When I saw the previous Alien film, “Prometheus” I did not like it, the main reason being that characters who were allegedly professionals acted in very unprofessional ways to advance the plot. It was poor writing, basically. But surely, I said to myself, they wouldn’t make that mistake twice, would they?
Yeah, they would. (Warning: Spoilers and ranting ahead.)
On a colony ship going to their new home, there is an accident – a genuine accident and not remotely alien-related. The only character on board who is awake, the ‘synthetic’ (or android if you prefer), wakes the crew from cryogenic hibernation to help with the emergency. There are a few deaths, including the ship’s captain. One has to wonder if the ship’s actual captain would have been as daft as his replacement. We’ll never know.
This is the point where people start doing questionable things, and the first of these is the new captain’s decision to divert the ship to a new planet which they have found as the origin of a mysterious transmission. The planet appears to be habitable, but no one can understand why it would not have been found earlier. So Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) inexplicably decides that going to this nearby planet instead of the planet that is further away, but which has been researched and investigated and deemed to be safe, is a great idea. His second, Daniels (Katherine Waterston) objects, but is overruled. So this colony ship has 2000 colonists in hibernation, embryos, supplies, terraforming equipment, and therefore must have taken a great deal of planning, money and so on to organise. The captain, who we are told has some insecurity issues about being accepted as a leader, deviates from the plan for no good reason other than that the planet is closer and after the accident the crew is a bit nervous about going back into hibernation. This is not intelligent.
The main issue where people act like total idiots, however, comes when they arrive at the planet and decide to send a team down. Remember, no prior investigation has been done on this planet. Their instruments have told them there is a breathable atmosphere, but there is no indication whether there are any dangerous life-forms, poisonous plants, biohazards etc. In spite of this, the human crew venture out into the new planet without protective gear. The android Walter (Michael Fassbender) would surely have been the logical choice to go out first. But no, the entire team leaves the ship. They are also very good at splitting up. As it turns out, there are hazards, tiny insects that burrow under the skin and grow a lifeform similar to the Alien we all know and love, which then exits the host violently, killing the host.
This is where things are really stupid. Now these people aren’t supposed to be military, so I have no issue with them becoming scared at dangerous situations. What I do take exception to is the complete lack of any quarantine attempt. The first infected character is taken onboard, spits up blood on two crewmembers, and then starts growing things out of his skin. So, one crewmember belatedly feels that maybe they should quarantine, and leaves the medbay, locking the other two in. Only the sick guy spat blood on her too. Shouldn’t she be locking herself in? And then, when she sees an alien life form erupting from the guy, killing him, she takes a gun and opens the door to try to kill the lifeform. She then slips, twice, in the clearly visible blood and consequently fails to shoot straight. The other woman is dead by now. The klutz with the gun now leaves the medbay again, managing to catch her foot in the door and disabling herself, before shutting the door. Not to worry, the rapidly growing alien has by now smashed the window. She shoots wildly, hits something she shouldn’t, and the ship blows up, taking alien, shooter, and the pilot along with it. Not to mention stranding the rest.
You don’t have to be a genius to understand basic quarantine procedures, and a trained space crew would definitely know this. This entire sequence of events is set up purely to strand the others. Surely, the writers could have come up with something slightly more believable.
The rest of the landing party come in time to see the ship blow up. Captain Oram is very upset by this because the klutz with the gun was actually his wife (why am I not surprised?)
At this point David, the android from “Prometheus” (also Michael Fassbender) appears, and takes the landing party to ‘safety’. It seems they are on the planet of the Engineers, but all the Engineers are dead, apparently having been overtaken by the same fate as the infected crew, en masse, all within the same short time frame. The dead bodies are all pointed in the direction of some kind of temple, and David tells the others the temple is secure. My main gripe here is that no one really questions David. They don’t ask him about the transmission, and easily accept his statement that Elizabeth Shaw (the other survivor of “Prometheus”) died when the ship crashed, and that the ‘pathogen’ was accidentally released. By the time some crewmembers start to wonder about his statements, it is too late.
Back to the uber-intelligent Captain Oram, he dies after being attacked by a face-hugger. He states he is suspicious of David, but when David shows him the big eggs and one of them opens, David suggests he take a look and he does. Really? Someone you don’t trust says to stick your head over an opening thing with something alive squirming around inside, and you do?
Towards the end of the film, two crewmembers die because they can’t hear the warning from the ship’s computer over the sound of the shower they are in and the music they are playing. So, we are supposed to believe that this ship’s emergency system cannot increase its volume, or override existing noise such as music playing. I find this a very unbelievable plot device to get rid of two more crew members.
It wasn’t all bad. The effects were excellent. The ship designs and the sets on the planet were all very good. All the actors did their best with mostly very poor material. As in “Prometheus”, Michael Fassbender was the best, at least in part because he had the most to work with. That being said, David’s increasing god complex is starting to irritate.
I wouldn’t say “Alien: Covenant” is worse than “Prometheus”, but it’s certainly no better. If you can’t write a story with intelligent characters acting believably and intelligently and still not succeeding (movies can do this, I’ve seen them!) then maybe you shouldn’t be making movies. I have always been a fan of director Ridley Scott, but this is something of a mess. I guess if you’re an Alien fan you might try it, in the interest of seeing everything. However, it’s really not worth the time.