'Alien: Covenant' Review Round-Up: An Entertaining But Frustrating Balance Of 'Alien' And 'Prometheus'

Even though we're still a little under two weeks away from seeing Alien: Covenant on the big screen, critics have already seen the next chapter of the Alien prequel series that began with Prometheus and will supposedly continue with even more sequels that will take us back to the events of the original Alien from 1979. So what are the early reviews saying?

The consensus: though Alien: Covenant is a return to form for Ridley Scott as far as the horror, blood and gore is concerned, the director has a hard time balancing that stuff with the intellectual, thought-provoking, scientific side that made Prometheus less enjoyable than its predecessors.

Find out more in our Alien Covenant reviews round-up below.

Scott Mendelson at Forbes writes:

Whether or not Alien: Covenant is better than Prometheus, it better blends the big ideas about creation and the morality of species preservation (and the value of humanity as a species) with big-budget monster violence.  And while it is a simpler and more straightforward story, it is structured at least to the point where you don't need to listen to the Blu-Ray commentary or watch a deleted scene to understand the big picture. While much of the cast is underdeveloped, they are played by a deep bench of character actors who do their best to stick out before they become incubators and/or collateral damage. This is still a pretty cut-and-dried Alien movie, with little deviation from the formula beyond the elements that make it a Prometheus sequel. If that's what you want, this is a relatively high-quality version and it works as high-toned horror entertainment.

Bryan Bishop at The Verge didn't think the balance between horror and scientific pondering worked:

It's a film full of terrifying, heart-pounding terror, on par with some of the best work in Scott's career. But it's also a movie stuck between modes, mixing that horror with the same pseudo-intellectual pondering that ground things to a halt last time. The result is a film that is a welcome improvement over Prometheus, but perhaps not the home run that sci-fi and horror fans might have been hoping for.

But Daniel Krupa at IGN thought Alien: Covenant balanced the two better than Prometheus:

Alien: Covenant strikes a more favorable balance between the unwieldy philosophical ideas of Prometheus and the classic horror and suspense of the 1979 original film. Despite continuing Prometheus' questionable line of inquiry into the xenomorphs' origins and occasionally adopting its histrionic tone for entire scenes, Covenant's framework and exciting action put enough new spins on the series' most reliable touchstones that the cast is able to carry it through to a satisfying end.

Peter Debruge at Variety says the movie returns to the roots of the Alien franchise, but doesn't necessarily think that's a good thing:

In an effort to appease "Alien" fans, Scott has returned the series to its horror-movie roots, unleashing a sequence of gory death scenes as four aliens body-snatch and otherwise terrorize the crew. By now, though, audiences are so familiar with how this species reproduces that there's not much surprise between the point of infection (whether by microscopic spores or old-fashioned face hugging) and the moment that an alien embryo bursts out of the host's chest. If anything, an impatience sets in, much as it does with zombie movies in which characters aren't up to speed on the genre rules: In the world of "Alien," humans don't recover from these close encounters; once someone catches the virus, he or she is already a goner.

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Hayleigh Foutch at Collider says that the movie never quite takes off because of the balance Ridley Scott attempts:

In Alien: Covenant, Scott finds himself stuck between two constructs — the action-horror beats of an Alien film, and the weighty, ponderous themes of a Prometheus movie — and by indulging both, he never fully satisfies either. The result is a messy film that is at turns, exquisite and infuriating.

Ultimately, Alien: Covenant is a very messy movie and your mileage may vary. Those who enjoyed Prometheus will likely warm to David's frustrating side-tangents, and those found Prometheus' mythological lilt too obtuse will find the same flaws in CovenantWhether you want a Prometheus sequel or an Alien movie, you want a movie that feels cohesive, and there's no denying Covenant is a structurally challenged film that feels more like two movies slapped together in the name of audience appeal. But, and this is no small thing, it is a new Alien movie and, for all its faults, it's not a bad one. It's won't be your favorite Alien movie, but it'll probably make you want to watch it again. Perhaps I am blinded by my love of the franchise and too easily seduced by the stunning beauty of Scott's images, but even the ramshackle hybrid narrative and disappointing treatment of compelling characters can't keep me from finding a lot to love in the frustrating film.

Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter says it's the best entry in the franchise since Aliens and again talks about the balance between two sides of the movie:

Scott and the writers have achieved an outstanding balance in Alien: Covenant among numerous different elements: Intelligent speculation and textbook sci-fi presumptions, startlingly inventive action and audience-pleasing old standbys, philosophical considerations and inescapable genre conventions, intense visual splendor and gore at its most grisly. The drama flows gorgeously and, unlike in many other franchises in which entries keep getting longer every time out, this one is served up without an ounce of fat. It provides all the tension and action the mainstream audience could want, along with a good deal more.

Mike Ryan at Uproxx was disappointed with the turn that film takes, morphing from what feels like the Alien movie everyone wanted into the Prometheus sequel no one was really excited about:

In a weird way Alien: Covenant feels a bit like a bait and switch. Over the last few months, it felt like the talking points surrounding Alien: Covenant were something like, "Well, we know you didn't love Prometheus, so we are going back to basics and are just going to make a scary Alien movie." And for the first act of Alien: Covenant, this is true.

When the second act starts, it's such a dramatic shift in tone that it wouldn't feel out of place for Ridley Scott to introduce it by saying, "Hey, everyone, thanks for coming. Look, I know I promised you an Alien movie, but the truth is I still have a lot left to say about Prometheus, so I hope you enjoyed the Alien-type opening, now sit back, relax, and get ready for Prometheus 2."

The Alien movies have a lot in common with the Terminator movies. What started out as a simple, "let's run away from this scary thing," are now so bogged down in their own mythology of why these scary things exist, it's almost unrecognizable.

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On the other hand, Priscilla Page at Birth.Movies.Death also thinks it's the best installment since the first two films:

Alien: Covenant is a film equally gorgeous and grotesque, and sometimes its dialogue is like poetry. It blends the first science-fiction novel, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with one of the greatest horror stories ever written: the Bible. And the end result is something like John Milton's Paradise Lost with androids and aliens. It may not work for people who still want to preserve the mystery, who object to the prequels being made in the first place. And there is really no way for any movie to compete with Alien, a perfect film, or Aliens, its perfect sequel — but after those two, this beautiful nightmare is maybe the franchise's best, a haunting and welcome new entry in the Alien mythos.

While many of the reviews talk about the difficult balance between making a movie that feels more like Alien prequel or a Prometheus sequel, Alonso Duralde at The Wrap didn't think there was any difficulty there:

"Alien Covenant" almost completely gives itself over to the scary stuff; director Ridley Scott dredges up a little of the "Prometheus" balloon juice (this film is a direct follow-up to that prequel), but he's more interested in an interstellar version of "Friday the 13th," with a respectable ensemble of actors as the camp counselors and various fanged slimeballs filling in for Jason Voorhees.

Eric Kohn at IndieWire thinks the return to the roots of the Alien franchise is a little too familiar:

While not exactly a reboot, "Covenant" does use its younger faces to revisit a sturdy formula. But even as its circumstances predate the events of "Alien," it's hard to shake the sense that we've been here before. Just as this series focuses on survival instincts, it seems that Scott has found a way to exercise his own, keeping the "Alien" series relevant by resurrecting the same old scares.

While many note that Ridley Scott returns to the roots of Alien, Rodrigo Perez at The Playlist thinks Ridley Scott doubles down on making this a direct follow-up to Prometheus:

With his new film, "Alien: Covenant," Scott leans deeper into its predecessor's philosophical preoccupations by making a direct and resolute continuation of the judgmentally received "Prometheus" story. Old people tend to be set in their ways, and in the case of the 79-year-old Scott, 'Covenant' reads like a "f*ck you" to the haters and an obdurate doubling down of intention.


It sounds like everyone hoping for something more akin to Alien will be happy to see the horror side of the franchise make a return in Alien: Covenant, though there's a chance that could just as easily make the movie feel a little too familiar to be fresh. Meanwhile, for those who didn't like Prometheus much, it might be hard to enjoy the movie once it becomes a more direct follow-up to the more intellectual sequel.

At the very least, Alien: Covenant sounds mostly entertaining, especially when it comes to the performances by Katherine Waterston and Michael Fassbender. But will it be enough to keep audiences interested for the other Alien prequel sequels that are intended to follow this one? We'll have to wait and see.