Manage your expectations. Go in with low ones and you will enjoy more.
The first Alien movie was, I am told, innovative for being a Haunted House movie in space with a far-above-average monster. Covenant is then exactly what it is: the fifth (seventh, inclusing spin-offs) sequel where everyone knows the score, following horror movie tropes and remixing previous plots. The dominant trope is “ensemble characters go into the forest and get killed off, usually while you’re screaming at them not to be so stupid,” plus something I’ll have in the mild spoilers section.
As my friend remarked early on, “this lot are more hopeless than the last ones!” Sure enough, they refuse to do anything like actually look at the planet before they land there. But the plot is also increasingly nonsensical and SF-silly, with robots growing hair and nobody remarking on non-human civilisations. Ridley Scott is never less than a good director, but he simply cannot tell a good script from a bad one.
Oddly, I found myself missing some of the philosophical pretension from the previous installment. But there was one thing that really annoyed me: the captain of the colony ship declaring that people were biased against him for being a man of faith. Things must have changed in the future; atheists are one of the few groups considered utterly unelectable to President or Prime Minister. Yet another advantaged majority protrays itself as threatened and persecuted.
The real innovation of the film is its central badness being a villain rather than the monsters. And the villain is indeed superb in many ways, although much of the villainy comes from the repeated times he is spared, helped or trusted with insufficient reason. I can’t deny this built up a wonderful head of hatred for him, but it also felt unsatisfying in some ways.
Covenant also pulls an Alien3 in that you find all but one of the plucky survivors from the previous film have died off-camera in the interval. Another thing that feels a bit lazy.
My favourite film of the franchise remains, of course, Aliens. It was smart, pacey, gritty, and innovative in having an early female action heroine with a mother/daughter love interest (I have a theory that it may be the most influential feminist film of all time, in that lots of young men with little interest in gender politics will have cheered Sigourney Weaver leading a group of men and then kicking ass with a big gun). The sequel was just as good as the original, in fact better in my book. Influences from both the two films have run through all subsequent sequels. I do find myself wishing that James Cameron had come back rather than Ridley Scott…. but then, as with Terminator, he knows when it’s time to bow out of a franchise.
So, Convenant is a good ol’ potboiler but nothing great.
AND, for those of you who would like my narrative response to Promethues, read “Epimetheus” on this website! https://paladinofidleness.wordpress.com/stories/rewrite/epimetheus/