetic (formerly known as Ash) and the good one (formerly known as Bishop). Which one will win out? Well, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right, and either way will you really be surprised?
“Alien: Covenant” is a better film than its predecessor and the later films in the original run, but it doesn’t have the freshness or spark of the original and James Cameron’s sequel. The special effects are impressive, the actors are solid and the action sequences are thrilling. It’s the same old, same old, but very expertly done.