Alien: Covenant is better than Prometheus and has plenty of gore and blood to go around, but it doesn't live up to the iconic Alien — no matter how much it tries.
Director: Ridley Scott
Summary: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
There are inherent problems with doing prequels. The Star Wars prequels ran into the problem that "we know how this ends" and "we know who lives and who dies." The Alien prequels are keen to take a great mythology and explain it so much that it loses all of its weight. The question becomes: "Do we need to know how the xenomorphs were created? Does that change the appeal of the original movie?" It doesn't, and it's starting to feel like director Ridley Scott is in the process of getting lost within his own mythology.
While Prometheus was barely an Alien prequel, Alien: Covenant at least features some things that look familiar to fans of the original. However, while Alien was a horror movie and Prometheus was more of a psychological thriller, Alien: Covenant feels much more like a slasher movie than anything else. It's not as deep or meaningful as it thinks it is, but it does know how to build tension and creative kills for its cannon-fodder cast.
The cannon-fodder cast is one of the problems of the movie. This is a crew of 15 people, and I could only remember the names of three of them at the most. As we watched person after person being killed in very creative ways, there is very little investment for the audience beyond shock factor.
The only people that really matter in the end are Daniels (Katherine Waterston) and Walter (Michael Fassbender), with Oram (Billy Crudup) and Tennessee (Danny McBride) being slightly larger blips on the radar. There were too many people introduced too quickly for us to care about their fates beyond a body count. Perhaps that's enough for some, but it can make the moments leading up to their deaths almost boring because you don't really care about these characters. Granted, the kills are well staged and great to watch, so you end up becoming more invested in seeing how the person is going to die rather than if they do — which feels much more like a slasher movie than a horror movie.
The staging and tension are all very well done, though. While it takes a little longer for things to get going (almost 40 minutes into a two-hour movie), it does a good enough job of raising the stakes and letting us know exactly what's going on. Here is the situation, here is why they are stuck, and here is how they are going to get out of it. It does answer some questions from Prometheus, but people looking for more Alien-specific lore being answered are likely going to have to wait for another movie.
The slower pace at the beginning gave the second act the opportunity to go completely bonkers in the best kind of way. However, there is almost a false ending going into the final act that made the entire movie trip. It's not a dealbreaker, but the juxtaposition between the "bloodbath" and the "everything is okay, no, really, oh wait, it isn't," was a little jarring. That transition could have been a little smoother and makes the second act feel more intense than the third.
Alien: Covenant is pretty good, but nothing to write home about. While fans of the series are likely going to walk away pretty happy, the rest of us got a decent slasher movie with some good performances and iconography that we all know. Whether or not we need two more of these is up for debate, but the ending of this one left the doors open in a very interesting way. It's worth a look, but nothing you need to run out and see right away unless you're already invested in the series.