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What Critics Are Saying About Alien: Covenant

The newest Alien film is officially here, with the terrifying franchise finally continuing after a long five-year break. But was it worth the wait? Here's what critics are saying about the bloody new Alien: Covenant, which is due out on May 19.

Entertainment Weekly

Kevin P. Sullivan of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie a B+ in his positive review, noting that it calls up a lot more images of Alien than Prometheus did. Sullivan, who called the film's setup "familiar and cozy," said the action doesn't disappoint, bringing in a level of spectacle missing from many recent summer films. He also praised the film's acting, writing, and directing, noting that much of the spectacle would fall through if the film weren't "so thoroughly well-crafted." He was particularly impressed by Katherine Waterston's Daniels, who he says "grounds the story," and Danny McBride's Tennessee, who provides a lot of the film's humor while also showing his ability to do more. Like many critics, Sullivan was also very impressed with Michael Fassbender, saying that "few actors could have delivered on the levels he does" in his dual roles.

Sullivan ended his positive review by praising director Ridley Scott, saying he's managed to create a "visually stunning, fast-paced, and thrilling" movie that calls up images of Alien while also bringing the franchise into 2017: "Much like The Force Awakens did with the first Star Wars, Covenant succeeds by recreating what it feels like to watch Alien."


Peter Debruge called the film a return to form for the franchise, noting that it has all the hallmarks of an Alien movie, including a tough female lead, terrifying monsters, and, of course, death. However, he had some issues with the focus on action, which he said led to Scott dropping many of the deeper questions he raised in Prometheus. Part of this, Debruge says, comes from the movie's pace, which suffers from its speed. Debruge ultimately felt the film continued Prometheus' storyline but was lacking its "spirit," resulting in a film designed for audience members who have always rooted for the monster.

Despite his average review, Debruge praised Fassbender's performance and was particularly astonished by one scene involving one of Fassbender's two characters teaching the other how to play a flute, writing, "The moment is so compelling that we hardly stop to question how the filmmakers pulled it off with a single actor, and besides, few directors can compete with Scott in terms of sheer production value."

The Hollywood Reporter

Todd McCarthy had high praise for Alien: Covenant, calling it the most satisfying installment in the franchise since the first two movies. Calling it "beautifully made" and full of surprises, McCarthey added that, despite the age of the franchise, the film feels "vital, freshly thought out, and keen to keep us on our toes right up to the concluding scene." He noted that filling the spaceship with couples meant to populate the new world brings a fresh feel to the film and also gives it more of an emotional grounding. Like many of his peers, McCarthy also loved Fassbender's performance, and called a narrative twist associated with his character "a brilliant stroke."

McCarthy did note there were a few parts of the film that didn't play well, particularly the faith of Billy Crudup's Christopher, saying that the potential religion vs. science debate introduced is underused. However, overall, he gave the film a positive review, praising its gorgeous visuals and ability to remake a story that could at this point easily seem old.

Village Voice

Bilge Ebiri called the movie "the most ambitious Alien film ever made" in his mixed review, saying that, while it doesn't come close to the quality of the first two films, it does show that Scott recognizes the importance of drive in the franchise and noting that the film might be the first to openly acknowledge its theme about exploring a post-human universe. While he praised this decision, he felt that there was too much going on for the movie to be able to follow through on the themes and character developments it introduces, arguing, "the story indulges each of its ideas for a few minutes and then mostly drops them."

Ebiri saw Alien: Covenant as a movie "at war with itself," struggling to reconcile action with deeper questions—and he wasn't satisfied with the ending, which he said tried to wrap up all the loose threads in a "disposable and thoroughly uninspiring" final act. However, he, like other critics, was very impressed with Fassbender's performance and with the twists surrounding his character, and, overall, said he left the theater feeling a "grudging admiration" for Scott's work.

The Guardian

Peter Bradshaw called the film "watchable if unoriginal" in his mixed review, adding that it's basically a "greatest-hits compilation of the other Alien films' freaky moments." He says this presents a paradox for the film, with those moments supposed to be a positive callback for the franchise's older fans, but instead making it unexciting for anyone who's already seen an Alien movie. Still, though, Bradshaw noted that the film was "very capably made," praising its impressive opening scene as well as the performances from Waterston and Fassbender.


Alonso Duralde noted that the film does tease some of Prometheus' deeper themes, but it focuses more on being "an interstellar version of Friday the 13th." While he says it does offer a few surprises (besides the big twist, which he predicts most viewers will see coming), Duralde notes that it's really only engaging when someone is about to be ripped apart by an alien, something he says is particularly shocking against the film's "somber cinematography."

Duralde also argued that some of the characters fell flat, noting that, while the "victims-in-waiting are a stellar bunch," they're pretty much destined for death from the moment they appear onscreen. He noted that Waterston as the lead doesn't quite live up to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, although he did say the actress did impressive work with what little she was given. Overall, he said that, while the film's action and visuals were impressive, it didn't do enough to be interesting when the monster wasn't onscreen.

New York Daily News

Edward Douglas notes that the film deliberately sees Scott moving away from some of the problems fans had with Prometheus, bringing in more alien action while still providing a continuation of the earlier film's story. Douglas added that the cast, specifically Waterston and McBride, were very impressive, and noted that the film delivers on the franchise's gore while also providing lots of surprises and thrills, especially with its twist ending. Overall, Douglas called the film a "satisfying hybrid of Alien, Prometheus, and even James Cameron's Aliens."


In her mixed review, Haleigh Foutch said the film struggled with balancing the horror movie demands of Alien and the questions about creation introduced in Prometheus, saying that, because of its multiple focuses, it "never fully satisfies" either demand. While she called the film "messy" and even "infuriating," she did note that it was "exquisite," saying Scott shows off his mastery of science fiction visuals and creates a "stunning" film in which "chaos unfurls as a gorgeous nightmare."

Foutch praised Waterston's protagonist, saying she called up images of Weaver's Ripley with her intelligence, empathy, and good nature. She was also impressed with Crudup's performance, saying he'll "break your heart" in his role as the ship's religious captain. While she noted that many of the other new characters also show off the "integrity and earnestness" (although not the intelligence) of Waterston's character, she said the cast was also populated with a number of people ripe for slaughtering, leaving the characters "ill-defined" and "underwritten." Although she said Fassbender was "splendid as ever," she also noted that the focus on him made the film sideline the "much more enjoyable" story surrounding the new characters, leaving the movie feeling like "two films crammed into one." In the end, Foutch felt the story felt thin, and that, the more the audience learns about the origins of the Xenomorhps, the less power they hold.


In his mostly negative review, Mike Ryan argued that the film felt torn between a traditional Alien movie and a Prometheus follow-up, noting that the second act is a dramatic tonal shift from the first. While he said that the first act contained thrilling action sequences and introduced compelling characters played by Waterston, Crudup, and McBride, he said that the focus on Fassbender inadvertently muddles the narrative. Fans of Prometheus should be happy with the film, Ryan felt, even though fans of Alien may want to avoid it.

The Verge

Bryan Bishop praised the film for returning to the bloody gore of the original, noting that much of it is filled with "terrifying, heart-pounding terror" and adding that it provides some of the scariest moments in the series to date. However, like other critics, he felt the film was "stuck between modes," saying that, while it's an improvement over Prometheus, it still deviated from the horror that fans of the original films were hoping for.

Bishop praised some of the film's new characters, including McBride's Tennessee and his wife Faris, played by Amy Seimetz, for being "human and relatable" and calling up the "truckers in space" vibe of the original film. He also appreciated the film's visual impressiveness, noting that, when it's " humming," it's "nearly the perfect sequel, hitting every hoped-for franchise beat effortlessly." Still, he felt the film got stuck when it focused on continuing Prometheus' storyline, saying that it causes an "odd and awkward mix of tones, with each undermining each other." He also said the film's twists undermine how it leads up to Alien and provide further questions that will need to be answered in a later sequel.


Germain Lussier gave the film a negative review, saying that, while it wasn't terrible, it was definitely disappointing. He criticized Covenant for taking too long to get where it was going, saying that nearly an hour and a half goes by before the action really starts to kick in. When it does, he says it errs towards the gory without ever really being scary, and instead gets bogged down in questions surrounding Fassbender's dual characters, a plot he calls "oddly unmotivated and slightly confusing."

For Lussier, the film also undermined Prometheus and Alien. He argued that it follows up Prometheus by basically dismissing its most promising piece, the "why are we here?" questions. He also criticized the movie for taking away the mystery surrounding the Alien xenomorphs, basically making both Alien and Prometheus worse. Overall, he called Covenant unambitious, saying it offered no memorable moments and failed to live up to the name of the Alien franchise.


Michael Arbeiter said in his mixed review that, while the film was never as terrifying as Alien, it did have different strengths, including its focus on the dynamics between the ship's coupled-up crew and the use of a gender divide to mimic the original's class divide. He noted that Fassbender "steals the show" as his characters are used to explore the film's deeper questions, although he says Scott doesn't quite reach the heights those moments suggest. He was also impressed with the performances of Crudup, Waterston, McBride, Seimetz, and Callie Hernandez, saying they all play characters who "feel vividly human."