Okay, so let’s start from the place that the only reason this film exists is to make more money. Secondary to that, Ridley Scott said back during Prometheus times that he thought people would be dying to know where the engineer in the first film came from [personally I do not give a flying fuck nor does anyone I know], so in that film we started to get this whole ponderous history that no one cared about. Everyone hated that there was no alien in the Alien movie, but to just throw out all that Prometheus stuff and have a scary monster movie would be like admitting defeat, so what we have here is more creation-centric philosophy melded with a story in which people get regularly killed by an alien. Thanks for your dollars!
That said, it’s still entertaining, looks great, and the philosophical stuff is more immediate, grounded and interesting. We have a crew of colonists on their way to a new planet who experience an unexpected space storm [no mission ever plans for these space storms or meteorites or anything?], which wakes them early. Numerous elements are precisely the same from the original film, including the distress signal, the sudden new planet, the atmosphere of constant storms, the abandoned alien ship…. Eventually the new crew meet David, the android from Prometheus, who ended up here after the shenanigans of the last film.
Now, you may have heard that the characters here make dumb decisions, but let me clarify that they actually make monumentally idiotic decisions that anyone with even a fifth-grade education would not make. Not only do they enter the new planet with no helmets or protective gear, they go sloshing round in alien water. They put their faces near the bloody openings of people known to be infected. They are lax about getting infected blood all over them. And as you expect, bad things happen to them. Bad things which now have no set rules, as aliens can erupt from anywhere through any number of infectious routes, which is part of the point, but also dilutes the tension.
That said, we also see wayyy too much alien, and learn way too much about it, to the point where it is quite demystified. But this isn’t really a series about a scary alien anymore, it is now a series about an artificial intelligence who has come to despise humanity, and bides his time by performing experiments of a callous nature upon humanity. Once you readjust to the reality that questions of artificial intelligence are now the focus here, you can kind of get into it in that way. I was curious why Scott decided to direct Alien films himself instead of Blade Runner films, but in fact he is pursuing the themes of Blade Runner here, in terms of an artificial intelligence’s view of the humanity that created him, but that are inferior and vulnerable where he is not.
That said, the scary-creature-in-space part of the film is here, but it suffers, and is clearly just stapled onto the artificial intelligence story. Katherine Waterson is pretty good here, because she seems much more soft and vulnerable than Ripley was, but is able to go into battle because she simply has to. That said, some of this films’ action pieces start to verge on the ludicrous [having already passed the impersonal], the nadir being a silly climactic sequence with Waterson swinging around on a tether attached to the outside of an out-of-control spaceship in danger of crashing. The whole thing is so removed from reality—we have zero sense that anyone is actually in danger, let alone that anything more than a few pixels have been imperiled—that it’s hard to stay involved. The film has a few okay scares but the thrills come from the artificial intelligence story, and what the alien itself has become in this film is a bit cringeworthy. I did not need to know any more about it than that it is a scary alien that kills people, and all of the additional information we’ve gotten has only made it less interesting.
Still entertaining enough, and really does look fantastic [I was sorry it wasn’t in 3D]. It’s interesting, especially if you get into it as less of a scary thriller and more of an expansive philosophical sci-fi story about civilizations, creation and artificial intelligence. This series may have started as a scary thriller—and you may want a scary thriller—but you may also like expansive philosophical sci-fi. Lucky thing if you do.