Friday, February 23, 2024

Run, Don’t Walk Away from This Alien Dullsville

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Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant is a monumental bore. Even worse it’s a predictable cliche ridden pseudo-intellectual bore. The worst kind.  I haven’t seen such a waste of obvious talent and resources since last year’s cinematic boondoggle Passengers.

The original 1979 Alien was a masterful haunted house movie in space. Alien: Covenant is a slasher movie in space. There’s a female character in this film who’s sole purpose is to wander away from the group to take a shower and be slaughtered.

This is a cheap, lazy, mean idiotic movie. I don’t mean cheap in the monetary sense. The movie looks gorgeous. Scott as per his idiosyncrasies is obsessed with the look of his film. The colonial spaceship looks functional and believable. The temple where the majority of the movie takes place is breathtaking and awe-inspiring in scope.

The lush forests of the strange and exotic planet lend a sense of tranquility to the foreboding atmosphere of doom that pervades the movie. One would never have guessed that in all the billions and billions of planets in the infinite galaxies stretching across the vast expanses of space that there would be a planet whose surface looks exactly like New Zealand.

The movie looks so good, and Scott is such a masterful director, it’s a pity the movie isn’t even just a little bit fun. It’s not even a hot mess like King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword. There’s no camp, no glee, just oppressive art direction and hackneyed storytelling.

The opening scene between David (Michael Fassbender) and his creator Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) teases us with the hope the movie might be something more. There are shades of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in how the two converse and behave with each other. David realizes he is superior to his creator while also realizing he must be subservient. Unfortunately, any and all existential musings about the human condition, our intrinsic desire to create, our ability to dream, all take a back seat to what essentially amounts to a mad scientist/evil twin soap opera. I’m sorry if I made that sound fun and campy; it isn’t.

When the colony ship, the Covenant, malfunctions, the maintenance android, Walter (Michael Fassbender) is forced to awaken the crew early. In the process the captain, Branson (James Franco) is burned alive. His second in command Oram (Billy Crudup) takes over and struggles to commands the crew respect. He confides to his wife Karine (Carmen Ejogo) that he believes his second in command status is because he’s open about being a man of faith.

Don’t worry. The movie is far to stupid and blood thirsty to ever come back to that plot point ever again.  While fixing the ship Tennessee (Danny McBride) receives a distress call from a small, oddly hospitable nearby planet. The crew decide it’s actually a better fit for their homestead needs than their original destination. Daniels (Katherine Waterston), Branson’s wife, and third in command, is the lone hold out.

While watching the movie unfold I was struck by how little I cared about anything anyone said. These characters don’t talk to each other so much as say lines at one another. With actors like Waterston, Crudup, and Ejogo, there’s more than enough talent to give the story some much needed emotional heft. Their obvious talents, are eschewed for cheap gimmicks and special effects.

Scott never allows anyone to have an actual conversation. The screenplay by John Logan and Dante Harper never allow us time to learn anything about these characters outside of the order in which they’ll die. There’s no cleverness or sincerity to their words. I was more bothered by stale dialogue then I was by a landing party that emerged from a ship onto an unknown planet without any breathing filters or masks of any kind. At some point you just deserve whatever alien evisceration comes your way.

Eventually, what’s left of the crew stumble upon David. He saves them and leads them to a safe haven, and abandoned temple in the middle of an ancient city. If the movie’s allusions to existential greatness were insufferable before, buckle in. Walter and David have seemingly endless conversations as they quote Byron to each other. Personally, I prefer Bruce Springsteen but hey, to each their own.

It’s impressive how dull this movie is. There’s a scene where David kisses Walter, that’s Fassbender on Fassbender action for those playing along at home, and it’s a yawner of a scene. I don’t know how you don’t knock a homoerotic camp pitch like that out of the park, but Scott doesn’t even swing for it.

The acting is fine, but that’s only because the actors are professionals. There’s no real revelation in any of the performances. Although Danny McBride gives a surprisingly real performance. It’s not great, but it’s something to watch as opposed to the rest of the movie.

Part of what makes Alien: Covenant insufferable is how predictable it is. Predictability is not an insurmountable issue. There are many wonderful and charming movies that are predictable. But Alien: Covenant behaves as if we don’t see it coming. For the love of everything holy, there’s a scene where David asks Oram to follow him what is essentially the basement. And the idiot goes!

God how I hated this movie. I hated it. I hated it. And in cased you didn’t gather it the first two times, I hated it. There comes a moment when the Fassbender’s fight and the outcome is kept a mystery. Who do you think is the Fassbender we see? If you need help figuring that out, then you just might actually enjoy Alien: Covenant. On second thought, even if you don’t know the answer you probably won’t.

There’s an implied cruelty and odd misogynistic tint at the edges of this film that I found repulsive. Yes, the movie looks splendid. But it feels disgusting.

Image courtesy of 20th Century FOX


  • Jeremiah

    Jeremiah lives in Los Angeles and divides his time between living in a movie theatre and writing mysteries. There might also be some ghostbusting being performed in his spare time.

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