Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror franchise Alien, starting Sigourney Weaver, made its debut in 1979 and became a pop culture phenomenon. The franchise is legendary for its commentary on evolution and its diversity of characters (Weaver as Ripley was originally written for a man) while also satisfying the requirements of the sci-fi and horror genres. The franchise was a cool combo of scary and witty.
Alien: Covenant is the latest prequel to the original film — the first prequel being Prometheus in 2012, which was met with terrible reviews, but was a box office success. Alien: Covenant clearly wants to correct the blunders in Prometheus and satisfy loyal fans. While early reviews have been positive, judging by the audience I saw the film with — sighing, yawning and laughing at the wrong parts, Alien: Covenant was an intergalactic dud. But will loyal fans care?
In the first 10 minutes, we meet the crew of the Covenant spaceship, who are kicked out of their sleep pods when their ship is in danger. After hearing random messages from a planet far, far away, hoping Origae-6 could be a safe space for humans to colonize, one of the captains insists on following the message, ignoring his second in command. Big mistake. After landing on the planet, Alien-type hell breaks loose.
You want to believe in Alien: Covenant. This is the legacy of the iconic Ridley Scott: we want Covenant to win. Ridley, we were rooting for you, we were all rooting for you! (Yes, a Tyra Banks reference.) However, half-way through, Covenant crashes into celluloid outer space. The potentially good sci-fi-horror flick morphed into a PlayStation video game with embarrassing dialogue, weak characters and b-movie deaths. Sure, there are a handful of great action and horror scenes, but it’s not enough for a full movie.
Despite a likeable cast and some powerful moments from Michael Fassbender, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett and Katherine Waterson, Covenant cannot be rescued. Furthermore, outside of some random shout-outs to the original franchise and a strange ending that was nearly identical to 1986’s Aliens, this could have been any below-average sci-fi horror film created in a studio boardroom rather than in the imagination of a visionary auteur. Alien was slapped on the title with no cinematic connection to the brilliance of the franchise. That said, the film might be critic-proof. Prometheus was universally hated but a box-office hit. The fan base will show up just to have an opinion about Ridley’s latest creation.
One of the draws of the Alien franchise was the questions the film posed about life, survival, creation and the insatiable need for humans to control what they fear. There was an intelligence and freshness to Alien. For me, there was no wit, cleverness, or heart in Covenant.
Alien: Covenant is in theaters Friday, May 19.
(Photo: 20th Century Fox)