The alternate title for this latest space thriller might be Alien: Again, for while it provides plenty of scares and visual effects, it is basically a retread of what we’ve seen before…not only in Ridley Scott’s original Alien but his most recent prequel, Prometheus. An intrepid (and well-cast) crew explores an unknown planet only to find themselves victimized by gruesome monsters who invade their bodies and emit lots of goo.
Another lesson already learned in Prometheus: don’t trust Artificial Intelligence, even if it is cloaked in the form of Michael Fassbender. The new movie introduces us to his souped-up superior, a lookalike who conducts philosophical conversations with his dangerous doppelganger. There is an air of pretension to this aspect of the film, especially considering that it’s far from original. We learned all we need to know about this topic—at least, movie-wise—years ago from HAL 9000: as soon as you allow man-made creations to think for themselves, you’re in for trouble.
That’s the trouble with Alien: Covenant. Members of the Covenant crew repeatedly say things like “I’m just going over here to wash up” or “I’m going to take a leak.” Why do they feel the need to walk away into the darkness to do anything when it’s inevitably going to invite a monstrous attack? This B-movie trope seems unworthy of director Ridley Scott, who is working from a screenplay credited to the prolific John Logan and Dante Harper, based on a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green.
The strongest asset of Alien: Covenant is a tangible feeling of a team at work. Scott has chosen an interesting array of actors, with Katherine Waterston scoring particularly well as a strong but emotionally vulnerable heroine and Danny McBride in a serious role as a skillful and determined pilot.
Alien: Covenant is well-made and never dull, but you can learn all the exposition you need from the trailer. And if you’re a wimp, like me, and jump at every gooey attack, you may tire of the repetition fairly soon.