After watching his creation become a major cinematic franchise, spawning several different series of novels and comic-books, not to mention kitset models and videogames, Ridley Scott made the decision to return to the franchise after 33 years with the prequel Prometheus (2012). Over the years, he had been rumoured to be involved and to even take up the directors chair of various of the sequels but these failed to ever amount to anything. Prometheus was heralded with great anticipation by fans who then felt an equally great disappointment after seeing the film. By and large, people were not happy with Scott for having dispensed with the xenomorphs and far less interestingly concerning himself with The Engineers and what happened before. Seemingly undeterred by criticism, Ridley Scott has proceeded to make another prequel here and has boasted that he could keep on making another six of them.
Certainly, Scott has heeded the fanbase enough to give them what they want more of the aliens. However, while Alien: Covenant is being seen as a general improvement on Prometheus by the fanbase, I must admit to disappointment in it. It feels like the creator of a work perhaps in his desire to do something different has simply failed to understand the ingredients that made his original entry into the field a classic. If either Prometheus or Alien: Covenant came out back in 1979, one strongly doubts that we would be having a series of sequels that still hold box-office draw four decades later.
During the early sections of the film, Scott seems to be fairly closely following the path laid down in Alien the crew of a deep space ship woken from suspended animation and encountering a distress call from a planet; their landing and exploring the wreck of the Engineer ship; their becoming infected with alien embryos that emerge and slaughter the crew. Scott spends his time detailing the look of and crew at work aboard the Covenant and our expectation is that we are going to get another shipboard hunt for the aliens (although this never happens). This first half seems to be welcomely heading in the direction of what we expect from an Alien film. These scenes contain some good creature effects, in particular one wonderfully gory scene where an embryonic alien tears its way out of Benjamin Rigbys back and turns the sickbay into a bloodbath.
However, the second half goes off in a different direction altogether. We are introduced to a second Michael Fassbender a smart choice in that Fassbender gave the best performance in Prometheus and it is revealed he has been genetically tinkering with the alien embryos. The drawback of this section is that it considerably waters down what the Alien franchise is all about. All of the Alien films up until Prometheus have been about sleek black aliens hunting humans some of the films more effective at doing so than others. Alien: Covenant starts in that direction but then abruptly doglegs off and introduces a mad Frankenstein-ian creator figure who has been tinkering with them and regards them as his children. Alien and sequels gives us a frighteningly alien creation driven to breed by relentless purpose that looked genuinely alien (at least before the look was copied by dozens of imitators); Alien: Covenant merely gives us a series of genetic mishaps. Even less interestingly, the emphasis of the show now goes from alien creatures hunting people through darkened corridors of which the audience has a reasonable expectation when they enter the theatre to one madly deluded android. (Here Ridley Scott seems to be more than readily homaging his classic Blade Runner (1982) with Michael Fassbender at one point quoting Rutger Hauers line Thats the spirit). During this time, the scenes with aliens hunting crewmen in darkened corridors are supplanted by people trying to deal with the mad android and of the ship trying to conduct a high-risk landing in the middle of a storm. Which is not something that one sits down to watch an Alien film for and proves considerably less interesting.
Ridley Scott has made a number of other genre films with Blade Runner (1982), the adult fairy-tale Legend (1985), Hannibal (2001) and The Martian (2015) about an astronaut stranded on Mars. He has gone on to make a large number of other non-genre films, including Someone to Watch Over Me (1987), Black Rain (1989), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), White Squall (1996), G.I. Jane (1997), the Oscar-winning Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001), Matchstick Men (2003), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), A Good Year (2006), American Gangster (2007), Body of Lies (2008), Robin Hood (2010), The Counselor (2013) and Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014). Ridley Scott has also produced the erotic horror anthology series for cable tv The Hunger (1997), the psycho black comedy Clay Pigeons (1998), the historic Tristan + Isolde (2006), the tv mini-series remake of The Andromeda Strain (2008), the heart transplant horror film Tell-Tale (2009), the tv mini-series remake of Coma (2012), the tv mini-series Labyrinth (2012) about the quest for the Holy Grail, the horror film Stoker (2013), the web series Halo Nightfall (2014), Child 44 (2015) about the hunt for a serial killer in Stalinist Russia, the dystopian sf film Equals (2015), the tv series adaptation of The Man in the High Castle (2015 ), the artificial intelligence film Morgan (2016) and the Found Footage UFO film Phoenix Forgotten (2017).
Screenwriter John Logan has had a number of other genre associations, including writing the scripts for Bats (1999), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), The Time Machine (2002), Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003), Tim Burtons Sweeney Todd: The Demon Fleet of Barber Street (2007), Hugo (2011), Rango (2011), the James Bond films Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), as well as created the tv series Penny Dreadful (2014-6) featuring characters from Victorian horror. Elsewhere, Logan has written A-list scripts such as Any Given Sunday (1999) and The Last Samurai (2003), as well as received Academy Award nominations for Gladiator (2000) and writing Martin Scorseses The Aviator (2004).