After the disappointment of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant attempts to merge the philosophical questioning of its predecessor with the action and horror of the original quadrilogy but in doing so fails to ever feel whole; the narrative and pacing fractured by the weight of the franchise.
Director Ridley Scott continues to bring his experience and skill to create a sleek and beautiful film but fails to make it coherent, a series of stunning scenes that don’t hold in the grand scheme of things; resulting in an overall mess of a film. With a large cast, most of the character’s act as expendable figures for the various forms of alien life and, with little development, provide no sympathy for the audience. The few exceptions to this, Katherine Watersons Daniels and Danny McBrides Tennessee, are sometimes compelling but not enough to keep you invested as the body count rises. One of the most important aspects of the original Alien was that you felt the weight of every death, a fact Scott seems to have forgotten. Instead the focus is mainly put on Michael Fassbender in the dual roles of synthetics Walter and David, a brilliant performance that stands out in an otherwise flawed movie, Fassbender creates a character guaranteed for cult status yet his moral conflict and god complex is often interrupted by the horrors he has created; resulting in uneven pacing and abrupt gore that feels designed and not earned. The final moments of the film in fact feels like a weak attempt at fan service, a rushed take on the original films alien on a spaceship plot that’s tagged on and resolved in a matter of minutes.
While the iconic xenomorph finally returns to the franchise, it unfortunately fails to bring the same horror and threat it did before, the change to cgi offering more creative possibilities but taking away the eerie movement and uncanny realism of the original suit. As the franchise becomes more sophisticated, the impact of the creature itself suffers; working best in a confined scope and story, not a philosophical and complicated plot like in Covenant.
A deeply flawed film, Alien: Covenant is the child of two very different approaches to this particular universe; striving to present intense action and body horror but continually cutting the tension with long scenes of intellectual discussions and complex themes. Much like David, it suffers from an identity crisis and fails to succeed in either respect, falling into the barren purgatory of being ‘just ok.’