After watching Prometheus with high expectations earlier this year, I came away disappointed. The visual effects were spectacular, but the plot holes were large enough to drive a semi-trailer through. I mean, it’s the 22nd century and the world’s most advanced medi-pod doesn’t cater for women. Seriously? Has medical science gone all misogynist?
Prometheus began life as Alien Engineers, a screen play written by Jon Spaights. When the original script appeared on the internet, I grabbed a copy, curious to see how it differed from the movie, and I think I know what went wrong.
Ridley Scott has openly said he wanted to depart from the Alien franchise and start a new canon for future stories, but Spaight’s script was too close to previous films. Spaight’s aliens are slightly different, but they followed the same tropes, creeping through the ship, killing off the crew one by one. Even the android David comes across like Ash from the original movie, and so Alien Engineers was all too much for Scott.
Scott wanted something different, but he liked the basic premise Spaights had come up with in proposing Engineers. Scott asked Damon Lindelof to rewrite the script and Prometheus was born.
The problem was, neither Spaights nor Lindelof had artistic control, Scott retained the right of veto over key elements of the story, and the script became a patchwork quilt full of conflicting ideas.
After reading Alien Engineers, I can see how several critical concepts got lost in the mix. Spaights, Lindelof and Scott had so many script variations, I think they forgot what was where.
Rather than seeding life on Earth, these engineers tweak life, giving Homo sapiens a boost of intelligence, directing rather than replacing evolution.
Without spoiling the script for those of you that want to read it, one of the early grips in the movie is a scene where our band of intrepid heroes explore the ancient ruins of an alien civilization on the moon of a gas giant, a planetoid with a poisonous atmosphere, but as soon as the team are inside the ruins they’re pulling off their helmets. Remember, this is humanity’s first contact with artifacts devised by an extraterrestrial intelligence and the air outside is noxious but none of the crew seem to mind sucking in the apparently fresh air.
Rather than delivering a WTF? moment, the original script describes how the scientists call the aliens engineers because they recognize the alien ruins circling the moon as “terraforming” machines, vast devices designed to change the planetoid’s atmosphere so it can support life.
Inside these hollow structures, the air has already been transformed and a quick test reveals there’s no microbes, so the team take their helmets off.
It’s still wildly implausible, but at least there’s some supporting logic.
I watched the Blu-ray release of Prometheus over the weekend, and the deleted scenes tell the story better than the movie. I guess, sometimes directors and producers can get too close to a project. They should have left these scenes in the movie as they would have helped maintain the suspension of disbelief for the audience.
If you’re interested, Alien Engineers is well worth reading. It’s short, enjoyable, flows smoothly, and would have made a great movie.
Spoiler alert! The script doesn’t have the same contrived ending as the movie, with the engineer being killed by a giant face-hugger, but there’s still the colliding space ships. Shaw is left stranded on the planet, but she’s not too worried, someone will come for her. “Yes, but who,” replies the decapitated android David, and the alien structure lights up, beaming a message to the stars.
If you’re interested in learning more about the differences between the script and the movie, io9 has a good comparison.