Alien: Covenant bridges the gap between Ridley Scott’s seminal classic, Alien, and his divisive prequel, Prometheus. In many ways, Alien: Covenant is the picture many people expected Prometheus to be. Indeed, if you ignore the existence of Prometheus, this is quite an interesting genesis story. If you don’t, it’s a retread and obvious extension with thrilling infusions of Alien spirit. But the movie we saw in the trailers and early clips — a claustrophobic portrait of terror pitting crew against creature — it is not.
This world is bigger and more concerned with the nature of being and creation. More about Michael Fassbender’s dual android roles ( Walter, an update, and David, a carryover from Prometheus) than Katherine Waterston’s Daniels, or Billy Crudup’s Oram, or Danny McBride’s Tennessee. And that’s too bad, as all three turned it performances that merit more attention than they ultimately receive. The Covenant is full of scientists, but we don’t get the story of their work. We don’t even watch their efforts to form a new colony only to have it undone by an alien menace. Ridley Scott is back in charge of the Alien universe (even though he swore up and down that Promethus wasn’t really a prequel) and he doesn’t seem so very invested in showing what xenomorph terror looks like with modern tech. He’s not really even interested in humanity anymore, just humanity’s follies and the creatures that may well end it.
He’s more concerned with origins, with long swaths of speculative, philosophic dialogue and with attempting to instill a mystery where there can’t really be one. Reminder, to prequel creators: we know what comes next. Now, Rogue One took this fact and used it to create a bittersweet adventure about the sacrifices war demands. Alien: Covenant largely ignores its doomed human characters in favor of diving into the maniacal obsession of a droid with a God syndrome. We get it. David still sucks, let’s get to the part where humans have to get scrappy to survive, eh?
And we sort of do. For maybe half-an-hour Alien: Covenant is the story Alien fans signed up for — it’s desperate and messy and a bit frightening. The cat-and-mouse game is on. And with the gorgeous visuals and strong Fassbender performance that lead up to that shining moment, Alien: Covenant goes down that’s a movie worth watching. But just imagine what kind of movie it might have been if it dispensed with the pomp, championed more characters, and gave the real antagonist its due. Maybe that’s the next movie?