The 400-Word Review - Alien: Covenant

By Sean Collier

May 25, 2017

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If Ridley Scott is to be believed, the primary activity of his senescence will be the creation of unnecessary “Alien” prequels.

The first such film, 2012's Prometheus, was reasonably well-received and a decided (if not overwhelming) hit at the box-office. Another such film, Alien: Covenant, was an inevitability, if only because the former film left so much unanswered.

More, though? At various times, Scott has promised between one and six additional prequels, all with the apparent goal of addressing the background and provenance of the horrific creatures encountered in the original “Alien” films. In other words, Scott wants to do what Rogue One did - poorly, and for the rest of his life.


In Alien: Covenant, a colony of settlers sleeps aboard a starship, bound for a far-off planet (and giving me troubling Passengers flashbacks) with only android Walter (Michael Fassbender) awake. After an accident damages the ship, the crew is roused; when the ship's captain (an odd cameo I won't spoil here) is killed, standoffish Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup) is forced to take the helm.

His new second-in-command is Daniels Branson (Katherine Waterston), newly widowed; the former captain was her husband. She's disinclined to take any further risks, but Oram wants to cut the trip short; a nearby planet is issuing some form of distress signal, and it looks like it might be a decent candidate for colonization.


This being a science-fiction film, you can imagine that things go south on the mystery planet. Trust me, though: you cannot imagine just how ridiculous they'll get.

I won't spoil anything here, as I know this series has its devotees. But in spite of great atmosphere and some fine performances (notably from Waterston), Covenant abandons any sense of narrative structure, textual complexity or basic coherence in favor of pushing the mythology of the series in absurd directions. I'm not sure how many fans demanded to know how the xenomorph species evolved, but whoever they are, I hope they'll be pleased to find that the explanation is purely stupid.

Oh - and the effects are terrible, relying entirely on 2000s-era CGI monsters that would barely look menacing in an arcade cabinet, let alone via digital projection. I know visual effects are hard, but if you can't do better than this, don't make a movie.

In fact, “Don't make a movie” should probably be the overall message to Scott at this point.

My Rating: 3/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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