Ponderous, pornographic and unforgivably dull, Alien: Covenant proves once and for all that Ridley Scott is the single biggest hack in contemporary Hollywood — a director of such ignominious bad faith that, faced with the morally bankrupt option of playing pimp or whore to his own reputation, he simply chooses both.
Let us not dither here over tedious details like plot, because if you’ve seen one Alien rehash, you’ve now seen them all: A big, clunky cargo ship with a crew in deep sleep suddenly pops awake, only to receive a mysterious alien transmission that it simply must investigate, against the objections of certain lesser officers.
Draped over this musty skeleton of a story is a mangled and tendentious re-envisioning of the Judeo-Christian myth of creation, which Scott and his six screenwriters work over like drunken monkeys thumbing through the Pentateuch.
At the center of it all stands poor Michael Fassbender in the dual role of the androids’ David (get it?) and of Walter. They stand in for God and Satan in this insipid retelling of Milton’s Paradise Lost. The fascist devil android David wants to repopulate the universe with perfect aliens, using the human crew of the Covenant as big fleshy incubators, but Walter, the more evolved android, has feelings.
To answer the question whether it’s better to serve in heaven or reign in hell, David and Walter have a kick-ass ninja fight right out of the X-Men movies. Who wins? Who cares? (Spoiler alert: there will be a sequel.) Of course, the film also wants to paint Walter as a kind of android-Jesus, leading to a theological confusion that is silly at best.
Alien: Covenant is the cinematic equivalent of a mediocre man in mid-life crisis purchasing a red Corvette to compensate for his waning vitality and diminishing relevance. That Scott opts to rev his exhaust in our face for two and a half hours should be grounds for a class-action lawsuit.
Lest you think my objections to Alien: Covenant are merely of the twee intellectual variety, I submit for your perusal a sampling of the moral, technical and narrative sins of this commodified bummer of a movie:
The violence of Covenant is vulgar, sadistic and as languorously served up as a slo-mo money shot. During the film’s one completely arbitrary sex scene, which looks like something brother Tony Scott (Top Gun) might have directed, two inexplicably showering crewmembers (Really? Erotic showering in the aftermath of a massacre?) are gutted when the alien’s phallic tail slithers up the woman’s leg.
Every single character is a bad stand-in for a previous character in a previous Alien film.
The film is utterly lacking in suspense.
Instead of suspense, or even sense, it relies on cheap scares and one-liners that culminate in Fassbender actually saying, as he does his best Hannibal Lecter, “Night, night, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
After a protracted and incredibly absurd battle to the death with an alien while cabled to the surface of a hovercraft in swirling, tilting lift-off, Daniels — played by Katherine Waterston in the butch Ripley role, right down to nipples poking through her tank top — is approached from behind by David/Walter. When he taps her on the shoulder, she doesn’t so much as flinch.
The nonsense just goes on. There isn’t a thing about this movie that doesn’t insult the intelligence of the audience, right down to its trailer, a cobbled-together bit of consumer fraud that should inspire a second class-action lawsuit.
With the original Alien, released in 1979, Scott somehow managed to concoct a masterpiece of slow-broiling horror and paranoia — a sci-fi thriller about a ragtag crew of blue-collar workers in deep space, all of them remorselessly sold out by an evil corporation that wants to cart home the perfect weapon, an indestructible biological killing machine. The movie is gritty, artsy, excruciatingly suspense and loaded with implication.
Almost four decades later, and Scott himself has become that evil corporation, foisting a face-hugging beast of prey on Hollywood audiences. Oh well: As they say, there’s a sucker born every second. Alien: Covenant is an amusement park run by a jaded barker who can’t confront his own nihilism because it keeps paying the bills. (Broadway Metro, Cinemark 17, Regal Valley River)