There was some disappointment from fans of the “Alien” franchise with the prequel “Prometheus.” Mainly in that it was a bit of a departure from the “Holy crap! Terrifying creature! Run!” formula the series at its peaks had done remarkably well.
“Prometheus,” from “Alien” creator Ridley Scott, was moodier with high-minded themes like the origins of life and man’s place in the universe with only flashes of the white-knuckle thrill rides that made up the rest of the franchise.
I liked “Prometheus” for what it was and still consider Noomi Rapace’s self-C-section scene to be one of the more spectacular gross-outs in movie history.
Now, we have “Alien: Covenant,” which serves as a sequel to “Prometheus” and a bridge to the rest of the franchise. Unfortunately, tying everything together isn’t nearly as tidy as you would hope and the result is a movie that, even with its share of moments, feels kind of clunky and unsatisfying.
The spoiler-free storyline involves a ship full of colonists headed to a new life on an uninhabited planet. On the way there, they receive a distress signal from a previously undiscovered planet that is much closer and much more habitable than the planet they were originally headed to.
They decide to check it out. Screaming and dying follow. The only returning actor from “Prometheus” is Michael Fassbender, who plays an upgraded, less diabolical version of the android David, this time named Walter.
The rest of the cast is pretty much forgettable alien-chow with the exception of Billy Crudup as the ship’s less-than-competent captain, Katherine Waterson as the capable second-in-command, and Danny McBride playing against type as the heroic pilot.
Questions do get answered here, but then a whole lot more crop up (not the least of which is who explores a new planet without wearing at least a surgical mask?). Scott is still interested in asking some big questions, but he seems to forget we don’t really have the time, nor the inclination, to ponder the mysteries of the universe while we’re running for our lives.
While the overriding theme of “Prometheus” was the hubris of humanity in the vast expanse of the universe, “Alien: Covenant” looks to expand on that theme by pounding on it with a hammer.
So much is left open-ended, vague, or just outright unexplained you can’t help but feel a little frustrated no matter how impressive all of the action is (and it is pretty impressive).
“Alien: Covenant” is an ambitious movie and it earns points for pushing the envelope. But it spreads itself too thin and, by trying to go in too many different directions at once, it winds up being little more than a cinematic curiosity.
In space, no one can hear you go “meh.”
“Alien: Covenant” is rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language and some sexuality/nudity.