Why “Alien: Covenant” Failed to Save the Franchise (5 Years Later)

Ridley Scott’s Alien has always been on people’s “Best Of” lists when it comes to horror/sci-fi movies.  And its sequel Aliens is widely regarded as one of (if not the) greatest movie sequels in history.  So to say that this franchise was iconic from the start would be an understatement.  That said, the next two entries, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection suffered from both critical and audience derision.

Scott himself took the reins back and attempted to breathe new life into the series with 2012’s Prometheus.  And when its very mixed reception came with countless fans complaining that they wanted to see a Xenomorph in action, Scott did just that.  2017’s Alien: Covenant was meant to be something of a middle ground between the philosophical Prometheus and action/horror aspects of the original Alien.

Unfortunately, it too proved a failure and thus the franchise has remained dormant, with little plans of resurrection ever since.  So in honor of Alien: Covenant’s recent 5 year anniversary, we wanted to take a look back at the movie itself and see if it was really that flawed, or if it was doomed from the start.

Not a Bad Movie
Firstly, let’s be absolutely clear.  Both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant are competently made, well-acted, well-directed films that are much better put together than something like Alien: ResurrectionCovenant itself features a decent cast, and feels far more grounded than its predecessor.

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It has a more rustic, aged look that feels closer to Alien than Prometheus did.

The crew themselves feel less like caricatures and more like real people.  You really do feel the tension between Katherina Waterston’s Daniels and Billy Crudup’s Oram as they contend over the best course of action following a tragedy.  Oram is struggling with the crew not taking him seriously, since he’s only been made captain by default, and Daniels is still mourning the death of her husband, while simultaneously being intrigued at what they find on the planet.

And let’s not forget to give major props to Michael Fassbender for pulling off the dual android roles of David and Walter.  Not only does he flawlessly switch accents between characters, but he even carries himself differently, all while still maintaining that eerie “robotic” quality in both.  Between all these features, we can’t say that this is a bad movie outright.  It just wasn’t the right movie to follow Prometheus.

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He’s by far the best part of the movie.

The Sequel We Wanted?
Following the mixed reactions to Prometheus, Ridley Scott seemed to take one lesson very much to heart: audiences wanted a xenomorph.  And rightfully so, they remain the titular aliens upon which this entire franchise is built.  The fact that his prequel didn’t include them (save for a post credit scene) felt downright sacrilegious.

But that didn’t necessarily mean that he had to essentially make the same movie again, with many of the same story beats, but now with a xenomorph as the primary threat.  Like Prometheus before it, Covenant dealt with the crew of a ship landing on a foreign planet, finding a mysterious lifeform, and then being killed off one by one.  It’s well made, but tonally and structurally, it’s a very similar movie.  All the while, there’s an absolutely amazing movie tucked away in one random flashback scene.

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David essentially genocides the race of beings that created all life and it’s just sort of glossed over.

We learn that following the events of Prometheus, David and Dr. Shaw did in fact go to the Engineers’ home planet, where at some point David killed Dr. Shaw, and unleashed the xenomorph creating “goo” upon the engineers killing them.  It’s a brief scene, but it raises so many fascinating questions, and it’s downright criminal that that wasn’t the sequel we got.

Failure to Commit
Ultimately, the reason that Alien: Covenant failed was because it tried to please fans of the philosophical approach of its predecessor, and fans of the classic alien monster suspense story that the series had always been before that.  Part of why Aliens became just as iconic as Alien was that it had a completely different tone/vibe and committed to it fully.

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If Xenomorphs alone were enough to make a great movie, Alien: Resurrection would be better…

In the end, all Covenant really did was serve as a pseudo-remake of Prometheus, but with an xenomorph because that’s what fans complained about.  It didn’t try anything new or original, and that’s the reason why the franchise has remained dormant ever since.

What did you think of Alien: Covenant?  Do you see a future for the Alien franchise?  Let us know in the comments!

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