Review: ALIEN: COVENANT (SXSW 2017)

By Laurie Coker
Rating: D

I often wonder about the “critics” opinions versus my opinion. I am after all a professional film critic myself, but when I look at critic ratings of films and I find that often I sit on the polar opposite side of popular opinion. I can’t help but think – “whaaaaaaaaaaat?” Alien: Covenant, a film that had a ten minute sneak peak at SXSW 2017, bored me to death. I found the story idiotic and the telling of it listless and lazy.

Unlike the innovative Ridley Scott, groundbreaking film Alien, Covenant’s tale takes place, for the most part on a single planet, where freakish creatures attack and kill humans – beings, by the way, that are not one tenth as frightening or cool as the original, horrifying alien. A god-like manbot resides on the planet and his plan is sinister – to destroy mankind. While this may seem like a spoiler – given that the film’s plot is as transparent a pane of newly cleaned glass – it is NOT. Covenant harbors few surprises and in truth few shocks either. Gore does not foster fright anywhere in the universe.

Michael Fassbender takes on two roles and never is memorable. It is not his fault. Granted he is meant to be a machine, two actually, but the characters are poorly fleshed out – all the film’s characters are if the truth be known. We are expected to care for these people when we never really get to know them, and even though the cast is strong, the dialogue and character development is not. Katherine Waterston, Danny Mc Bride, and Billy Cudrup join Fassbender, but Scott makes little use of their talent.

As is anticipated bodies pile up quickly, tension builds, but only a little and the expected happens – done – two hours of spectacular sci-fi imagery wasted on a lackluster storyline. The creature, the special effects and the suspense and thrill are all monumentally better in the original 1979 film than they are in Alien: Covenant, even after nearly four decades of movie technology advancement. I expected more. Oddly two hours seems far too long and yet, somehow far too brief to warrant attention. It is slow, sloppy, soulless and even with two bookend Fassbenders barely tolerable.

The R-rating is deserved, I suppose for the bloodletting in nothing else, but I would have rather seen a lesser rated film, done better. Sloggy storytelling, steeped in some inane thematic nonsense does not make for an entertaining time. Alien: The Covenant deserves no more than a D in my grade book and I don’t care what other (obviously unseasoned) film critics say. We are all entitled to an opinion.

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