Spoilers for Prometheus and Alien: Covenant below.
The biggest flaw in the movie Prometheus is in its attempt to answer a question we don’t need answered by asking a different question we cannot answer. Rather than exploring the question, “Where does the xenomorph come from,” Prometheus instead asks us, “Where did WE come from?” To ask the former question at all undermines the thesis of the original film. In Alien, the antagonist is nature. The xenomorph is an unknown evil with unknowable motivations. It is a symbol of the dangers of the frontier. The xenomorph IS space. The xenomorph is science fiction’s equivalent to the sea monsters drawn on the fringes of Old World naval charts.
Trying to provide a concrete explanation for what a xenomorph is erodes the horror of Alien. That Prometheus approaches this question with vague questions about the genesis of ALL LIFE is deeply unsatisfying to me. That it does so with such an atrocious script is criminal. Prometheus asks us to accept a multibillion tech juggernaut would entrust a vital scientific mission of space exploration to fools. The characters are wildly inconsistent and often make idiotic decisions to further the plot rather than to further their characterization. It is an incredibly well made film. But it is a badly written one which commits the great sin of being unnecessary.
The cinematography is gorgeous. I love the design. The proto-xenomorph c-section scene is effective body horror.
Prometheus is a mess. But it’s ambitious. It’s a big budget sci-fi movie which largely sidesteps action in favor of abstract philosophical meandering. It doesn’t do it very well. But even trying was admirable. It would have been better if it wasn’t a prequel to Alien, but it anchors itself down with franchise baggage.
Alien: Covenant succeeded, for me, by sidestepping Prometheus‘s concerns with the creation of horror to tell a story of the horrors of creation. Which felt more in line with Alien to me. Like Prometheus it largely betrays Alien by trying to explain it, but Alien: Covenant tells a more interesting story for me. David as a flawed Creator reflecting back the flaws of his Creator worked for me. It’s a more thematically effective spiritual successor for me. Alien shows us the horrors of the unknown. Alien: Covenant suggests WE create those horrors.