It interesting to see what thirty-eight years can do in terms of the life of a movie franchise. Take the example of Alien: Covenant. This is the third-entry in the Alien series filmmaker Ridley Scott has directed since he helmed the original film nearly four decades ago. The prequel to the series from five years ago, also directed by Scott and titled Prometheus fell squarely into the category of a thinking man’s sci fi film even if it did have its problems. Fans of the series were anticipating that many of the mysteries teased at in that earlier film would finally be answered in Scott’s latest Alien pic. However, anyone expecting or thinking that Alien: Covenant is a direct sequel to Prometheus is going to come up empty handed. It’s a competently made entry in the Alien franchise but those expecting that lingering issues from the earlier film will be resolved should be aware that this isn’t that film.

The problem with this latest entry in the Alien franchise is how conflicted it seems to be about its own identity. It can’t seem to decide if it wants it focus to be on the action driven scenes or the more thought provoking stuff that was found in Prometheus. There are scenes in the new film that hint toward a more cerebral approach, as evidenced in a scene wherein two androids (both played by Michael Fassbender) engage in a conversation regarding the nature of creation. This was the kind of stuff that made Prometheus come to life in its best moments. Unfortunately, Alien: Covenant makes the mistake of tossing in two Alien chases for each exchange of intelligent dialogue found in this picture.

The plot is distressingly similar to the original Alien. Here a crew (represented by the likes of Danny McBride, Damien Bechir and Billy Crudup) lands their ship, Covenant, on an uncharted planet. At first it looks like some sort of paradise. This quickly changes when a deadly spore is ingested by several of the crew. The  spore ingestion is inventively staged in one particular scene where the spore enters into the ear canal of one of the crew members. The few inspired moments such as this are what keeps Alien: Covenant from becoming the failure that it easily could have become. For those who delight in references to the previous films, have no fear. The original Alien had the famous chest-bursting scene but this one has two chestbursting Aliens and another one that reveals itself by bursting through a character’s back. Anything that the original Alien had going for it is recreated multiple times here in an effort not to alienate-no pun intended-loyal fans of this franchise.

In the technical departments, Alien: Covenant can hold its own against the other entries in the franchise though it doesn’t necessarily best them. If there’s a quibble to be made in regards to the effects work featured in the film, it would probably  be the occasional over reliance on what are clearly CGI versions of original creature designer, H.R. Giger’s iconic creations. The practical effects featured in the earlier Alien entries still hold up incredibly well. Still, all the technical skill in the world can’t take the place of good and solid storytelling. Alien: Covenant has some of that but it’s a sure bet that it won’t replace fond memories of the first two entries in the series. On that you can rely.

Alien: Covenant is playing at the AMC 15 in Hickory, and all around the area.

Photo: A scene from Alien: Covenant

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.