Critical Mass: The first reviews of Ridley Scott's latest entry in the 'Alien' franchise have arrived
Alien: Covenant sees director Ridley Scott return to the film franchise he so memorably kicked off with 1979’s Alien, a science-fiction classic that introduced the world to Sigourney Weaver’s cinematic icon Ripley — and this time, Scott is taking the now 38-year-old film series in new directions.
Unlike some of its more critically panned predecessors (Alien 3, plus both Alien vs. Predator 1 and 2), Scott’s latest flick, which follows 2012’s Prometheus, has already screened to more positive reviews, having scored a 77 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s slightly lower for the franchise — Alien and Aliens both sit at 97 and 98 percent, respectively — but it’s still miles ahead from AvP 2‘s series low of 12 percent. So will Covenant be able to give fans of the original films what they’re hoping for? According to critics who’ve screened the film, it appears so.
“Gross-outs and gotchas are fun, but they wouldn’t amount to much if Covenant wasn’t so thoroughly well-crafted. The performances are believable, and for the most part, the humans act like humans (except when they’re devious robots),” says EW’s Kevin P. Sullivan in his B+ review. “Much like The Force Awakens did with the first Star Wars, Covenant succeeds by recreating what it feels like to watch Alien. The tropes it plays with are the ones the original created. Here, they’re reproduced so slickly that you remember why you fell in love in the first place.”
Covenant follows the story of the crew of the titular colony ship as they decide to veer off course to what they think is a new planetary paradise, one that is years closer than their intended destination. However, upon touching down, they meet David (Michael Fassbender reprising his role from Prometheus), the only survivor of a failed expedition. They then face off against an alien life form that threatens their survival.
Before Alien: Covenant hits theaters nationwide on May 19, check out review excerpts below.
Kevin P. Sullivan (EW):
“Covenant is an Alien movie made for 2017. It doesn’t have the original’s restraint or eerie quietness. There’s probably more footage of the xenomorph in the trailer for Covenant than in entire ’79 Alien. But the update also speeds things up. The movie understands that the audience knows exactly where the story is going, so it gets there quickly. It’s not going to slow down to give Crewmember #4’s demise some (or any) dramatic weight.”
Bilge Ebiri (Village Voice):
“Covenant could have continued in this vein and delivered a perfectly serviceable action-horror sequel. But Scott has bigger plans. He wants to do so much here: probe the nature of faith and the mysteries of creation, examine the limits of humanity and intelligence, compare visions of leadership and devotion. And, as in earlier Alien movies, Covenant explores the notion of a post-human universe — in which people are afterthoughts or, at most, cumbersome bottlenecks between the more powerful forces of capitalism and creation, between survival and space. The whole series is kind of about this. But Alien: Covenant might be the first to state the theme outright.”
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian):
“The vu has never been so déja: it’s a greatest-hits compilation of the other Alien films’ freaky moments. The paradox is that though you are intended to recognise these touches, you won’t really be impressed unless you happen to be seeing them for the first time. For all this, the film is very capably made, with forceful, potent performances from Waterston and Fassbender. That franchise title is, however, looking increasingly wrong. It is a bit familiar.”
Mike Ryan (UPROXX):
“There was a chance Alien: Covenant was going to get back to basics, but Ridley Scott had a lot more to say about David and to show us why these aliens exist. Look, Scott obviously still has a lot he wants to say about the mythology of Alien — wrapped up in a creator complex story featuring a bored robot — and that’s what he’s going to do. The title of the movie has been changed back to Alien, but this is very much a Prometheus movie. And if you didn’t like Prometheus, there’s a good chance you won’t like Alien: Covenant either. (In turn, if you did like Prometheus, boy, do I have some good news for you.) What’s frustrating is this could have been a pretty stellar Alien movie.“
Cath Clarke (Time Out London):
“Covenant has the same beautiful design as Prometheus and once again the script is being all clever and profound, asking the biggies: Who are we? Where do we come from? What’s missing is one of the franchise’s unforgettable scenes that feed your nightmares for weeks — like Noomi Rapace’s do-it-yourself alien caesarian in Prometheus, or the chestbuster in Alien. And every time a crew member stiffened, an alien about to burst out of them like a blackhead being popped, my mind drifted back to the original.”
Alonso Duralde (The Wrap):
“Boiled down to the basics, the Alien movies are monster movie/slasher movie hybrids. Over the years, we’ve seen variations on this theme — the 1979 original is a moody, sterling example of both genres, Aliens plays up the action elements, and Prometheus noodles out some philosophical ruminations on life, the universe, man’s need for deities, and who put the bomp in the bomp-she-bomp — but these films all boil down to terrified, hauntingly-lit human beings having gross encounters with those deadly, acid-blooded beasties. Alien: Covenant almost completely gives itself over to the scary stuff; director Ridley Scott dredges up a little of the Prometheus balloon juice (this film is a direct follow-up to that prequel), but he’s more interested in an interstellar version of Friday the 13th, with a respectable ensemble of actors as the camp counselors and various fanged slimeballs filling in for Jason Voorhees.”
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter):
“Scott and the writers have achieved an outstanding balance in Alien: Covenant among numerous different elements: Intelligent speculation and textbook sci-fi presumptions, startlingly inventive action and audience-pleasing old standbys, philosophical considerations and inescapable genre conventions, intense visual splendor and gore at its most grisly. The drama flows gorgeously and, unlike in many other franchises in which entries keep getting longer every time out, this one is served up without an ounce of fat. It provides all the tension and action the mainstream audience could want, along with a good deal more.”
Peter Debruge (Variety):
“In an effort to appease Alien fans, Scott has returned the series to its horror-movie roots, unleashing a sequence of gory death scenes as four aliens body-snatch and otherwise terrorize the crew. By now, though, audiences are so familiar with how this species reproduces that there’s not much surprise between the point of infection (whether by microscopic spores or old-fashioned face hugging) and the moment that an alien embryo bursts out of the host’s chest. If anything, an impatience sets in, much as it does with zombie movies in which characters aren’t up to speed on the genre rules: In the world of Alien, humans don’t recover from these close encounters; once someone catches the virus, he or she is already a goner.”