The Culture Movies

'Alien: Covenant' is more interesting than 'Prometheus' but still a retread

In 'Covenant,' the only protagonist of any interest is Michael Fassbender’s humanoid. The film stars Billy Crudup and Katherine Waterston.

This image released by Twentieth Century Fox shows Katherine Waterston in a scene from "Alien: Covenant."
Mark Rogers/Twentieth Century Fox/AP
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  • Peter Rainer
    Film critic

Why do directors who kicked off famous franchises feel the need to keep returning to the scene of the crime? There is, of course, the dubious example of Steven Spielberg and the “Indiana Jones” movies. And then there is Ridley Scott, who has followed his lackluster “Alien” prequel, “Prometheus,” with the only marginally more interesting “Alien: Covenant.” But we’re still essentially in the Land of Retread: An outer space voyage turns grisly-ghastly as gloppy, befanged creatures invade the crew’s innards and pop out – gotcha! – right on cue.

Along for the ride on the spaceship Covenant, supposedly bound for an idyllic new planet where its happy inhabitants can freely propagate, are commander Oram (Billy Crudup), who makes a point of stating he is a man of faith, thus reinforcing the certainty that he will get his comeuppance in the godless intergalactic void, and his mate, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), who doesn’t invite favorable comparison with Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley. (In Waterston’s defense, who could?) If this is your idea of a good time, you can tick away the film’s two-plus hours guessing which crew members will get offed, and in what order (the actors include Danny McBride and Amy Seimetz), but the only protagonist of any interest is Michael Fassbender’s humanoid, a kind of ambulatory HAL, but much kinder – at least until his double, who appeared in “Prometheus,” turns up. This development ultimately leads to a switcheroo ending that only the dimmest in the audience will fail to foresee. Grade: C (Rated R for sci-fi violence, bloody images, language, and some sexuality/nudity.) 

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