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Ridley Scott, the director responsible for one of the most iconic and terrifying sci-fi films in history, flops with a prequel/sequel that might be pretty to look at but leaves much to be desired. If you can’t make a franchise picture that serves as a stand-alone film, why bother?
Among its multitude of conceptual and practical errors is this film’s casting of actors whose performances fail to hold a candle to that of the original film’s impeccable cast. Katherine Waterston is no Sigourney Weaver, not even close. She doesn’t have the steel or the physical statue for her role as Daniels, an astronaut who seems better suited for melodrama than sci-fi suspense. Waterston doesn’t have Weaver’s since of determination and reflexive instincts.
If you’ve recently watched Scott’s original film, you can’t help but be struck by the lack of cohesion between characters in “Alien: Covenant” compared to those on display in “Alien.” Each actor in “Covenant” seems to be off doing their own thing. For all of the critical praised constantly being poured on Michael Fassbender (he plays twin androids in “Covenant”), he’s no match for “Alien’s” Ian Holm, an actor of towering gravitas whose gruesome revelation as an android gave audiences a jolt.
As well, Danny McBride’s ham-sandwich performance as flight captain Tennessee is a far cry from Tom Skerritt’s Dallas. And the list goes on. There is a case to be made that today’s acting pool simply aren’t as skilled as actors of the ‘70s. Billy Crudup or Yaphet Kotto? Let’s just say that Crudup is boxing way outside his weight class.
“Alien: Covenant’s” lightweight performances eventually take second place to the film’s cobbled-together storyline that feels obligated to force gratuitous violence (with sex) whenever screenwriters John Logan (co-screenwriter on “Skyfall”) and script newbie Dante Harper feel the story lagging, something this film does plenty of regardless of their attempts to distract that there isn’t much of a story here to begin with.
Where “Alien” had a determinedly anti-corporate subtext running through the film, “Covenant” bends a knee to imperialist overreach under the guise of searching for mankind’s creator. Barf. “Covenant’s” opening scene is an overwrought attempt to steal a glimmer of magic from the ending of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
In the scene, an uncredited Guy Pierce reprises his role as Peter Weyland from Ridley Scott’s even more disappointing “Alien” franchise installment “Prometheus.” Screenwriting instructors looking for an abysmal example of exposition, will gravitate to this train wreck opener wherein Pierce’s egomaniac order his android to bring him a cup of tea. I’m sure you could open a sci-fi movie on a weaker leg, but I can’t imagine how.
Once you make it past this film’s disappointing set-up, you will only feel yourself sinking into more discontent after the Covenant spaceship’s crew decide to neglect the 2000 colonists and 1000 embryos onboard the ship in order to follow a signal coming from an unknown planet. Couldn't the screenwriters find a new trope to push the action? Reusing the same one from the first "Alien" movie just feels cheap and lazy.
A baloney script, poor casting, lame performances, and an unfocused production design make for a second-rate sci-fi movie that is nothing more than a pathetic knock-off of the original. Go back and watch “Alien” (1978) or James Cameron’s “Aliens” (1986), or even David Fincher’s “Alien 3” (1992). Each one is a dozen times better than this waste of time.
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