Existential mumbo-jumbo and six-foot grasshoppers

Perhaps, while he was breaking the story for Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott thought back to his classic original (and perhaps, fleetingly, its superior sequel), and contemplated just what it was that made the character of Ellen Ripley so memorable, indelible and iconic. He obviously concluded it was because she wore a grey vest and carried a big gun.

That Daniels doesn't get lost completely in the chaos of the script machinations is entirely due to Katherine Waterston's fine performance; the fact that she is the best defined human character in the film is a definite problem.

The crew of the Covenant are, without exception, so mind-numbingly stupid, it's a wonder they didn't all accidentally open airlocks and flush themselves out into space. The film asks us to care about individuals that wander off by themselves (and get eaten), trot down the spooky stairwell (and get eaten) and refrain from shooting the baddie when they have the chance (and then get eaten). Actually, it's worse that that: unlike in Alien, where the crew of the Nostromo are visibly terrified out of their wits, this lot treat the monster as more of an inconvenience. If they aren't scared, why should we be?

Speaking of which: sadly, the xenomorph itself (or protomorph, or whatever) has been diminished to the point that it is now just as boring as its human buffet. Ridley Scott was absolutely right when he said the creature was played out. So why then did he build his third act around a xenomorph-variant that looks and acts like a brainless, slobbering, six-foot grasshopper?

Why? Well because of Prometheus. Alien devotees voiced their displeasure with the lack of xeno-action in Prometheus and clearly Ridley listened. Now it's (xeno)morphin time, all the time. However, the creature (or lack thereof) wasn't the issue: Prometheus floundered because of a bad script in which flat, uninteresting characters made increasingly idiotic decisions, and didn't stop banging on about creators and gods and existential mumbo-jumbo...

What Ridley keeps missing about his own franchise is that the androids have always been as scary (and as alien) as the assorted face-huggers and chest-bursters. Michael Fassbender's deranged Dr Frankenstein-ish 'David' is magnetic on screen. His eyes twinkle with the same cold madness as did Ian Holm's 'Ash'. All the good scenes are with David, and the best of these are when he spars (verbally and physically) with his subservient twin 'Walter'.

In the final reckoning, Covenant  was fatally compromised before the cameras even started rolling. It had the impossible job of trying to make sense of Prometheus, while simultaneously wanting to give the audience everything that was missing from that film.

The change of title from "Paradise" to "Alien: Covenant" says it all.


My dearest wish would be for Sean Connery to grasp Mr Scott warmly by the shoulders and say:

"Ridley... let it go"