Film review – Alien:Covenant

Ridley Scott’s prequel to the long-running space-monster franchise promises weighty philosophical musings alongside the thrills. But does it deliver?


With Alien: Covenant Ridley Scott continues the series of belated prequels to his near-perfect 1979 sci-fi chiller Alien that he began in 2012 with Prometheus.

Like Prometheus, Covenant is loaded with lofty portent and presentiment. And like Prometheus, Covenant doesn’t deliver on its ambitions at all.

Prometheus revolved around a mission to meet the godlike aliens who had seeded the Earth with their DNA and given rise to humanity. In Covenant we meet the crew of a colony ship that, by an improbable coincidence that we will have to excuse in the interest of moving the story along, ends up in much the same neck of the woods. Apparently space isn’t as big as you think it is.

Where Scott’s original film scored is with its casting, and deft character touches, it offered a crew of people that the audience could believe in and care about. We didn’t want any of them to get eviscerated by the mysterious HR Geiger-designed killing machine.

In this new film we won’t really know anything about the crew, and what little we do know leaves us wishing they’d hurry up and get slaughtered. There’s some vague religious stuff swirling around nominal team leader Billy Crudup, one of his shipmates wears a Star of David necklace that we zoom ‘significantly’ in on at one point, but quite which crew member it is I couldn’t now tell you because all the characters tend to blur into one another.

And for space travellers they’re a spectacularly incurious bunch. One or two bizarre, scientifically significant events occur but the crew take virtually no interest, electing instead to have a bit of a wash so they can be more picturesquely murdered by the not-quite-as-scary-as-the-original-design proto-aliens.

They don’t seem to pay even the slightest heed to basic biosecurity either, taking fewer precautions than you might before a fortnight in Tunisia, but that’s blockbuster movie-making for you.

The principal engine of the plot isn’t really the homicidal Xenomorph at all but a loopy, Gothic novella, plan hatched by a mad robot – played as in Prometheus by Michael Fassbender. Twice!

Throw in some vague and ultimately irrelevant references to Wagner, Shelley and of course the Old Testament and you’ve got something that only thinks it’s part of the once-proud Alien movie lineage.

And finally there’s a plot twist that is telegraphed so hard, so clumsily, so early, and yet only delivered on in the dying moments of the film that you will find yourself longing for the glory days of M Night Shyamalan.

Prequels are a tricky business, largely because the outcomes of life-or death situations can be predicted by a review of the previous film. That isn’t the case here because it’s an (almost) all-new crew, but Covenant falls prey to the other great shortcoming of the prequel – one which George Lucas will know to his cost, the danger of deflating all the magic by explaining too much.

If you are longing for a return to the tenebrous corridors of the starship Nostromo, this is one to miss. But if your tastes run more to the slightly pretentious mad robot genre, this one’s for you.





Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive