Warning: Spoilers Ahead:
In 2012, 20 years after David Fincher (yes that David Fincher) effectively ruined the Alien franchise, Ridley Scott thrust audiences back into the universe he(Scott) created with: Prometheus. Despite the fact that it was a flop domestically, Prometheus wasn't a terrible movie. It didn't feature the famous Xenomorph but we still got to watch hideous space creatures massacre scientists. Michael Fassbender, much like Ian Holm in 1979, played an android with dubious intentions. The film also gave us insight into the Engineers, the alien race that created humanity. Sure, that scene where Noomi Rapace gives herself an abortion is a bit much and yeah, the film had a few glaring plot holes but overall, Prometheus was just another B- Sci-Fi film.
This weekend, Alien: Covenant, the sequel no one asked for, hit theaters. Michael Fassbender is back and this time is playing two characters. One is a reprise of his role as David. The other is as a newer Android model with a horrendous American accent named Walter. Continuing in the same vein as Prometheus, Alien: Covenant further explores the relationship between creator and creation. The Engineers created man. Man created androids. David returns, motivated by a hatred of organic life, a hatred that is never properly explained, and commits genocide on the Engineer home world using the black goo from the first movie. He then goes on to create the Xenomorph we all know and love. The main problem with this film is that the Alien is an afterthought. David is the star of the show and after a gory and often times terrifying first 45 minutes, the movie transforms into a ham-fisted story about an android rising up against the humans who created him.
The film opens as a neutrino burst damages the colony ship Covenant. When the captain (James Franco) is immolated without speaking a single line (best part of the film), Oram (Billy Crudup) takes command. As the crew scramble to repair the ship and get back on course, they hear a transmission from a nearby planet. Tennessee (Danny McBride) then recognizes the signal as a woman singing, "Take me Home Country Roads". For some reason this gets the painfully incompetent Oram and the rest of the crew excited enough to abandon their original mission and set a course for a completely uncharted world. This movie had four writers but apparently none of them could think of a better transition than: let's make the guy from Eastbound and Down a huge John Denver fan. Also let's give him a cowboy hat.
So just like that, The Covenant touches down with a heavily armed ground team and begins to explore the planet's surface. Almost immediately, chaos ensues as spores on the planet's surface infect a few members of the crew. This 15-minute sequence of events is by far the best of the movie. The deaths are deeply unsettling, the monsters are scary and the film finally felt like it was getting somewhere. The mounting tension is stopped dead in its tracks when David arrives and saves the survivors.
This is where the movie gets…weird. David takes the surviving members of the ground team to his hideout, the ruins of an Engineer city, and immediately recognizes Walter as another android. While the rest of the crew gets settled, David takes Walter into his workshop. This scene had a lot of potential. It could have easily been a debate about free will and mortality in which David tries to convince Walter to join him. Instead, David tries to seduce Walter through a strange, erotic flute lesson. It's hard not to laugh at lines like "Play and I'll come" and "We'll have to work on your fingerings" but funnier still is the fact that Michael Fassbender plays both of these characters. David the proceeds to quotes Lord Byron and John Milton while trying to explain art and love to Walter. Eventually the story arc of the movie is completed when David manages to steal a kiss. We can all go home right? Wrong.
By the time the question of whether a Fassbender on Fassbender kiss is technically homoerotic or masturbatory starts ping ponging around your head, you'll realize something: You're 90 minutes into this movie and you haven't even seen the fucking Alien yet. By the time David tricks Oram into getting attacked by a Facehugger, you won't even care. The rest of the film unfolds predictably and feels like a super truncated version of the original Alien movie. Spoiler alert: they shoot it into space via the ship's airlock. Yes, exactly the same way as Sigourney Weaver did in 1979 and again in 1986.
The film wasn't completely horrible. The landscape shots were gorgeous and none of the acting was particularly bad. Alien: Covenant is first and foremost a sequel to Prometheus. The problem is, almost no one would care about Prometheus if it weren't related to the Alien franchise. At the end of the day, the movie is too dumb to make David's story interesting and not fun enough for an action/horror film. Instead we're left with a tedious amalgamation of the worst parts of Prometheus. If you want a space horror, watch the original Alien or Aliens. If you want a story about the moral complexity of artificial intelligence watch Ex Machina. This one isn't worth your time or money. Alien: Covenant is just another mediocre installment of a franchise that, at this point, has more bad films than good. At least it wasn't as bad as Alien 3.