Rhetorical question for Hollywood producers: how many times can you essentially make the same film over and over again before audiences stop giving you their money?
I saw the original Alien in 1979, and it remains one of the most terrifying moviegoing experiences I have ever had. Alien: Covenant is now the sixth return to that well, and the thrill is gone. Since the film is helmed by Ridley Scott, the director that started it all, the viewer hopes for the implied fresh take or a deeper exploration of the mythology, but those promises are left largely unfilled.
This iteration is too reminiscent of its forebears in terms of plotting, yet it lacks the original’s existential dread. Beyond the truly remarkable creature design (inspired by the art of H.R. Giger), what made Alien so effective was its carefully-paced, deliberate picking off of characters by a monster who was revealed slowly. All the subsequent films have become bigger and gorier and more effects-driven, without re-capturing the unrelenting terror of the first.
The only real interest in this version is the doppelganger androids, David (left over from Prometheus) and Walter, both played by Michael Fassbender. There is a curiosity factor as the newer model faces off against the older one, but even that appeal collapses in a plot step that a seasoned moviegoer could see coming up the Milky Way.
When one of the scariest movie monsters ever imagined fails to generate a thrill, I think it’s time to hang up the spacesuits.