Directed by Ridley Scott
In 2012, “Prometheus” took the “Alien” franchise in a new direction, effectively becoming a quasi-religious origin story for the earlier films. It started with the idea that a humanoid alien species (later referred to as the Engineers) seeded life on Earth with their own DNA and ended with the idea that, millennia later, they were set on destroying that same life with a doomsday biological weapon, related to our favorite aliens.
In between those events, humans had evolved and had discovered similarities in various cultures around the world, with multiple ancient depictions of large humanoids (the Engineers) pointing to a particular star cluster, ultimately leading to the doomed voyage of discovery.
“Alien: Covenant” follows those events, several years later, as a colony ship full of humans in suspended animation and assorted other embryos, encounters problems on the way to a distant Earth-like planet. This results in a detour to another mystery planet, that the colonization-oriented scans had previously somehow missed, which had apparently been inhabited until recently by the Engineers.
Naturally, all does not go well.
“Alien: Covenant” dials down the theorizing and talking of “Prometheus,” yet continues that storyline as it returns the franchise to the creatures that started it all (and which some fans missed in that film). In doing so, it bridges that gap, or almost, without feeling too much as though its hands were tied in terms of plot development. However, along the way, it becomes a little like a Russian nesting doll of creation stories and it still never quite manages to regain the frantic menace of the original(s).
Directed by Stella Meghie
Maddie: But I’m allergic to everything, I can’t go outside.
Ollie: That’s OK – I love you so much, I’ll just live inside with you.
Maddie: I couldn’t ask you to do that.
Ollie: You don’t need to ask, I already offered.
That’s not an actual exchange of dialog from the movie – which is the problem, it should be. It’s the logical plot hole that never gets addressed – and she has other people coming and going who take precautions not to bring too much of the outside world in with them. Instead, the only question is whether or not Maddie can go ever outside. But apparently, any alternative would undercut the drama of the immune deficiency diagnosis that has kept her in the house for her entire 18 years. At some point in the movie, everything, everything changes and that becomes moot – but it’s still a nagging plot hole nonetheless.
This is basically a movie of first love and the obstacles it must overcome. If it sounds familiar, we already saw this same story earlier this year only with a teenage boy trapped on Mars and supposedly unable to visit Earth (and a girla0, because of the gravity his body was unaccustomed to.
This time around, the peripheral details should probably be ignored – like the mostly empty plane that looks like a throwback to the 1980’s rather than today’s crowded skies where people are dragged down the aisles to free up seats. Or the ease with which Maddie gets a credit card and the mystery behind her apparent possession of a photo ID.
Overall, the film is lightweight and probably pleasant enough for the target audience – and the two leads (Amanda Stenberg and Nick Robinson) are well matched. But it ends up feeling like 2001’s “Bubble Boy,” only without the humor or the social commentary, crossed with 2014’s “The Fault in our Stars,” only without the final jeopardy round.