Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring: Katherine Waterson, Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup
Many years back, the late great Roger Ebert introduced me to a blunt but nonetheless effective term in literature called the “Idiot Plot.”
The idiot plot, to put it simply, is basically when the plotline of a story only moves forward because the characters are dumbasses, who’s story’s plot would otherwise be over if they didn’t act like or make dumbass decisions.
“Alien: Covenant,” in short, is exactly this. Ridley Scott’s characters from beginning to end in this film make one moronic decision after another that basic common sense would have overridden quickly otherwise and ended the storywithin the first ten minutes.
There are good, even great moments to be had in this movie but unfortunately it’s swamped underneath a layer of stupid so thick you could pour it over pancakes.
(”Mmmmm…iiiiidiot plot… *drool sound*”)
A sequel to Ridley Scott’s convoluted “Alien” precursor “Prometheus,” “Alien: Covenant” tells the story of the crew of a colony ship who sustain a tragic accident from a random neutrino blast that kills their captain on their way to a planet. During repairs the crew is suddenly alerted of what seems to be a human signal coming from a planet even more habitable than their original destination. Against the objection of first officer Dany Branson, the crew heads to what appears to be paradise on this forlorn planet but quickly uncover an unimaginable terror that threatens to kill them all if they don’t escape.
It’s a real shame that this movie wasn’t better because there are brief glimpses of brilliance within this very, for lack of a more eloquent word, stupid story.
Its visually as impressive as it gets both in cinematography and in special effects and Michael Fassbender once again is the best and most interesting part of the story, this time playing both a Data like android in Walter and reprising his role as David who has now gone full mad scientist.
But again the dumb of the story is just baffling from start to finish.
Since its kind of impossible to properly give a review of this film without SPOILERS, you are all being warned now that the rest of this write-up will be filled with them so read on at your own risk.
(Complainers will be fed to whatever the hell that squid beast was from “Prometheus.”)
Literally the Most Emotionally Unstable People Ever in Space!
I know this is science fiction and we’re all supposed to have a strong suspension of disbelief when venturing into this genre but I have a hard time understanding how whoever runs the show back on Earth in this universe could hire so many emotionally unhinged individuals to head a highly important space colonizing mission.
At the beginning of the film, after the random neutrino blast causes a freak accident which involves killing James Franco’s character before he even makes a real appearance, acting captain Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) makes such a big deal about protocol that he gets angry about a section of the crew holding a FREAKING FUNERAL for the dead captain.
He then says something vague about the suits back on Earth not trusting him with the mission because he’s a “man of faith” (because, you know, this movie is all about faith and Gods, geeeet it? Oh and this never gets brought up again btw) but then suddenly when this random space message gets intercepted by the ship and they discover this habitable planet its coming from he’s like “FUUUUCK protocol lets endanger the lives of 2000 colonists by venturing to this planet that we haven’t scouted out at all and we only discovered through a spooky space message!”
So keeping score here; funeral for dead captain? Wrong and against the rules. Following a random space signal to a planet you haven’t scouted, mapped or verified while responsible for the lives of 2000 colonists? Totally ok and not against protocol.
This is the horror movie cliché equivalent of “Hey gang, we should totally go into that spooky house over there.”
As if to further establish that this dude is a moron and should have never been second in command, let alone sent into space, he clearly had some vendetta going with James Franco’s character and a contentious relationship with Waterson’s Dany so once again I have to ask “Who the fuck let these people crew a space ship??” I don’t see NASA sending people with petty high school drama into space, I don’t expect people of the far future to either.
Fast forward a bit in the story, where members of the crew have been infected by the virus that is also the alien as well(?) we have a sequence of events where one neomorph (a genuinely creepy albino version of the xenomorph, I must admit) emerges from a crew member inside their drop ship’s med bay after one of the crew intentionally locks the other inside.
Granted we have characters who are dealing with an emergence and horrific scene they have never trained for but judging by their military armaments and classifications it feels like all common sense and military action was thrown out the window out of stark fear as the two crew members in this scene play more as meat bags to get slaughtered than actual functioning people. It all ends in a hilarious “whoops” sequence when one of them in stark fright misses the neomorph and hits an open gas container (?) that ignites the ship into an explosion.
As Crudup poutingly remarks “It’s all my fault” while observing the fireball, I felt very tempted to yell out in the theater “Yes it fucking is!”
The Dumbest Astronauts Ever
As remarked on before, the Covenant crew’s emotional instability is staggering considering they are running a giant space colonizing mission and the choice to go colonize a strange planet that popped up out of nowhere that they know nothing about truly highlights this team’s lack of operational brain cells.
As it turns out in the movie this is the first of many bad ideas by the crew.
First, I may not be an astronaut but whether a planet has oxygen conducive to human life or not I ain’t stepping out onto a strange new world without wearing at least a haz-mat suit for fear of deadly microbes.
And this is more or less how the neomorphs come into play here. While walking around, members of the crew accidentally step on these little pods that happen to contain seeds of the neomorph. It’s the facehugger basically but in pollen form (?) and it basically makes its way into the host through the nose and of course shit hits the fan from there.
Literally, if these guys just follow what seems to be pretty normal protocol for space missions across the entire science fiction genre nobody gets infected and hell, the crew might even bounce after recognizing that the spooky alien space ship is the final resting place of the crew of the Prometheus (as they are established to be aware of). In fact why didn’t they run away regardless after seeing that?
(Yep, definitely nothing alarming about this on an unknown planet you received a space message from…)
But nope two members split into two and neomorphs go running about killing randomly with again members of cast just being in the movie to be meatbags, another common sense mistake in the plotline that would have otherwise saved our “heroes.”
Why the fuck do people still trust David??
Rewinding back to “Prometheus,” Noomi Rapace’s character Elizabeth Shaw made a series of dumb decisions in that movie too but perhaps her gravest mistake, as told in “Covenant,” was trusting the android David… AGAIN.
If you remember “Prometheus” everything goes wrong because David’s overly curious nature starts to boil over into mad scientist territory (even more so in this film) when he decides to experiment on the crew’s captain out of spite with the virus sample he obtains. Everything that goes wrong from there can be traced back to the android and yet still at the end of the movie instead of smashing David’s head with a rock (which btw begs the question how did Shaw repair David between movies??), Shaw decides to bring him along for the ride to confront the Engineers.
Fast forward to past midway into “Covenant,” Walter, the other android, confronts David after discovering he killed Shaw, possibly to conduct more experiments regarding the xenomorphs. Boy, I bet no one saw that coming…
(To be fair he is one handsome motherfucker. #nohomo)
Fast forward again, David has now revealed himself to Crudup’s character and instead of shooting him before he could fuck another crew over again and thus redeem himself a little after ordering the Covenant to this planet in the first place, he decides to follow David because he wants to know “answers.”
The scene is basically only there for the exposition into why David is doing what he’s doing (though its not completely clear why still) but once again just an ounce of common sense, given the context here, would have more intelligent people going “Fuck your reasons!” and just shooting Fassbender in the face.
Instead Crudup walks into an obvious trap where even after seeing big scary aliens kill multiple members of his crew, he decides to look directly into an obvious xenomorph egg after David deviously says “its been waiting for you” and you know what happens next.
A comical twirling mustache and a maniacal laugh would have really tied the whole scene’s ridiculousness together.
(”Deeerrrr, the evil android said it was ‘just for me.’ Daaawww how thoughtful of him. :3″)
How did Walter lose to David and how did David catch-up to the Covenant crew?
So after Walter first confronts David regarding Shaw (which has a fairly comical Fassbender kissing Fassbender sequence in it), David kills him by stabbing him in the neck with a flute which leads to a pretty hilarious split second image of Fassbender bugging his eyes out. It appears at this point Walter is dead, even though its been established in this series that Androids can sustain much worse injuries without ceasing to function.
(Like seriously, much worse…)
Anyways, Walter then appears to heal from his wound since his model has “upgrades” (which begs the question since this is a prequel why couldn’t Ash or Bishop do that?) and goes back to fight David in hilarious Fassbender on Fassbender action. At one point it appears Walter has David dead to rights, even punching him so hard that his voice box becomes garbled. But then David starts rambling about something, something perfect species or what not and we cut to Fassbender running toward the Covenant crew as obviously David masquerading as Walter.
The question here though is how did Walter lose? In the previous scene we see David reaching for a knife but we’ve already established Walter can heal from those kinds of wounds. Did he chop him into many little bits? If so how did he have the time to cut-up Walter, then melt off his own hand (Since Walter lost it to a neomorph earlier in the film), put on Walter’s clothes, then also freeze a couple of facehugger embryos to put in his stomach (which he regurgitates at the end of the movie), and also repair his voice box enough to mimic Walter’s voice, while simultaneously trying to catch up to the crew while also outrunning the xenomorph that’s already trying to catch them?
If he somehow persuaded Walter to join him, even though he tried that already during the first confrontation, he STILL has to do all those things before the xenomorph gets there.
(That does not make sense!)
This might seem a bit nitpicky but seriously this whole sequence doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Soooo maaaany questions still…
One of the frustrating things about “Prometheus” is its too mysterious. It’s a prequel to “Alien” that answers nothing about the original and adds a shitload of questions instead.
Who are the Engineers? Why did they create humanity? Why do they want to destroy humanity? What is the virus exactly? How does it work? How does the virus make xenomorphs? Why do people run in a straight line from a falling space ship?
(Right or left! It’s not that fucking hard!)
“Covenant,” like its predecessor, answers none of these and again leaves the viewers with a bunch of confusing questions.
Why didn’t the Covenant space mission not originally discover this Engineer world while mapping out planets for colonization? Again why send so many emotionally unstable individuals into space? How did the weird alien pods start growing on this planet? If in “Prometheus” the virus just makes zombies out of male characters why does the space pollen create neomoprhs? Why did David decide to commit genocide on the Engineers? Was this the only planet a vast space-faring race like the Engineers lived on? How did David crash the ship after killing the Engineers? If David is the true creator of the xenomorphs as we know them now how did the engineer ship end up on LV-426? And how did those same xenomorphs eggs do the same?
I guess these questions can all be answered in the next movie but that’s what we all said about “Prometheus” too…
(Answer me, you handsome fuck! #noHomo)
There’s more I could probably critique from here but this really is the meat of what’s terribly wrong with “Alien: Covenant.”
Characters, who should be more intelligent than they are, make bad decision after bad decision in what would make even the most cliché horror films blush and narratively it’s a confusing mess that leaves too many questions for the viewers.
Even on a superficial level, watching “Alien” the night before this movie, its not even a fun horror romp either. This film certainly has a lot of blood and gore and death to go around but it has none of the qualities that made the original such a great thriller. The last act of the movie is basically a sped-up retelling of “Alien” and it lacks all the teeth, tension, suspense and claustrophobia of that movie. Characters are largely nameless in this story and get killed just the same. Without looking I could name three characters at best out of the Covenant crew and their interpersonal relationships. You sometimes even forget who’s still alive and who’s dead after awhile.
(Not even a good “Happy birthday!” jump scare!)
It’s a mess on a narrative scale and even as its basest isn’t a very good horror film either which is even more shameful.
There’s definitely worse movies out there but “Alien: Covenant” is among the dumber blockbusters to come out over the last couple years with plot holes so big a xenomorph could walk through them,
Maybe if “Bladerunner: 2049” turns out great we can have Dennis Villeneuve reinvent the “Alien” franchise next but until that time comes (hopefully) it appears Ridley Scott might want to go into cryo sleep and away from his properties for awhile…
1.5 out of 5
Until next time…