I didn’t dislike Ridley Scott‘s Alien: Covenant — I hated it. And I’m not saying that out of some lazy-wrath instinct or pissy posturing or what-have-you. I’m talking about serious stomach-acid sensations here. Then again I mostly despised Prometheus so it didn’t take a great deal of effort to come to this.
If Prometheus rang your hate bell, you’re going to despise this one also. For Alien: Covenant, which runs 121 minutes but feels like 150, is truly a spawn of that awful 2012 film. Is it “better” than Prometheus? All right, yeah, I suppose it is. Is it therefore worth seeing? Maybe, but only if you like watching films that make you resent everything on the face of the planet including yourself.
I’m not going to tap out the usual story, character and actor rundown. All you need to know is that I didn’t give a damn about any of Alien: Covenant. Nothing. I was muttering “Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyou” the whole time. Ten minutes in I was going “awww, Jesus…this already feels sloppy and reachy.” Of course it has a back-burster scene. Of course it was thrown in to compete with the John Hurt chest-fever scene in the original. All I could think was “the Hurt version was set up so much better, and delivered so much more…this is just Scott hanging wallpaper.”
I hit the bathroom during the the last ten minutes. You never do this if a movie has you in its grip, but I didn’t care.
Scott’s Alien (’79) had clarity, integrity — it was simple and managable, and it didn’t make you feel as if you had hornets in your brain. Best of all it didn’t explain anything in terms of backstory or motivation. The original Alien space jockey (I will love that elephant trunk and split-open ribcage for the rest of my life) was wonderful because there was no explanation about what had happened or why. It was delightful for what it didn’t explain.
Alien: Covenant is detestable for the exact opposite reason — for all the boring and tedious backstory gruel (i.e., all in service of explaining Michael Fassbender‘s malignant creationism) that it explains and clarifies, and then elaborates upon.
The Telegraph‘s Robbie Colin, who loves this fucking thing and cheers the fact that it’s “a million miles from the crowd-pleasing Alien retread 20th Century Fox [execs] have presumably been begging Scott to make,” calls it proof of Scott “operating at the peak of his powers.”
To me Alien: Covenant is a portrait of Scott as a giver of corporate neckrubs. And it grieves me to say this about the director of The Counselor, which I not only worshipped but which will probably turn out to be Scott’s last brilliant, hard-as-nails, close-to-flawless film.