Alien Covenant Review: An Incredibly Well Made Film Sporting Many Structural Problems
Alien: Covenant is the perfect example of the difference between an exceptionally well made film and an exceptional film. Visually, the film is a marvel. There is a sense of horrific beauty present throughout much of the film, and director Ridley Scott deserves praise for his ability to direct such a gorgeous feature. The acting is also impressive, especially the performance given by Michael Fassbender. There is also an incredibly fascinating idea placed within this film that emerges within the scenes of brutal horror. Unfortunately, as is the case with many modern-day blockbusters, the script has massive structural problems that hold this film back. Alien: Covenant was a very well made feature that I recommend, but having seen the film, I believe it could have been so much more.
The basic premise of Alien: Covenant is simple: a colonizing crew’s ship has been damaged by a neutrino storm and receives a signal from a nearby planet. Rather than head towards their destination, they turn towards the nearby planet in the hopes of finding a haven.
As you can guess, it doesn’t end well.
The first hour of Alien: Covenant was surprisingly predictable. There are a few odd questions that stand out, but I saw every twist coming before it happened, and I predicted every death before I saw the body.
The only thing that kept me invested was the brilliant opening scene that hinted at a thematic depth lurking beneath the horror. Eventually however, my investment was rewarded.
Alien: Covenant borrows from Prometheus thematically and borrows from Alien aesthetically. And once the two worlds come to a head, I was surprisingly interested.
It is very difficult to explain the idea present in this film without spoiling the entire story, so I will have to keep my description vague.
Michael Fassbender plays an A.I. robot, and serves as an allegory for creation. His story is the only part of this film that offers a true sense of depth, and once the story put more focus on him I was genuinely startled by how interesting the exploration was.
Every line that came out of Fassbender’s mouth was pure poetry. What holds this film back is every other character.
The crew itself was very bland, and not a single one of them stood out in my mind. Aside from two characters, every single one is unimportant. In fact, there are two characters who were written into the script specifically to die.
This film proves that no matter how talented a director is, it is almost impossible to outrun a flawed script. And this film’s script has a massive problem that I feel seriously undercuts the central idea of the story: the climax.
Usually, the climax of an action or horror film does two things: it serves as the highpoint of the visual action and the culmination of the theme. For example, in Return of the King Frodo and Sam march on Mount Doom while Aragorn and the army of Gondor charge at the Black Gate. At the same time, we see the ring finally corrupt Frodo, and we watch as Sam proves to be the true hero of the story when he saves his friend from the fiery depths of Mordor. We see the action climax, and we see the ideas of corruption and honor realized through Sam and Frodo’s actions.
In this film, the thematic climax happens before the action peaks. Not only that, but the film chooses not to show the audience what happens when the two opposing themes finally collide. It would be as if The Dark Knight cut away just as Batman and Harvey Dent were about to clash.
We are left grasping at straws, and when the action reached its apex I was left confused and irritated by the film’s message.
Had this script undergone one more rewrite, I feel that many of these problems could have been fixed. I can only imagine how good this film would have been if every actor was given the same level of material that Ridley handed to Fassbender. I enjoyed this film, but I see a vast amount of unrealized potential. It is incredible to watch on a visual level, but this could have been one of the best films of the year, and it isn’t.