[Script To Scream] Would ‘Alien: Engineers’ Have Been A Better Movie Than ‘Prometheus’?!

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Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve done this column but I think the surfacing of the script for Alien: Engineers, the original incarnation of Prometheus, is a pretty good occasion, right? Ever since the release of Prometheus over the summer there’s been intense debate between the film’s fans and its (many) detractors – would it have been better as a straight Alien prequel? Would it have made more sense? Would the characters still have been petting alien vagina snakes for no reason? I mostly liked the film, but I certainly understand some of these gripes.

We’ve always known that there are two writers on the film, Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Many of the film’s logical shortcomings were laid at the latter’s feet, which is understandable. He was the last writer on the project. But now that Spaihts’ original draft of Alien: Engineers has surfaced we can trace the exact origins of the elements that made up Prometheus. And, true to the conceit of the film, the answers are frustrating. While there’s some cool stuff, including lots more actual Xenomorph/Alien carnage, in Alien: Engineers – it’s surprisingly close to the Prometheus we’ve come to know and love (or hate).

So now it’s time to do an in-depth breakdown of some key differences. Do they still pet the snake? Does Fifield still turn into a Zombie? Is all of the “God” stuff still in there? Does old man Weyland still show up at the end to take you out of the movie?

All is answered inside.

For starters, let’s get our bearings and address some character differences. Noomi Rapace’s character Elizabeth Shaw is named Jocelyn Watts in this draft and Logan Marshall-Green’s character Charlie Holloway assumes the slightly different moniker of Martin Holloway. Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers is Lydia Vickers here. Most of the major character’s names remain the same, with small variations here and there (and of course there are some characters from the film that aren’t in this draft and vice versa).

Names aside, the character of Watts is largely the same in temperament as Rapace’s Shaw (if a bit less openly religious). Vickers is still a blowhard, but is actually less layered in this draft (I actually found her to be one of the more reasonable characters in Prometheus, icy exterior aside). The big difference here is that Holloway in this draft is older (in his 40’s) and isn’t nearly as big of an asshole as Marshall-Green’s iteration of the character.

Michael Fassbender’s David, meanwhile, likely wouldn’t have been played by Fassbender at all (at least as we see him in the film). Here David is described as being more overtly robotic, he’s humanoid in design but couldn’t actually pass for a human being. He’s still very curious about the mission, but his agenda here is more overtly malevolent.

Surprisingly, the opening of the film is very similar (as is the overall role of the Engineers both in the story and in the creator vs. creation dynamic). If there was one element I expected to be hugely different, it was this. But, as you can see below, it was all Spaihts.

Overall, Alien: Engineers still goes pretty heavy on the religious stuff, but it’s not as consistently faith-centric as the Lindelof draft. It also has less Peter Weyland, who pops up at the beginning not as a hologram but in the flesh (and doesn’t pop up at the end to surprise us).

In what amounts to a huge difference to me, the story actually takes place on LV-426. That’s the moon that the Nostromo lands on in the first Alien and it really helps tie the events of this version of the movie to that film. Because of this the crashed Engineer ship from the original makes way more sense in Engineers (it was always such a frustrating coincidence that the ship crashed in the same position in Prometheus but wasn’t actually the Space Jockey craft from the first film). Speaking of ships, the Prometheus is now called the Magellan.

Still the same? F*cking Milburn still has to pet the snake/centipede. It makes slightly more sense here, but it’s weird that it made it into Lindelof’s draft. It’s almost as if Ridley Scott (or Lindelof himself) fell in love with this scene and wanted it in the new version no matter how badly it clashed with their new film.

Holloway is still doomed. He blacks out in the pyramid and makes it back to the ship feeling sick. He then gives birth to a gelatinous, boneless Xenomorph during sex with Watts. This is not the “Alien” that we know and love, but it’s close…

Like I said before, Holloway is less of a jerk in this version. So while the less innocent David doesn’t orchestrate his demise here as he did in Prometheus, he does arrange for Shaw/Watts to be impregnated by a Facehugger.

It’s then that Shaw/Watts gives birth to the actual Xenomorph/Alien as we’ve come to know it. It all happens during the Medpod sequence that marks the highlight of the film, after which the device repairs her massive internal damage.

The Alien itself goes on a rampage and brutally slaughters several characters. While Vickers doesn’t have Weyland secretly stowed away aboard the ship, she does have soldiers to help carry out Protocol 2. What’s Protocol 2? The plan wherein Watts and Holloway are to be neutralized in the event that the Weyland corporation finds technology they want to use without any pesky civilians knowing about it. In Alien: Engineers we find out that the Engineers have actually been working on terraforming technology, something that Weyland has been developing unsuccessfully for years. The soldiers are Aliens style grunts, one of whom is oddly named Vigoda. Many of them end of as fodder for the Alien.

One of the worst elements of the finished film, a zombified Fifield, is still present in this draft. And now that he’s got acid for blood, it’s partially him that causes Vickers’ demise (the Shepherd mentioned here is also one of her soldiers).

The stuff at the end with the rogue Engineer (called a “Sleeper” here) is more or less the same. He still rips David’s head off and he’s still on a mission to get back to Earth in order to deliver the deadly payload of Alien eggs. Only here – as it should be in a friggin’ Alien prequel – he gives birth to a giant Xenomorph. Thus, our circle is now complete. This is the dude with the hole in his chest that the crew of the Nostromo finds in the first film.

Watts and Captain Janek (who doesn’t have sex with Charlize Theron) still ram the Engineer’s ship, which is now on autopilot towards Earth now following the demise of is pilot. He’s still killed and she still escapes via escape pod. Absent here? The co-pilots who so cheerily die in Prometheus.

In the end, Watts/Shaw doesn’t go off in search of other worlds after her pod crashes. Nor does she help the beheaded David. Instead she sets up camp (the Alien head trophy is a nice tough) and plays chess with him remotely, biding her time.

Watts is content to wait. She knows someone will come for her, whether they be human or engineer. And the last few shots of the film feature a beacon that just might attract the Nostromo. It’s a lonely, desolate and satisfying ending.

Overall? I’d say this draft works slightly better than what we see onscreen in Prometheus. The characters’ motivations are more grounded (here they celebrate finding an ancient Alien civilization as opposed to getting all mopey about it) and there’s some actual Xenomorph/Alien action that doesn’t feel tacked on like the final shot in the film. Structurally however, it’s very similar. If you had an issue with the lurching and exposition heavy narrative of Prometheus, you would have likely found similar issues in this version of the film.

Obviously I didn’t have room to touch on every similarity and difference between this draft in the film. If you’re so inclined, you should check out the script for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1657507951 HorrorGeek333

    I would’ve prefered this to what we got. This is the Alien Prequel we all wanted.

    • StJimmy

      Yeah, this would’ve been much better, as much as i love lost and think the mans a genius, damon lindeloff shouldnt have been brought on to this movie.

    • felixbrewer

      I totally agree. I’m really happy to see many on here agreeing with how I felt after reading Alien: Engineers last week. I enjoy Prometheus as its own pretty, flawed, interesting thing but this script would have been a much better entry into the series they were more than happy to “own” for promotional purposes but seemed very happy to run away from in the finished movie itself. In the recent Empire interview, Spaihts said there several drafts with different takes on evolving/tweaking the Xenos of which this was only one. I’d also love to read those. I got kind of addicted to it when I found most of the considered scripts that didn’t get used for Alien 3. Anyway, Alien: Engineers is a strong script and would have been my preference but I will be happy to watch Prometheus sequels if they do their own thing entirely like the first should have done if they didn’t want it disappointing some Alien fans like myself.

  • K-Dogg

    If we are to get a new trilogy like they say, then this would not have worked at all, so I say we got just what I wanted, this works if its to be a one – off only. What I find hysterical is that people hated Lindeloff’s version because the scientists are too stupid in the movie, yet the one scene everyone complains about would have remained anyway, so that is now officially a moot point.

    • divisionbell

      But it didn’t need to be a new trilogy. The idea was an Alien prequel which this actually is. That said, a small tweak at the end could still have them finding another engineer ship and heading off to find the home planet. That still would have provided a lead in to the original, the xenomorphs that a prequel should have, and you’d still get sequels.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gabbi.cordero Gabbi Cordero

      So if that one scene everyone would have complained about would have stayed anyway… so what? If it’s a bad scene in one script it’s still a bad scene another. if they weren’t smart enough to polish the screenplay that’s their error. the only moot point i see is your comment

  • divisionbell

    I am one of the people who really enjoyed Prometheus, but I did have a lot of issues with all of the connections to the original that didn’t quite fit. This explains all of them. This is the version I would have rather seen.

    • huntermc

      Agreed 100%. I thought Prometheus was overall a great movie, which made the glaring flaws all the more disappointing. And the unnecessary shift to a different planet and ship would have made much more sense if they had left it the way it was in the original script.

  • djblack1313

    why they had such a fucking hard on for that insulting Milburn/vagina snake scene is the real mystery of PROMETHEUS. easily one of the most absurd cliche moments i’ve seen in any movie in years.

    waiting for certain fanboys to arrive and start saying “this movie was just too cerebral for you” or “you just didn’t get the movie”. lol.

    for the record i didn’t hate this movie. i own it on BR and i plan on seeing the sequel. i’m just hugely disappointed with it. i saw flashes of brilliance in the movie hampered down with an inept script, not to mention they wasted utilizing most of this amazing cast. Kate Dickie for example should have been in the film more as well as other cast members who were barely shown.

    • huntermc

      Here’s how I think that scene should have gone:

      INT. CATACOMBS – INSECT CHAMBER

      Milburn and Fifield have bunked down in a new chamber: they
      slouch against a wall. Unbeknownst to them, a VAGINA-SNAKE, three feet long and thick as man’s thumb slithers their way. Its hard shell is gray. It has a hammer-head like a shark.

      Milburn leans over to examine an unusual rock formation with his sensor-probe.

      MILBURN
      Look at this! It looks like… damn it!

      Milburn loses his grip on the probe and if falls into into a dark recess in the floor.

      FIFIELD

      Nice job, butterfingers.

      As Milburn reaches into the crack to retreive the probe, the eyeless VAGINA-SNAKE appears from the darkness and begins to wind its segmented body around his space-suited arm. Feeling its grip, Milburn pulls his arm back out and looks at the VAGINA-SNAKE in horror.

      MILBURN
      What the fuck?

      In the flat face, a white vertical slit appears. Changes quickly to a horizontal position; opens enough to suggest a gaping vagina. Milburn doesn’t notice this development.

      • djblack1313

        huntermc, EXACTLY!! what you wrote, besides being very cool(!!), totally fixes that part in the movie!! are you a writer? i like very much what you wrote here. :)

  • doomas10

    I prefer the original draft rather that this mashing pit of ideas that nobody explored. It seemed more focused and more structured -plus peting a facehugger? that would be creepy as fuck! Such a wasted opportunity…

    • djblack1313

      doomas10, get ready for the PROMETHEUS crazed fanboys (i’m not talking about people who simply like the movie and respect those who just happened not to like/love it) to arrive and start attacking our posts! LOL.

      • K-Dogg

        I’m not gonna be that guy DJ….we can agree to disagree, I loved it, you didn’t, all will be fine in the world. I want to say I do see its plot holes, but on Halloween I watched my fave horror movie of all time for, like, the 50th time, HALLOWEEN, and that flick, has some many laughable scenes, and dumb character decisions ( Jamie Lee Curtis throwing weapon away 3 times, right towards Michael). But I don’t care, it’s too much of a gem to me, that I can overlook some of its slight stupidity. Just saying…..

      • doomas10

        my favourite argument is ” you just didn’t get it!!” (me pokerface O________O). I love fanboys- they are pretty funny. On a serious note, Prometheus was by far the most beautiful film of 2012. Visually was incredible. But the plot holes, the injection of multiple plots (and subplots) that lead nowhere and the lack of dramatic tension (with the exception of the self surgery scene) killed the film for me. It seemed that they were afraid to go too much sci-fi horror and tried to do an ambitious and ambiguous sci-fi thriller. However, at the end it felt too watered and clean.

  • MrDisgusting

    It drives me nuts that they stripped the Alien connection. The Xeno out of the Engineer and end beacon is genius stuff.

    • divisionbell

      Agreed. That would have been a perfect ending and a true prequel. Aside from the changes to the android that gave us Fassbender in the role, it just blows my mind that they would go out of their way to sever the connection. Yet they never really did a good job of actually doing it. It either should have been a completely seperate flick or just gone with the prequel that the fans wanted.

  • wildgator25

    It’s times like these we need Doc Brown to illustrate what would happen in the “alternate 1985″, lol.

    All I can say is that was some of the best 118 pages of reading I have done in a long while. I loved Prometheus, and like DJ, own it on Bluray. But…. it would have been sweet to see this screenplay come to life as well.

    On a side note, the 3D Bluray edition has the in depth behind the scenes with several references to why Prometheus was changed to what it currently is. For those who haven’t seen it, it was well worth the extra $6 over standard Bluray copy.

  • Zombie-Killa

    I loved Prometheus, and I’ve probably watched it on DVD about three or four times since buying it.

    I enjoyed Prometheus, BUT a certain group of Prometheus fanboys that emerged after this film’s release kind of annoy me. You know, the pseudo-intellectuals, who try to sound smart by praising this film as some flawless and genius work of art. And they pull the “you just don’t get it” card, whenever someone criticizes Prometheus.

    As far as the leaked screenplay goes, I think it’s too little, too late. We can dream about the “what could’ve been” stuff all day long, but Prometheus is done and in the books as a completed film, so dreaming about change won’t help anything.

    • djblack1313

      Zombie-Killa well said!! i couldn’t agree more. i just read much of this screenplay and i REALLY liked what i read! holy crap that was pretty good. i love how it really IS a prequel.

      • Zombie-Killa

        Thanks! And I can’t believe I missed your post about the “Milburn/vagina” the first time around. Just read it a few minutes ago, great stuff!

      • doomas10

        It seems that it is a very “strong” prequel. What’s the word? Ah…find it! Sinister and edgy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/dillon.brown.7 DB35

    Thanks for sharing the script with us; it was a fantastic read. I really enjoyed Prometheus; I found it though provoking and very entertaining, but I agree: it’s got those glaring plot holes that really pull it away from being the prequel we all thought we were getting. I think the hammerhead-vagina-snake scene in the film is awesome, BUT, only after the dumb-ass, “It’s so beautiful” line. The effects and the whole shoving itself down his throat pornstar style was pretty awesome. I think this script showcases too many creatures, if I can be completely honest, whereas I would have liked to just have one xenomorph ala Shaw’s C-Section scene and let it wreck shop from the shadows like the first film so brilliantly did. Of course, I’d hope it would have a different design so it would be something very new, yet familiar to the universe, and then let a Queen erupt from the Engineer at the very end for that last fanboy money-shot. Overall, though, the original Spaihts draft is so much fun to read, so thanks again for posting.

  • WalkingDeadGuy

    This sounds awesome; this is more of what the fans would have liked to see. I’m sure it all came down do Ridley not wanting to repeat himself and wanting to create an original film (possibly franchise) and perhaps he thought the Xenomorph was too symbolic to the previous films. With that being said, I wish he would have thrown the fans a bone, he could have gone with this version, which sounds like it perfectly ties itself to the original ‘Alien’, then he could have broken away from this familiar story in the sequels and focus on Shaw and the engineer’s; it would have been a great transition.

    As much as I criticize ‘Prometheus’, It was still a very fun film and I applaud it for trying something new, not in regards to the “creatures” but the overall story; I loved the underlined message about religion, god(s), creation of life, etc.

  • viking1983

    simple answer = no, prometheus is the best film this year and arguably the best film of the past 5 years

  • joesey

    either way there’s not much of a stray from PROMETHEUS-so I prefer and love the one they made. It’s the best film I’ve seen all year.

  • Joe-Banger

    Just watched it today on dvd, beautiful visuals and all but it did’nt start to get interesting until the last half hour. The xenomorph showed up at the last scene. The film itself was fair.

  • Dream-Master08

    The problem with Prometheus is not that it suffered from a lack of ideas or thought…It suffered from contradicting ideas, almost like we were watching 2 different movies at one time. I feel like directors and screen writers try so hard not to do the obvious, but end up doing stupid shit to combat that. Nobody would have complained if Ridley Scott did a direct prequel to Alien. Nobody. and yet in an attempt to surprise and seem different and edgy that cut a paste two scripts together to make one story that asks more questions than they ask.

  • GoCaboNow

    Even with the gaffs, I still enjoyed Prometheus immensely. But, this script minimized alot of these gaffs and added horror back into the operation. Watts trip to the bowels of the engineers lair knowing what happened to Holloway? That would have been very suspenseful and then to have David purposefully get her knocked up? What a prick! And would have added to the emotion against him, the inhuman way he did it. Also, every movie needs a famous line and Watts’ “I brought it in. I took it out” would have been AWESOME.