‘Alien: Covenant’ Offers Cheap Thrills, and the Rest Is Empty Space

Alien: Covenant. 20th Century Fox

In the almost 40 years since Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror romp Alien, everything old is new again. The sequels, prequels and sequels to prequels add up to the same movie six times. Alien: Covenant, the sixth computerized entry in the franchise, has the same predictable ingredients as the others: one-dimensional girls and boys in space helmets, astronauts in danger, poisonous planets that provide carnivorous alien creatures to feed on their internal organs until they pop out of their dying bodies in a blast of foam and afterbirth, and enough clues at the end to guarantee yet another installment. The CGI effects are spectacular, the creepy aliens have their moments, the blood flows like pomegranate juice, and the film has been depleted of almost its entire cast by the end credits, but there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, and nothing I, for one, ever want to see again. The blank-faced, empty-headed Alien fan base won’t mind a few missing details such as character development, dialogue that sounds like real people talking to each other, plot coherence, or the kind of stuff we used to call logic. They’re already in line to buy the pirated DVD.

The setting is 2104, ten years after Prometheus, the prequel to the original Alien , left the crew of its spaceship to be turned by hungry alien monsters into juicy human hamburgers. Not to confuse you further, Alien: Covenant, the sequel to the prequel, launches a colony ship called the Covenant containing a lot of test tube embryos and 15 galaxy explorers who, for some reason that I’m sure is forbidden in the real space program, are married to each other. Their mission: to find new locations suitable for establishing new colonies of an outdated species called people. A computer called Mother announces a terrible storm, the crew is awakened from hypersleep seven years too soon, and everybody ends up on a hostile planet called Origae-6, where the Prometheus disappeared, played by New Zealand. Unwisely roaming around looking for signs of human life, the crew inhales dust particles that turn into ghastly bugs that in turn enter through their eardrums and sinus cavities and grow into grotesque, flesh-eating, gravity-defying computer fiends that quickly eliminate half of the human elements in the film before you can open your Jujubes.

Mercifully, James Franco has already died as soon as the opening credits ended, leaving Billy Crudup to take over. Two of the crew members carry a deadly virus back to the mother ship that turns them into human hosts for the slimy creatures with teeth like picket fences who decapitate them, one by one. From there, it’s a thrill a minute. The violence is so brutal much of it is unwatchable. Supervising the carnage is, once again, Michael Fassbender as David, the ass-kicking robot from Prometheus, but this time, on the Covenant, he’s called Walter. Inevitably, Walter runs into David, who turns out to be his twin brother. Now we have a plot deviation that can only be called good robot, bad robot. I won’t reveal one more detail, just in case you care about spoilers, but I found the “shock ending” so predictable that I am here to tell you—if you don’t know which robot is on its way back to Earth in the end, you haven’t seen many Ridley Scott movies. The actors struggle to look stern and relevant to the action, but they know when they’re licked.

Complicated, intense, noisy and unspeakably grim, Alien: Covenant may pacify the fans, but it does nothing to enhance the series. Aliens are aliens, and in my opinion, it’s best to leave them be.

‘Alien: Covenant’ Offers Cheap Thrills, and the Rest Is Empty Space