Sheldon Farough’s review published on Letterboxd:
This seems like a decent enough movie, but I wasn't a fan.
To start with the positives, I liked the cinematography and the set design and all that fun stuff. It definitely feels like a cool space future. I liked Katherine Waterston and the character she played. I liked Michael Fassbender and thought he was pretty good, though not sure I understand all the praise that he gets for this performance. I actually really liked Danny McBride in this movie and wish he had more to do. I thought the last 15 minutes were pretty good... even though I saw the ending coming from lightyears away (haha get it... because of space).
Now into the negatives: I knew from the very first scene, I probably wasn't going to like this movie. It starts off with exposition and backstory. Nothing to grab my attention or to kick off the story. Not only that, but this backstory scene is completely disconnected from what happens in the first hour of the movie. Speaking of the first hour of this movie, the pacing of Covenant is really bad. It is a very very slow build for a payoff that didn't really work for me.
The plot and characters didn't really do much for me. The characters mostly just felt like a pretty generic space crew so I don't care about their little adventure to this random planet they find. They look around for half a day, things immediately go bad and then they spend a while trying to escape. I feel like they needed something more to do on this planet. Like a goal to achieve. David is the only character with a goal and a plan and he's the bad guy.
So, I keep saying this movie didn't work for me, and I want to unpack that statement. I really liked the original Alien. I think it is one of the most terrifying and exciting sci-fi horror action movies out there. I loved Ripley a lot and I love the whole progression of the xenomorph's trail of murder and destruction. Here's why that alien is so scary in the first movie.
1) The alien's true form is a mystery until the end of the movie. Because they didn't have fancy cgi, they had to hide their big puppet in the dark and only show quick flashes of it. But that worked so well. The aliens in Covenant are big cgi monsters running around in bright light with extended camera time and lose all mystery.
2) The alien seems kind of indestructible. Mostly because in the first movie, they aren't kickass soldiers, they are miners who are kind of improvising their way through the attack. They are like regular blue collar future people facing off against a horrible vicious creature. In this one they are like a trained crew and have automatics and take out like 4 or 5 of the xenos throughout the course of the movie.
3) Practical effects. Practical effects will always feel more visceral and real than CGI. I knew in Covenant that the alien attacking random crew members with big explosions of cgi blood wasn't really happening. But when I see that chestburster pop out in the original, I feel grossed out because it is kind of really a thing.
4) The first movie is all about claustrophobia and isolation. They are on a tiny ship in the middle of nowhere. The alien is always somewhere nearby because it has nowhere it can escape to and NEITHER can the crew. There are real authentic stakes and it takes advantage of so many common fears. The alien is scary on its own, but combined with darkness, close enclosed spaces, being completely alone, and being adrift in the vacuum of space all help build up the fear factor.
I don't know. I don't think this movie is horrible, but I was bored during the beginning, disappointed with the alien attacks, and was not shocked at all by any of the twists. I wasn't scared once. I wasn't grossed out at all by the body horror. A little disappointing for a massive fan of the first movie.