ReelBob: ‘Alien: Covenant’
By Bob Bloom
“Alien: Covenant” is like a bride preparing her gown: Adding something old, something new, something borrowed, something … well, you know.
This sequel to “Prometheus” and prequel to the “Alien” franchise features all the tropes you expect from these movies.
And that is “Covenant’s” main drawback. It offers nothing new, no surprises. The movie goes exactly where you expect, and the bodies fall in an orderly, dominoes-like manner.
The movie follows the spaceship “Covenant,” which is transporting about 2,000 colonists, as well as thousands of “second-generation embryos,” to a new planet. The crew and colonists are in hyper sleep.
A devastating accident awakens the crew. In the chaos, the ship’s captain — a cameo by James Franco — is killed.
Taking command is Billy Crudup’s Oram, who does his best to keep the crew together and the mission on course.
The ship picks up a signal — actually, a recording of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Road.”
Pinpointing the source of the message, the crew discovers a planet that seems perfect for colonization — it’s weeks, not seven years, — away.
Against the advice of Daniels (Katherine Waterston), his second-in-command, who believes the planet — which had been unknown — is too good to be true, Oram orders the Covenant to divert course.
It does not take a rocket scientist to guess what happens when the crew reaches this world.
The first couple of reels of “Alien: Covenant” operate on a heightened level of suspense and expectation. You know what’s coming — you just don’t know when or how.
The tone shifts from anticipation to action once a landing team reaches the surface of the planet — which does not seem to be the paradise that the Covenant’s computers indicated.
Soon, crew members begin dying in gruesome ways, as the movie accelerates from the more cerebral atmosphere of “Prometheus” to the hyper-action milieu of “Aliens.”
If not for the return of Michael Fassbender, “Alien: Covenant” would be consigned to the dustbin of failed sequels.
Fassbender plays a dual role: Walter, a new and advanced “synthetic” who was the guardian of the Covenant while the crew was in hypersleep. He also reprises his David from “Prometheus,” who has taken a darker turn since that movie.
The sequences in which Walter and David confront each other are the more enjoyable moments in a movie that seems so familiar in its execution that you can close your eyes and imagine what is happening on screen.
“Alien: Covenant” is uneven; much of the dialogue is clunky, inane or, simply, jaw-dropping. The storyline arc is too deliberate and formulaic.
Director Ridley Scott does offer a few moments that grab you, but they are not strong enough to sustain the entire film.
The movie’s finale hints at another sequel. So, it seems Scott is going to continue lugging his franchise through space, until it comes full circle and the Nostromo appears on the horizon.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
1½ stars out of 4
(R), graphic and bloody violence, language, sexual content, nudity