The Alien series is a series I’ve had on my “Must Watch Movie” list since I was eight-years-old.
I remember when James Cameron’s “Aliens” started showing up on HBO. My older siblings would invite their friends over to experience the second chapter of the franchise, and shortly after the closing credits, they’d recite favorite lines while re-living their favorite “Aliens” moments.
From what I could gather form their conversations, “Aliens” was the best movie ever made. But as an eight-year-old, I knew my limitations. I wasn’t yet man enough for “Aliens.”
By the time I started taking film seriously, the world was at “Alien: Resurrection,” with talks of another sequel on the way. I probably still wasn’t man enough for the Alien franchise, but the bigger problem for me was simply time. If I tackled the first film, I’d need to watch every installment.
I’d heard countless Alien conversations by that point in my life, and almost every one was about where the franchise had gone wrong and what needed to be done to get things back on track. An informed opinion on such matters meant taking in every movie, and to this day, I still don’t have an informed opinion.
In fact, the only movie I’d seen in the series up until last night was “Prometheus,” and I’d only watched “Prometheus” because I’d heard it was its own thing. It was the David S. Pumpkins of the series.
So why am I leading with this? Only because, to me, “Alien: Covenant” is simply a sequel to “Prometheus.”
I don’t know how “Covenant” affects the whole of the series, and I don’t know if this latest explanation of the Alien species makes the franchise better or worse. From where I was sitting last night, “Alien: Covenant” was the part two of a pretty lackluster part one.
Like always, let’s talk about the highlights:
Eleven years after the events of “Prometheus,” the crew from Covenant picks up a signal from a nearby planet. Of course, Covenant isn’t supposed to go to that planet, and we as the audience know if they do go to that planet all Hell will break lose, but they choose to go anyway and all Hell breaks loose.
If you haven’t read my reviews before, you should know I think complete overviews are spoilers and so I’m mostly against them.
As I mentioned earlier, I feel like “Alien: Covenant” is a huge step up from the previous chapter. Where Ridley Scott asked a lot of questions during “Prometheus,” he played coy with the answers which left me wondering about the point of the adventure in the first place. As a result, Prometheus acted like an expensive take on a black and white monster movie. The ship’s crew just ran around from a large, seemingly brainless monster for 2 hours and then the survivor(s) flew off to another planet.
But “Covenant” has a purpose. “Covenant” leads with its theme and explores that theme in a very dark way. This allows for the film’s main villain, and ultimately the direction of upcoming installments, to explore the mystery of creation. That goes a long way in selling the audience on a reason to be interested.
Another thing that Scott gets right in “Covenant” is the scare factor. This is another area “Prometheus” came up short on, so Scott’s decision to let tension build around a reasonably compelling cast of characters before ultimately deciding their fate is a welcome return.
What doesn’t work
The people who will have the biggest problem with “Covenant” are the Alien fans.
This is probably a very bad thing for multiple reasons, but I should also note it wasn’t actually a problem for me. Yes, Scott needs to play to the audience that has been with him from the beginning and yes, it’s important to preserve what made the originals great in the first place, but it’s also important to appeal to newer fans who have no interest in revisiting movies from the 70’s and 80’s.
So, as Scott goes through these new films, he is explaining things that veteran fans have never cared about. For example, I’ve never heard an Alien fan say, “I sure wish someone would explain to me how these monsters evolved in the first place.” That said, someone new to the franchise, like me, won’t find an explanation offensive because when “Prometheus” is chapter one, an explanation in chapter two makes perfect sense.
To the non-Alien purists, “Alien: Covenant” will play out as a pretty good sci-fi horror film. To the casual Alien fan, maybe you scratch your head a few times and maybe you ask, “Is that right?” but I still think you’ll have a good time. When it comes to the purists, I feel totally under-qualified to project how this movie lands with you, but being the victim of over-explaining in a few of my favorite franchises, I’m guessing you’ll find parts of the latest chapter very frustrating.
Left to my own experience however, I call “Alien: Covenant” a win for the sci-fi horror genre, and a welcome addition to the new Alien: Prometheus franchise.