A covenant is an agreement. I’ve got a feeling I won’t be sharing a covenant with many die-hard “Alien” fans on Ridley Scott’s latest prequel, and “Prometheus” sequel, “Alien: Covenant”.
The time is 2104 and the crew of the spaceship Covenant is looking for a new planet to call home. Members include Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir, Danny McBride and “Empire”’s Jussie Smollett. When a systems malfunction is detected, the crew wakes-up early (the incident also triggers the oddest cameo of the year by James Franco). The ship is also carrying 2000 colonists in hibernation pods. Sound familiar? Oh yeah, that’s the crux of “Passengers”, released this past Christmas.
When the Covenant crew is contacted by a mysterious planet they believe can support life, they scrap their original plans and decide this is the place. But they soon discover it’s not paradise, but hell, run by a diabolical leader and his deadly and (for fans of this franchise) recognizable creatures.
Will the crew survive the attacks from the strange, evolving life forms? That’s been a core plot element of dozens of sci-fi movies – most recently “Life”, a film that, thanks to solid character development and a couple of great twists, was able to rise-above the generic efforts of this genre.
“Alien: Covenant” does not. It just feels way too ordinary. The first half-hour, entirely devoted to set-up, is a yawn-fest. Then things do get cooking thanks to Michael Fassbender, who reprises his “Prometheus” role of David AND plays Covenant crew member, Walter. As in “Prometheus”, Fassbender has the most compelling storyline. Scenes in which his characters interact with each other are the film’s highlights.
And I do give Scott credit for taking all the fan criticism of “Prometheus” into consideration. He amps up the action and gore levels considerably here. There are a few effective scares and gross-out scenes – and the final act is set to hyperspace and pretty entertaining.
Technically, “Alien: Covenant” is better than the average big-budget sci-fi action films we get every year. But the story lacks any imagination. Here’s hoping Scott has some original ideas for his future “Alien” prequels or we won’t have to be worried about mutant creatures killing off the human race – we’ll all be bored to death.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Alien: Covenant” gets a B-.
Running Time: 122 min.