This one’s worth skipping.

“Game over”? I wish.

The first question is important: was this made as a sequel to Prometheus or has Ridley Scott made the far wiser choice of forgetting the existence of that film and re-attempted a prequel to the Alien films? As far as I could make out from trailer clips, it seemed to be the latter, but with all the rehashed imagery, set designs and costumes, you almost miss how different Prometheus was – stupid plot and characters notwithstanding.

It is happening again. Or… wait, no, sorry, that’s the wrong one.

After seeing it, it’s obvious that Alien: Covenant does take place after the events of Prometheus, which is by all means canon, and serves as a connection between Prometheus and the first Alien. Kind of like how Rogue One bridged the gap between Star Wars: A New Hope and, well, itself I guess. Michael Fassbender even reprises his role as David from the last film, as well as another android of the same model named Walter, breaking the Aliens saga tradition of naming each new robotic character in alphabetical order – not that it makes alphabetical sense to give the name “David” to a model that chronologically existed long before Ash.

To be precise, Walter operates aboard the Covenant, a colonization craft headed towards an exoplanet in the year 2104. A terrible accident kills the ship’s captain (a random James Franco cameo) and many of the colonists. The survivors intercept a radio transmission from a planet in close proximity and deduce that it can sustain life, hence they view at as a new candidate for colonization. As you can probably work out, however, the life it carries is less than friendly and more than a little phallic in its Gigerian appearance. They also meet an aged David, who has many tedious stories to tell about characters we never cared about from the last film.

Speaking of characters, Covenant naturally has its own supply of death-wishing idiots and mandatory Xenomorph feed/Chestbuster carriers (there are also the so-called Neomorphs but they prefer to be called “alt-Xeno”). Katherine Waterson plays a professor in terraforming who was married to the now dead captain (to put it simply, no new generation of girls will look up to her as their Ripley), Billy Crudup plays the Covenant’s first mate, Danny McBride is the helmsman, Carmen Ejogo portrays a biologist, Demián Bichir is a seargant, and so on. The point is that there are faces to be hugged and chests to be busted. If it still doesn’t sound sufficiently by-the-numbers, don’t fear; it does end with someone or something being defeated via airlock.

Guy Pearce turns up too as Peter Weyland, founder of the Weyland Corporation, no longer wearing the jarring old-age makeup we saw in Prometheus, that seemed especially pointless once all of younger Wayland’s scenes were removed from it. Now, we do see his younger self. I suppose that makes it all okay?

The biggest delights in Alien: Covenant, aside from a legitimately skillfull dual performance on Michael Fassbender’s part and the rehashed H.R. Giger designs, are the moments that will give you a memorable chuckle, such as the oft-discussed “fingering” sequence and a series of prat-falls that would only have been even better if the characters shot themselves in the head on accident. Alas, a generic zombie film this is not. It is a different kind of tedious entirely.

Some critics are content with the fact that Alien is a repetitive franchise, but all of the Alien films to date, excluding the titles that end with “Vs. Predator”, have been so different in nature that they’ve never felt like the first one regurgitated. The second film was a memorable action spectacle, the third one had shades of “so bad it’s good”, and the fourth one is French and insane (it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me and I often think of the Brad Dourif scenes when I’m feeling down). It has never been quite so boring a chore to endure.

You could make the argument that this is the ideal way to end things, however. The movies have differed so extremely in style and quality that it is only appropriate to end the franchise by coming full circle – with a final film that’s similar to the first one, and takes place right before it. I suppose that’s somewhat beautiful, but (1) I still wasn’t wowed by anything I saw while watching, (2) I thought it was cute enough when Star Wars did it last year, and (3) I’m sure it won’t be the end. After all, Hollywood is where ideas go to be kept alive even after they die and nobody’s asking for them anymore. I think that’s how the saying goes.

Down below is a trailer and a rating of sorts. Here’s to forty more years of this stuff, and hoping they bring Brad Dourif back.

2/5 whatever

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