Alien: Covenant (2017)
Runtime: 122 mins
I am a huge horror fan. One of the first horror movies I ever watched, was Alien. I watched it late at night on a black and white portable television in my bedroom when I was 16 and it scared the life out of me. The sequel ‘Aliens’ was pure adrenaline-fuelled entertainment which demanded repeated viewing, but then things took a downhill turn. It wasn’t until Prometheus, that I honestly felt compelled to visit the cinema to see the movie how it was intended to be watched. In 3D on a movie-sized screen. I (unlike many others) rather enjoyed Prometheus, even though it left a great deal of questions unanswered, so I had really high hopes when I first saw an online snippet of Alien: Covenant, and that excitement has built steadily for weeks.
The movie begins with a lengthy introduction, that harps back to David’s creator/created narrative and it instantly deflates you into submission. It’s an entirely unwarranted luxury that serves little purpose but to remind us, that David is not a reliable synthetic. Only after this false start do you start to glimpse the real face of a real resurrection of the original movie. The excitement begins when you see those blocks forming the letters, albeit the title seems rather rushed. It’s not the only thing that becomes a little hurried here either.
What follows is a mishmash of a movie that although beautiful visually and aurally, it never quite fulfils its promise. You need to view the numerous previews to understand just how little is felt toward character development. James Franco has such a small role, that if you blink you will miss him. The story quickly becomes entirely about the synthetics, both played admirably by Michael Fassbender, and introducing explicit ways to kill off the expendable using new variations of the creature such as the back burster it is clear that everyone else then becomes non-essential. Only Katherine Waterstone as Daniels, is really given just enough to work with, but the plot is fatally flawed. Danny Macbride is the only other character who we really feel any attachment to. For the others, you know that they are sacrificial lambs just waiting to be slaughtered.
The movie feels as if it is about to lead us to pastures new, but quickly becomes mired in its own desire to be all things to all men. It feels as if it is stealing elements heavily from movies like Sunshine, and doesn’t quite know if it wants to be a full-on horror, an action movie, or a philosophical discussion about humanities inhumanity and whether the universe would be a better place without us in it. The aliens grow far too fast to add any suspense, and it feels as if the movie has been condensed to fit everything into a shorter running time.
There is gore in abundance, including the decimation of an entire civilisation. New and inventive death sequences such as the already mentioned back burster, and the return of the face-huggers was welcome but again felt as if the inception was too hurried. I did feel a wave of nostalgia when we witnessed the emergence of the chest burster. It took me back to that night I first encountered a xenomorph on my television screen, but I felt that the overuse of CGI render the aliens to be too artificial to be frightening, call me old fashioned but sometimes we need to use real actors in suits to achieve something more relatable.The action sequences lacked any real suspense, the Aliens sometimes look as if they belong in another movie and there is no humour here in any form whatsoever.
The end twist is so predictable that an eight-year-old would be able to work out the great reveal and sadly the movie ends leaving you with a bitter taste in your mouth. This could have been a great movie, instead, it is just above average. Looking at the other cinema goers expressions and hearing comments muttered as we left the auditorium, I know that I was not alone in my opinion