Alien: Covenant is so far up its arse that it's about to burst out of its own chest. It has none of the tension and horror of Alien, none of the action of the excellently constructed Aliens. It barely manages to rise above the train-wreck that was Prometheus. At least this time the character's motivations make a semblance of sense.
Ridley Scott seems so persistent in making more Alien films. He didn't seem to care when he made Prometheus. It seems to me that he wanted to slap the Alien name on it and add a heavy helping of Xenomorph when interest spiked around Neil Blomkamp's Aliens sequel concept art. It would ignore Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection and give an alternative future to Ripley, Newt and Hicks. 20th Century Fox green-lit the film and it seemed everyone was interested in it going ahead. But then Prometheus 2 became Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott took back the Alien mantel and Blomkamp's film seems to have been shot out of the airlock, never to be fully realised. This would be an easier pill to swallow if Ridley Scott could provide a decent alternative but he seems incapable.
There's a lot wrong with this film and it all seems to come under one banner; it doesn't know what the audience should and shouldn't see. Online you can watch a prologue that shows the crew having a final drink before going into a long period of hyper-sleep helps establish the character's relationships, their purpose as a crew consisting of couples and generally show us what's at stake. Why not have it at the beginning of the film and give the audience this context in the right place? It would also give James Franco a bit more screen-time and helps us feel something when he dies in the first thirty seconds. But for some reason Scott assumed everyone would watch it online. He also assumes everyone has watched Alien and doesn't need to ramp up the tension or horror surrounding the creatures. Everything is rushed. We cut-away from chest-bursting, face-huggers are over and done with in an instant, the Aliens seem to grow to full size in a matter of minutes, unlike in Alien where the creature gets bigger with each encounter, becoming a fully-realised monster in the final sequence. What's worse is we get a good look at the Xenomorph at every opportunity, even in broad daylight, in all it's dull CGI glory. It's not scary if we're suffering from overexposure.
Speaking of overexposure, there's also Michael Fassbender. While Fassbender gives very impressive performances as both Walter and David the whole film pretty much hinges on him, leaving the human characters underdeveloped and spending most of their time being sad or scared. The film lacks a Ripley. There's no-one with conviction, with intelligence, with a likability that the audience can really follow and respond to. The film oozes arrogance and it's hard to respond positively to that. Scott and the writer wrongly assume we want to know exactly where the Alien comes from. The audience doesn't need to know that. The best thing about Alien and Aliens was the horror, the need to survive against impossible odds, something that was captured in the recent excellent video game Alien: Isolation. But Covenant seems so intent on proving it's cleverer than Prometheus by over-explaining everything and then giving us one of the most predictable plot-twists ever to grace the silver-screen.
The thing is, it all adds up to be boring because it's a prequel. We know how things will eventually turn out so none of this matter.s What's worse, it's trying to answer questions that were never intended to be answered and so it ends up being a poorly constructed, far too convenient, sloppy mess. I'd have more fun locked in a room with a face-hugger.