It’s time to put the controversy to rest. Which draft of the Prometheus screenplay was better? Spaiths or Lindelof’s?

Genre: Sci-fi
Premise: A group of scientists head to a distant star system in search of intelligent life.  But what they find instead is an ancient race hellbent on destroying Earth.
About: This is the last draft of Prometheus that Jon Spaiths worked on before being replaced by Damon Lindelof.
Writer: Jon Spaiths
Details: 117 pages (undated)

The emergence of this script is strange.  There’s been a lot of chatter since the release of Prometheus that Damon Lindelof ruined Prometheus’ screenplay, with the assumption being that the writer before him, Jon Spaiths, had written a much better draft.  So one has to wonder, did Team Lindelof release this draft to prove that he didn’t “ruin” anything?  Or did Team Spaiths release this draft to prove, “Hey, the rumors are true.  My version was better!”  It’s a particularly strange situation here on Scriptshadow because I’m one of the only people who actually LIKED Prometheus.  So I can’t even voice the same concerns as the masses.  I thought the script for the film I saw was pretty  solid (though, admittedly, the subject matter was right up my alley).  Another thing you have to factor in is that Ridley Scott was guiding the creation of the story.  So many of the ideas in the script were, I’m assuming, his, and therefore may have nothing to do with Spaiths or Lindelof.  Anyway, I’m just curious as a script-lover to see what changes were made and what we can learn from those changes.  Let’s check it out.

Reading through the opening of “Alien: Engineers” triggered some major deja-vu.  In fact, after the first half of the script, I wondered how the hell Lindelof even got credit on the screenplay.  Everything was exactly the same.  We follow the same two main characters, Doctor Jocelyn Watts and Professor Martin Holloway, as they discover evidence pointing to the whereabouts of alien intelligence (this time deep underwater instead of in a cave – I assume they changed this for budgetary reasons).

The rest of the characters are exactly the same as well.  You have the seriously grouchy Lydia Vickers (Charlize Theron) as well as our favorite OCD android, David (Michael Fassbender).  You have the goofy guys who go into the tunnel and the deadly serious Captain Janek.

They get to Moon LV-426 and, just like before, find the engineers beheaded in the hallway.  They start doing research and gradually realize that the engineers were here to terraform this world but something stopped them before they could do it.

Where things change significantly is that the ALIENS (and I mean the ORIGINAL aliens)  play a bigger role in Spaiths version of the screenplay.  A two foot long caterpillar attacks one of the goofy dudes and I guess that caterpillar lays the first alien egg.  This leads to one of the facehuggers emerging, which later impregnates someone else, which results in a slightly bigger alien, and so on and so forth until we have full grown aliens running around.

The thing is, this still doesn’t happen until way late in the screenplay.  After the mid-point.  So for those hoping for more of a classic “Aliens Contained Thriller” like we got in the first two movies, you don’t get that here.  By the time the aliens actually get dangerous, the script is almost over, so I can see why they decided to nix it.  You either gotta go all in with these things or not.  You can’t go half-way, which seemed to be the case here.

I’m also imagining that at some point someone said, “We got two competing ideas here.  We gotta choose one or the other.”  Which is true.  You had aliens running all over the place, and then you had these completely separate big engineer dudes waking up.  It’s kind of confusing, so when Lindelof came in, I’m guessing Ridley just went, “You know what?  Let’s scratch the aliens and commit to the engineers.”  Was that a good decision?  Hmm, probably.  Like I said, if you’re going to go aliens, you gotta go all the way.  And I think they realized they weren’t making an alien movie anymore.

Another change was the late twist.  Instead of the Old Weyland being released from hyper-sleep, four secret soldiers were woken up, who were apparently there to enact “Phase 2.”  While the soldier thing had potential, it wasn’t effectively utilized here and I’m not even sure what happened to the soldiers ten pages after their arrival.  They disappeared off the face of the moon.  Lindelof likely noticed this and decided to change the twist to the old man – and this is what lead to a lot of people complaining that this plot point didn’t make sense.  It was a neat idea, but Lindelof didn’t have the time to implement it in a logical way.  That’s the thing you have to remember.  With us amateurs, we have as much time as we want to get our plot points in order.  These guys are on a deadline, and sometimes that means not being able to perfect your additions.

The other big change Lindelof made was fleshing out David.  In Spaiths’ draft, David always seemed to be on the brink of going mad, but for the most part stayed on the sidelines.  In the shooting draft, obviously, he goes full blown nuts and you can even argue that the second half of the film is his.  My take on this choice?  I think it was a good one.  David was clearly the most interesting character on the ship, so exploring him more and expanding his storyline made sense.  Again, it looks like they ran out of time to ensure that all those changes made sense.  In the movie, it wasn’t entirely clear why David decided to be the bad guy or do what he did, but it was almost there.  They just needed a couple of more drafts.

A big problem with both drafts was the unfocused second act.  So many characters had been introduced and the writers were trying to keep track of them all and they just couldn’t.  There’s a period of about 20 pages where everybody’s running around, both in the ship and in the pyramid, and I have no idea why or what any of them are doing.  That’s the danger you run into when you have tons of characters.  You have to keep track of them all.  If two people are getting killed off in this room, you have to have a good reason why nobody else is around to help.  Where are they?  What are they doing?  These are the kinds of things screenwriters never get credit for  yet it’s one of the hardest things about the craft – keeping track of everything.  And if you don’t have enough time or you don’t give it enough attention, these large-character pieces can get confusing quickly, which is unfortunately what happened here.

It’s also interesting to see how little things get lost from draft to draft and how that can lead to unintended “WTF” moments.  For example, I remember seeing Vickers sprawling over-the-top sleeping quarters on Prometheus and thinking, “There is no way in hell they would spend all that money on that room.  This isn’t a stay at the Waldorf Astoria.  It’s a spaceship where every cubic foot needs to be utilized.”  Well in this draft, we learn via a quick line of dialogue that Vickers refused to go on this expedition unless she traveled in luxury.  Somebody probably decided to cut that line since it wasn’t essential, but just that little cut made the writers look sloppy.

After reading “Alien: Engineers,” my assessment is that Lindelof’s draft(s) did make the script better.  Nothing major was really done.  Lindelof  fleshed stuff out a little more and got rid of an alien subplot that felt half-baked.   But the drafts really weren’t that different.  When you get this many drafts into the script, you’re never going to see that much of a story transformation.  The quality of the story is likely going to be the same, with just some slight differences in the specifics. I thought this script was decent, but still enjoyed the final draft better.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me.
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Many writers spend 40-50 times as much time on the first half of their screenplay as the second.  This happens because whenever someone opens their script to start working, they start from the top.  So scenes in the first 30 pages have likely been gone over 50 times as much as scenes in the last 30 pages.  Seeing how much sloppier this script was in the second half as opposed to the first, it just reminded me that you gotta give both halves equal attention.


  • Paul Clarke

    So neither of them thought the characters actions were odd?

    I think that’s what spoiled it for me. This is the most important scientific expedition in the history of mankind, you would expect they’d send the best scientists. Scientist by their very definition are logical, reasonable people. That’s what they do. And all these guys do is exhibit crazy irrational behavior from start to finish. Not only that, but they change so often it becomes ridiculous. Scared of a 2000 year old fossil one moment, not scared of a creepy oozing penis monster the next.

    Or the main guy, he no doubt spent countless years scouring earths caves for that evidence. Yet a few hours on this planet and he’s given up? He’d rather drink away his sorrows than spend a bit more time exploring? I mean there were heaps of temples. And worse, there was an alien in that one, he just hadn’t looked hard enough.

    I can believe space ships, aliens, and the rest. But I simply could not believe the behavior of the characters. I’m so surprised that the professional writers never picked that up. I thought for sure it was Ridley’s fault.

    • fragglewriter

      That’s another reason why I had to stop reading it. I felt that if we replaced those characters with a janitor who got locked in, with two interns for the company along with a cook, and based on their background, I might be able to understand their actions. But highly intellectual people, no can do.

    • yeebarr

      Good call Paul. Sci-fi is usually so out there, if the characters aren’t “grounded” or make choices the audience can understand then it’s just very easy to get pulled out of the story. That’s why we (I?) love Ripley: “Nuke the entire site from orbit–it’s the only way to be sure”

    • Lucas Knight

      If you read the original script, you would likely understand that the expedition to the moon was NOT intended to be a scientific expedition. It was for the purpose of Weyland’s people stealing the Engineer terraforming technology, in the guise of a highly classified scientific mission.

  • Anthony Carter

    Will read and give you my thoughts later.

  • Brandon_Mac

    Paul did you read the Spaihts draft? The whole he gives up and gets drunk thing only happened in Lindelof’s version. In Engineers he’s much more insightful and makes some key deductions and discoveries before others do. He’s even a step ahead of David in understanding the engineer tech for a bit.

    I thought this was a superior version. I enjoyed Prometheus but there were a bunch of little things that drove me crazy, this script had those answers. Like Carson pointed out many were fixed by a simple line or two of dialogue which Damon removed for little to no reason. While the soldiers were underdeveloped the whole “phase two” sub plot gave a little better explanation for David going off the reservation like he did.

    All in all, while there were still some issues that could have used reworking I finished this script with far fewer questions than I did watching Prometheus. The only real contribution Lindelof brought to the project was ambiguity. And as he demonstrated on Lost it is ultimately fails to satisfy and much more inclined to piss your reader or viewer off.

  • RafaelSilvaeSouza

    Still reading it, but so far Lindelof seems to have minimized the number of characters, fusing two or three into one. This had the negative effect of creating the “I’m lost” scene in the final movie, when the guy who’s lost is the guy who’s the specialist on “not getting lost”.

    Besides that, here we are sure that the Aliens killed the Engineers. In the final movie, you don’t know why the Engineers were running away, and what killed them.

    And, of course, the biggest change so far is in explanation of the Engineers. Here we learn that they used to visit Earth from time to time to give a “boost” to our species, mixing their DNA to ours — using those freaky scarabs. In the final film, it looks like the engineer killed himself with the black goo and that he became the primordial soup — to which I ask, “WTF?”

  • AJMockler

    Have to disagree. I enjoyed this draft a lot more than watching Lindelof and Scott’s film. It was a much more straightforward Aliens type story, with less of the hokum that Lindelof/Scott introduced, and the writing (based on the alleged samples I’ve sen of Lindelof’s draft) was tighter.

    The explanation of the alien lifecycle is still a bit ropey here too though (while not as cack as what we had dished up in the film), and it still lacks the power and punch of either Alien or Aliens, but for me it would undoubtedly have made for the better film.

  • Melanie W

    A small matter, but I will say this: purely for visual style, the Spaiths draft is a much, much better read. Clean and uncluttered. Lindelof’s draft has insane capitalization on every second word, underlining on every third, etc. It starts to look like a ransom note made from cutout newspaper letters.

    • garrett_h

      This is the style of J.J. Abrams and his crew. They all write like this. Just read anything by Abrams, Lindelof, or Orci and Kurtzman. Just about all of their scripts are written this way.

      • Melanie W

        Oh, I know, believe me. But I prefer the cleaner Spaiths style, which I still tend to see more often. And the Prometheus draft, even more than usual, seemed textually to be screaming for attention for every second word. It’s like a toddler jumping up and down, “Look at me, look at me.” Once you emphasize everything, the emphasis loses its effect. Better, IMO, to keep it spare, so that when something is capitalized or underlined, it’s something subtle but important that might otherwise have been missed.

  • Rich Drees

    I agree that the inclusion of the classic Aliens divided the script’s focus and served to waterdown the second half. But in the final film, the sudden appearance of one at the end seemed more like fan service than anything else. perhaps they would have been better served to have held off until a second film before bringing them?
    BTW – Prometheus-Movie also managed to post a draft of Lindelof’s script here –

  • Steve

    I enjoyed the movie but preferred Spaihts draft because it didn’t have the two competing ideas. It was simpler. A straight Aliens prequel. Everything was so much clearer in Spaihts’ draft. The movie, while entertaining, is a bit of a mess. I don’t blame either writer for that. There was obviously a lot of behind the scenes conflict on the direction this film should take. Ultimately I blame Ridley. Should have picked one idea or the other and lived with the decision instead of trying to force two stories into one.

  • ChadStuart

    Well, I’m not on the hate “Prometheus” bandwagon. I thought the plot was messy, but the ideas were fascinating. I’ve always loved the idea behind “Chariots of the Gods” and love whenever that idea is explored in movies. So, with that said, I do think Lindeloff’s draft is the better draft.

    When I was reading Spaiht’s draft, I wasn’t so interested in the Alien angle. I’ve seen it done very well twice, and not-so-well four times more. They aren’t that interesting of monsters, to tell you the truth. If I were in Sir Ridley’s shoes, I would have made the same decision.

    But I would have gone further and nixed ALL of the Alien “DNA” completely. It would have been far more interesting to just make this its own standalone story. But I suspect that since Fox signed on for more Alien, that just wasn’t possible.

    And one of my absolute favorite themes is dichotomy between science and religion. I adore “Contact” for that very reason. Having been raised by an atheist and marrying a woman of faith does that to you. So I think drawing that out was brilliant, and made the move far more richer than the simple adventure story Spaiht’s turned in.

    I think the two drafts are very interesting, though, from an education standpoint. Too many people on the internet behave like Lindeloff created his draft in a vacuum. He didn’t. By the time he was brought in sets were being designed and built, set pieces were already decided on and stunt workers preparing. He just couldn’t run with it and do whatever he wanted. He had a very strict set of parameters to work with, not to mention Ridley’s copious notes and ideas. At the end of the day every thing that’s up there is Sir Ridley’s. He’s a true auteur, and these two drafts tend to prove that.

  • JakeBarnes12

    To be fair, I’ve read the Spaihts’ version of the script, but not the Lindelof, so this is not a comparison of two scripts but of one script and the movie “Prometheus.”

    LIke many people, I was very disappointed in “Prometheus.” The characters weren’t just one-dimensional, which can be excusable, but dull, which isn’t, with the obvious exception of DAVID. The movie was riddled with plot holes and both inconsistent and just plain ludicrous character behavior. Questions were raised and left hanging, not providing a delicious frisson of speculation, as Lindelof typically claims to excuse his half-thought out ideas, but audience frustration and bewilderment.

    But worse, the movie was low on suspense and terror.

    I remember watching the first “Alien” movie on a small TV screen years ago and being literally too frightened to go up a dark staircase to bed. I still have nightmares about that creature.

    And while the second movie shifted from horror into action-adventure mode, it still had a ton of suspenseful scenes. When the marines are in that area with no ammunition and these THINGS start to wake up all around them — Jesus H Fuck, as they say in “Ted.”

    What Cameron understood in 1986, Scott and the screenwriters have forgotten today; this is B-movie material, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. We pay our money to sit in the dark and have the bejesus scared out of us by men in rubber monster suits, not to hear boring characters sit around and expound on discredited 1970s theories about humanity’s alien origins. To put it another way, Scott, Spaiths and Lindelof seem to trying to wed more “serious” speculative sci-fi with good old-fashioned sh*t-your-pants monster movies. And in my estimation the two elements get in each other’s way.

    So on the one hand, whether you go for the Spaihts or Lindelof version, that clash of influences isn’t working. Remember, in the original movie it’s just a bunch of salvage guys getting a distress call; the bigger story is that it’s a company plot (labor vs. management). Then monsters show up. In the second movie it’s a search and rescue mission; send in some marines to sort things out. Then monsters show up. Here, it’s lets explore THE ORIGIN OF LIFE ON EARTH. Then monsters show up. Huh?

    Getting down to specifics:

    1. In Spaihts’ version Weyland believes the engineers have advanced terraforming tech. He’s having huge problems terraforming Mars, so it makes sense he’d invest a few trillion in sending an exploration party out.

    In Lindelof’s version Weyland fakes his own death, stows away on the exploration craft, awakens with no curiosity about all the weird alien creatures running around killing people but instead can’t wait to stand in front of a fifteen-foot giant whom he believes, with no evidence, will restore him to full health and/or extend his life. Makes no sense.

    However, Spaihts’ hidden soldiers “twist” make no sense. They have no real impact on the plot beyond providing some extra muscle and Alien cannon fodder. Then again, as I just pointed out, Lindelof’s solution of replacing the soldiers with Weyland makes even LESS sense. So…

    WINNER: Spaihts.

    2. In Spaihts’ version, DAVID can see beyond the human light spectrum and so can use the alien tech to move easily around the pyramid.

    In Lindelof, DAVID appears to have intimate knowledge of the pyramid but we never see what he’s seeing; all this cool light wave/energy tech. It just comes across as plot convenience. Maybe you could say DAVID can read their language. Still. Spaiths has a cool VISUAL explanation.

    WINNER: Spaihts.

    3. In Spaihts’ version, Holloway goes wandering round the Pyramids and gets infected the good old-fashioned way — by a scary-ass facehugger. He’s having sex with Watts (Shaw in the movie) when a good old-fashioned Alien thingie bursts out of his stomach. Okay, we’ve seen the facehuggers and chestbusters before, but still, this is way more visual, dramatic, and scary than…

    In Lindelof’s version, Holloway is immediately discouraged after five-minutes pyramid exploration turns up no lifeforms, and becomes a self-pitying alcoholic. DAVID slips him a mickey in the form of alien DNA in his drink, knowing that alcohol makes humans horny and therefore guaranteeing Holloway will have sex with Shaw, passing on the alien life form to her. Um… what?

    WINNER: Spaihts

    4. In Spaihts’ version, the MedPod works for both men and women. Looks like the Weyland Corporation splurged on the Deluxe model. Also, Watts (Shaw) is impregnated the traditional way (see Holloway) rather than by that annoying black oil from “The X-Files” which had to be slipped into Holloway’s drink and passed on through his semen.

    In Lindelof’s version, however, we have that ridiculous/great scene where Shaw is trapped in the MedPod with the little alien chestbuster.

    So who wins this one? I’d say a draw, (do you prefer chestbuster inside the MedPod, or MedPod about to open to allow a full-bodied alien to attack you? Both sound fairly suspenseful), except for that dumb “sorry, only works on men,” stuff. Puh-leeze.

    WINNER: Spaihts

    Quick-Fire Round:

    a) Spaihts clearly explains the different types of Aliens (weaponized in different ways). In “Prometheus” I was confused as to how these new creatures fit in with the traditional forms.

    b) In Spaihts version Watts (Shaw) obeys common sense and runs AWAY AND TO THE SIDE OF the collapsing spacecraft, not in a straight line.

    c) In both versions, what is DAVID’s plan? In Spaihts, the company plan to steal the terraforming tech is clear. But it seems that DAVID is acting alone to produce aliens. In the first movie, Ash working for the company is clear. They seem to want to replicate that story beat here, but it gets muddied in both versions. Maybe I’m missing something.


    So at least with those issues above, Spaihts’ appears to have the sounder story.

    And yet… and yet…

    I think Carson’s absolutely right that Spaihts runs into major focus problems. This is a script about the Engineers — understanding their culture, finding their planet, stealing their technology, solving the mystery of why they stopped visiting, solving the mystery of why they changed us to begin with. That’s the story. But then about half-way through, the focus splits and we’re back in the familiar realm of facehuggers, chestbusters, and full aliens getting up to mischief. So for a large chunk the Engineers become a side story and the focus shifts to the aliens, but then towards the end we move back to an encounter with a live Engineer.

    So that split focus is a real narrative problem. But to make it worse, that aspect felt very… familiar.

    So Scott’s instinct that he wanted to do something “different” can’t really be faulted. It’s just that Lindelof’s solution, keeping the focus much more on these rather boring Engineers, isn’t the most inspired.

    End of the day, if you’re not going to have ALIENS, you’d better have something better.

    Final Thought:

    I do not want to see a Blade Runner 2.

    • Rosemary

      I didn’t read Lindelofs so I cant compare. However, If I to choose between this script and Lindelofs movie I go with the script. The same reasons from the person above!

    • scouter119

      well done! all great points!

    • Poe Serling

      Here’s a quick hit regarding the possibility of Blade Runner 2. It’s from an interview just last month with Scott in Empire Magazine. He was asked about the rumor of doing BR 2 and his response:

      “It’s not a rumour – it’s happening. With Harrison Ford? I don’t know
      yet. Is he too old? Well, he was a Nexus-6 so we don’t know how long he
      can live [laughs]. And that’s all I’m going to say at this stage.”

      Make of that what you will, especially with Scott’s tongue obviously firmly embedded within his cheek, but it’s an emphatic confirmation that the Blade Runner follow-up is go.

      Then there’s the indication from Scott that the Blade Runner sequel’s protagonist should be female, as well as the news that the original’s writer, Hampton Francher, is also on board the project…”

      Like most things, time will tell if the sequel gains any traction and goes into pre-production.

      • JakeBarnes12

        Two requisites are keep Lindelof away from the script and maintain the 80’s- future vibe.

    • Chris

      Jake, nicely done. PROMETHEUS was certainly strong in both acting and
      VFX but the script was so bad that I actually rolled my eyes. Not once,
      not twice but five times. I almost wondered if it was meant as an SNL
      parody of sorts. As you lay out in some detail, the Spaihts’ draft is
      much superior to the Lindelof version and it’s unfortunate that we
      didn’t get to see the former.

    • Chris

      Jake, nicely done. PROMETHEUS was certainly strong in both acting and
      VFX but the script was so bad that I actually rolled my eyes. Not once,
      not twice but five times. I almost wondered if it was meant as an SNL
      parody of sorts. As you lay out in some detail, the Spaihts’ draft is
      much superior to the Lindelof version and it’s unfortunate that we
      didn’t get to see the former.

    • WB

      Great breakdown.

      I think the movie and the Spaihts’ script needed to get a live Engineer in the mix earlier on and I was thinking a good way to do it may have been to eliminate David but put all his intriguing character traits (duplicity, wonder at humans and their creations (movies, etc.) even though he is superior in many respects, his ulterior motives, desire to experiment with live subjects in a cold, clinical way) into an Engineer. This could have made the Engineer a much richer character, and set the stage for more conflict in this movie and in future ones.

  • Karl Lehmann

    I think this script was far from perfect, but I disagree with Carson in one regard. I thought it was better than the final movie. I think the alien subplot worked (although it could have been improved). I also really liked how David was described as being obviously not human. It made him visibly different, and for me helped cement his “emotional” connection to the engineers more.

    It also felt more natural to me that Weyland wasn’t some sort of everlasting life chasing nut, instead being the calculating mutil-trillionaire I would expect a man in his position to be. There was no “David as the son he never had” or Vickers as his daughter, which was stuff that felt tacked on and distracting in the film. Instead his agenda is very clear (as shown through Vickers’ actions). He is in the business of terraforming, and that business is faltering. So he gambles that they will find something that can help restart it for him. And doesn’t inexplicably come along for the ride. I didn’t like the soldiers magical appearance in this draft, but I hated Weyland’s magical appearance in the film.

    All in all I wish they had continued with what this draft had to offer instead of branching off into what became Prometheus. But that’s just one opinion.

    • shimshamalong

      Totally agree about Weyland and his motivations. I thought greed (and by extension a desire to leave a technological and financial legacy) worked much better than the eternal life thing. There was was really nothing to imply that the Engineers would help him achieve immortality, so I don’t know why he assumed they would or could.

  • Poe Serling

    With Prometheus already released theatrically and on DVD, this version of the script falls under the ‘woulda-coulda-shoulda’ been scenario of things…. a great conversation starter between two cinephiles but not much more.

    • THE_HAZE

      ‘woulda-shoulda-coulda’ best three players in baseball. This is my absolute favorite line of all time.


  • shimshamalong

    Just watched the movie for the first time last night, and then read this script (and then read the Lindelof script).

    I’m of two minds about both versions. The Spaihts version does a better job with its exposition — but it feels like there is a TON of that exposition. It’s a script that reads better than it would shoot, I think. It read like Michael Crichton or Douglas Preston doing an Alien story. I also think going with pyramids and obelisks made it feel a bit cliched, like callbacks to 2001 and even Stargate. I enjoyed the script a lot, but like I said, it read better than it would show.

    Lindelof’s version can seem cliche at times and nonsensical at others. But it is a movie. He may get a lot of (deserved) crap for the lore and science and plot holes in his version. But I thought it filmed really well. When I finished the movie last night, my first thought was, “That’s a dumb movie that I’m really glad I saw.”

    As an aside, I know one of the hooks for the movie — and probably the only reason it was even made — was that it was an Alien prequel. But, for me, I didn’t think that tie-in was even necessary. It would be more fun if this had the potential to be its own franchise, free of constraints for what happens in the future. I never needed to know where the aliens came from. Nowadays, it seems that a genre story isn’t good unless we get all the answers to the mythology. Reminds me of this Vonnegut quote from Cat’s Cradle:

    “Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
    Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’
    Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
    Man got to tell himself he understand.”

    • Karl Lehmann

      “That’s a dumb movie that I’m really glad I saw.”

      I have been trying to figure out how I felt after seeing the film. Thank you for that description.

  • shaneblackfan

    I wish they made Shadow 19. Ridley Scott’s a big director name that could have sold this to an audience. The real culprit here is FOX who probably wouldn’t bankroll a sci-fi film if it wasn’t based on a franchise. I actually preferred Jon’s draft to what ended up on film, but I also felt the second half was done already in the other Alien movies. There’s nothing knew in either draft.

  • ChinaSplash2

    Good grief. ‘Everything was exactly the same’??! Did we read the same script and watch the same movie? The huge difference — and how can this not be an issue for you? — is that Spaihts’
    script actually makes sense.

    To be fair, I thought there were some elements here that needed work, eg the relatively tired corporate ‘protocol two’ shenanigans, the same old running around chasing adolescent Aliens inside the Magellan, and of course it was distressing to see the scientist guy still dicking around with the deadly Alien centipede/cobra thing like it was some stupid pet… But almost everything else — the characters, their motivation, the mission, the story — was just so much stronger and better and clearer and more compelling than Prometheus.

    I appreciate that rewrites are often done on a seriously tight deadline, but it’s still a bloody tragedy to take a perfectly good script like this one, eviscerate it, cram it full of ‘meaning of life’ nonsense, and
    then run it through a stupidizer.

    Bottom line: This — Jon Spaihts’ ‘Alien: Engineers’ or something very like it — was the movie I wanted to see.

    • EZ

      That was what I was missing most in Prometheus – some logic, some making sense, and not just a bunch of half baked characters – most of which were uninteresting and served no real purpose – running on screen making “discoveries” and dying in a far away planet. I admit, I haven’t read any draft of the script, but the movie as a movie was majorly disappointing.

    • Lucas Knight

      I agree. The script was far superior in almost every way, albeit with some polishing needs, and even the dumbass with the snake can be explained in the script, since it is clearly stated that their suits are bulletproof, and the creature is very small. I would have paid so much money to have seen the original draft and not Lindelof’s symphony of stupidity that was Prometheus.


    Spaiht’s draft is FAR superior to the crap-fest that ended up on screen. Prometheus had no internal logic, no human behavior that made sense, and zero suspense. A failure on almost all levels unless you live for pretty pictures. Whoever read Spaiht’s draft and decided they needed to hire someone to come in and make everything make even less sense should be fired.

    • Danny Gordon

      Spaiths mentioned in an interview that his agents warned him after he was hired that there was no way Fox would let him, a relative unknown, remain the sole author. Hence bringing on a “name” writer like Lindelof to do what amounted to little more than a polish and some third act reshaping.

      • smaild

        I mean, it was a little more than a polish and third act reshaping: Lindelof basically took Spaiths story and mashed it up with Lovecraft’s In The Mountains of Madness.

  • Pointbreak

    I’m reading the screenplay now, which is probably the only reason I am thinking about Prometheus, which is such a shame and says a lot.

  • fragglewriter

    I couldn’t get into the script. After I read the scene of how they kissed and her clothes floating, I just coulldn’t. I liked the movie Alien because there was not a love/sex scene, which is not necessary in these alien movies, IMO of course.

  • JakeBarnes12

    Oh, yeah, forgot to add — ultimately neither version makes any sense.

    You’re the Engineers. For unknown reasons you encourage development on earth and then for unknown reasons you decide to destroy humanity.

    So what do you do?

    I’d say with your incredibly advanced technology you have about a gazillion options. Various bombs, death rays, reverse terraforming, etc. solutions come to mind. Want to keep the planet but just wipe out humanity? How about microbes that will kill humans, and, pay attention now, here’s the crucial point, DO NOT AFFECT YOU.

    That’s the great thing about most of those gazillion options; they don’t pose a threat to me, Mr. Engineer guy.

    But no, what do these morons do? They develop another life form that can kick their collective asses if it gets loose. Then they need to fly that lifeform all those lightyears to earth. Then release it.

    That’s a lot of pointless effort when you have the ability to alter human DNA. Just release something contagious and cancerous. Good night, Gracie.

    That’s the problem with this whole story direction. The writers aren’t writing from the inside out — not starting with, okay, we’re this incredibly advanced civilization who want to wipe out a primitive one, what would make most sense?

    Instead they’re forced to start with, okay, we have these monsters from these other movies, we’ve hinted at this advanced civilization in the first movie, how do we explain all this?

    It’s the old problem; trying to force a plot point rather than having plot emerge from character (in this case, the Engineers).

    Next time, less alien “mythology,” more thrills, please.

    • JakeMLB

      I agreed with your original post but disagree here. I really enjoyed the mythology aspect and didn’t have an issue with this story premise. It’s not entirely without merit. I mean, it’s a common theme in human history — the idea of weaponizing disease — so it’s not a stretch to have the Engineers consider this option. Was it the most efficient way? Probably not. Hence it failed. Maybe they wanted to design a weapon that would annhilate humans but preserve all other life on the resource-rich Earth? Maybe there was a mutation? Maybe they just weren’t careful enough? Maybe this was one of many potential eradication techniques being developed but the Engineers changed their mind about destroying Earth after this failure? It can be explained a number of ways. The writers certainly were writing backwards but they came up with a fairly elegant solution to a complicated problem.

    • MWire

      If you want to wipe out mankind, nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

      • JakeBarnes12

        Yeah, seems to make more sense somehow. :)

    • MrRocking

      It’s all about the goo.

    • Gittes2222

      Great review. Ridley Scott, god bless him, hasn’t made a good movie since Black Hawk Down.

  • ripleyy

    I really liked the film (I seen it thrice, to be Old English) and while I only read some of this draft, I actually thought it was beautifully written – that’s Jon for you, while he may not be the S. Craig Zahler of the Sci-Fi world, he is a great writer who specializes in both Soft Science Fiction and Hard Science Fiction.

    Could the script be better? Perhaps.

  • Writer451

    After reading both PROMETHEUS scripts, I feel that Mr. Spaihts is a better WRITER than Mr. Lindelof. The Lindelof script tells the reader specifically what he wants you to think while Spaihts lets his work speak for itself like good writers supposedly do. I’d say the two scripts are roughly even in terms of STORYTELLING; just minor changes here and there.

    • smaild

      You wouldn’t happen to have a copy of the Lindelof draft you could email would you?

  • SeekingSolace

    Why’d you move the site? I missed any previous explanation.

    Max wrote a sequel, and it’s amazing, and the studio read it and said, ‘We want Chronicle again!’ And he said, ‘No, this is the sequel, it’s the evolution,’ and they said ‘No, we want that movie again!’ So it’s difficult, we’re dealing with a difficult business.

    – John Landis, speaking about the sequel to “Chronicle.”

    This is more than likely what occurred with “Prometheus” which acted more like an homage to “Aliens” the eclectic crew; an alien coming out of someone’s stomach, final showdown with woman vs. alien, the woman being the sole human to survive, etc. There also seemed more of an emphasis on creating a whole new world than there was on story and character development.

    Ridley Scott said that “Prometheus” is not a prequel, this leads me to believe the studio was like “Hey, we want this movie to be like the first one. Not a reboot, but something close.” I was less than amazed with “Alien Engineers” by the way, it’s an okay read, but nothing that would have wowed audiences, story wise.

    • Malibo Jackk

      As a side note, Max is currently working on 12 scripts, one of which he plans to direct.

      He recently said it was curious that someone hired for a re-write — could earn the same amount in a week — as you were paid for your whole script. Not saying it does, but could give you a clue as to how much he was paid for Chronicle. (It’s the main reason, I haven’t been interest in writing a low budget movie. Why spend years of your life working on a script, that’s only going to pay for a week’s worth of your time.)

      For those that don’t know, Max is the son of a famous producer. He broke into the business with his 61st script. (Yes… It really is that easy.)

      • Danny Gordon

        Not to be rude, but Landis is the son of the famous filmmaker John Landis. And I can’t imagine that connection has eluded anyone who knows of Max.

        Second, Max is probably referring to a ‘weekly.’ A weekly is a very coveted gig that only highly regarded and well-established screenwriters vie for. Reason being that it pays extremely well and it’s usually only for a week’s worth of work, but no one is going to trust giving you a weekly unless your as well-proven as they come.

        Third, this doesn’t give you any clue as to how much Max was paid for Chronicle. And it shouldn’t deter you from writing a low budget spec because you think you won’t get paid properly for it. If you write something that’s marketable, high-concept and original… it won’t matter that it’s on the low end, budget-wise. If anything, in this market, it makes your spec all the more attractive if it can be made on the cheap. Low budget scripts that are marketable are an attractive buy. And if a studio is interested, you’ll most likely get a low six figures. And that type of pay isn’t anyone’s idea of a week’s worth of your time.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Thanks Danny.

          You must have strong feeling about #1. My point was that it took Max being the son of John Landis PLUS writing 61 screenplays for him to make a sale.

          I also thought my second point was clear but maybe not. I was referring to his comment (not mine) that the one week re-write amounted to the same as for a whole script. (Which he was suggesting seemed unfair.)

          “Third, this doesn’t give you any clue as to how much Max was paid for Chronicle.” Maybe not — but it came out of a conversation talking about Chronicle.

          • Danny Gordon

            Cool. Yeah, my main reason for responding was I would hate to think you were hesitating to write something low budget because you thought it wouldn’t be worth your while. Low budget, high-concept, action/thrillers are doing extremely well on the market right now. Thanks to films like The Raid, Taken and Chronicle. So feel free to tackle your next low budget idea with gusto!

  • NickYarbs

    I also was one of the few people who liked the actual movie, but I actually did like a lot of Spaihts’ ideas that were moved or altered. The biggest one being **SPOILERS** about David actually implanting the facehugger onto the Noomi Rapace character. I think it actually works a lot better having the Shaw character KNOW what’s going to happen to her (as in Spaihts’ draft the Holloway character has a chestburster …accident happen in the middle of sex) so there’s some great dramatic tension as we (and Shaw) wait to see how she will get out of what she knows will be a horrifying situation. Still, I think it’s interesting to see that there’s not THAT much of a change between the two writers. Yes, Lindelof basically took out the more iconic Alien ideas to replace them with more original creations and did a little revising here and there–but the basic characters and structure is pretty damn similar.

    More importantly though, the area where Lindelof waayyy excels over Spaihts’ is in the actual writing on the page. We could argue forever about the actual ideas and execution, but if one reads Lindelof’s draft, I would be hard pressed to believe you didn’t at least find it more exciting to read. Spaihts writes in a very cut and dry (and not-exciting in my opinion) manner, whereas Lindelof fills every single line with BOLD ACTIONS, SOUND EFFECTS, and other visual/audio cues that I think makes at least reading it a lot more cinematic than Spaihts’ writing. I still think Spaihts might be a better idea guy than Lindelof, but in terms of whose actual writing I like more–I’d have to go with Lindelof.

    And the new site looks great, very exciting.

  • Graham

    Agree with Carson’s assessment – though I was far more disappointed with the released ‘Prometheus’ than he was; however this other draft was not the ‘lost masterpiece’ I had expected it to be.

    And if I manage to post this comment from my I-Pad in a hassle free manner then I will *officially* approve of the new site :)

  • garrett_h

    I’m confused…

    There are TWO drafts floating around the internet that are credited to Spaihts. One is “Alien: Engineers” and the other is “Alien: Genesis.” Engineers is 3 pages longer than Genesis (118 vs. 115). Genesis is dated 7/2010 and Engineers has no date.

    I’m really not sure which one is first and which one is second. They could be very different from each other and shed more light on this thing. Maybe Spaihts started with Genesis and in Engineers he incorporated more of Scott’s notes, and that’s the draft that Lindelof worked off of? Or maybe Engineers was first and Genesis was second and Genesis is almost unchanged from the final movie and Lindelof only did a minor pass? Who knows…

    Guess I’ll read both?

    • smaild

      Genesis is fake. Confirmed by Spaihts on twitter.

      • garrett_h

        Thanks for clearing that up.

        The first page of Genesis and Engineers are almost identical so I wasn’t sure.

    • Poe_Serling

      There was also another script entitled Alien:Harvest that had Spaihts name slapped on it…. I’m pretty sure that one turned out to be a fake. Though it is kinda odd someone would waste their time and energy to do so.

  • JakeMLB

    Posting again because my first post went missing (Disqus issues anyone?):

    Unfortunately, I haven’t read the Lindelof draft, so I can only compare and contrast Spaiht’s script to the finished film. That said, Spaiht’s draft is the clear winner. I can’t imagine trying to defend the contrary (Carson, it’s okay to be in love with the ideas but not the execution of them).

    The biggest issue with the filmed version was the complete lack of consistency and clarity in character motivations and actions. As a result, plot and story became incoherent. Evident from Spaiht’s script is that most of his ideas (whether they were actually his ideas or not is irrelevant) made it into the complete film; problem is, the narrative was lost (the “therefore” of it all) and what resulted was a collection of standalone sequences that lacked consistency, logic and interconnectivity.

    Spaiht’s draft is tighter, character motivations are logical, and their actions are consistent with their motivations, which results in a clear and consistent narrative. Was it perfect? No. The end of the second act is still somewhat disjointed with competing story interests. And the film certainly featured improvements — condensing the opening, condensing character count, refining exposition, removing some of the Alien mischief — but none of those improvements had to happen at the expense of Spaiht’s original narrative.

    From what I’ve read through interviews it seems that Scott and his team became infatuated with David and wanted to thrust him front-and-center. Fine. I get that. But in doing so, David became almost cartoonish in his antagonism. His motivations were never clear and the film suffered.

    How this all unfolded is anyone’s guess. But I imagine that deadlines crept in and the list of wants became unwieldy. Changes were forced into Spaiht’s original draft without really considering what impact they had on the narrative as a whole. We all know how that turned out.

    • JakeMLB

      As others have pointed out, the Lindelof draft is floating out there as well. Very interesting to read the two drafts in succession. Lindelof clearly writes for the camera so I can understand why he was brought on.

  • Dan23

    Superior to final flick, which didn’t seem to give a crap about explaining backstory/mythology or character’s motivations.

    This script needed work for many of the reasons described in others’ comments. But rewriter (Lindelof) under Ridley’s direction should have revised this version more and stayed truer to it instead of making so any changes/cuts in clarity and plot.

    Bottom line was that the final product sucked – pompous, incomprehensible, not that scary, etc. – and this script proves it could’ve been better.

  • deanb

    Prometheus was basically a fan fiction version of 2001: A Space Odyssey written by hentai enthusiasts.

    Spaihts’ script follows the opening of ‘2001’ almost exactly. We start in a prehistoric period, then jump cut to the future to the two lead characters. Then the characters are flying up into space toward a SPOKE WHEEL space station that belongs to Weyland. One of the characters even plays with a pen in zero g just like the floating pen scene with Dr. Floyd.

    Then we have an expedition exposition dump between the leads and Weyland, just like Floyd’s speech in the space station about the secret finding on the moon.

    I know it’s hard to write any science fiction script without bumping into Kubrick’s aura, but damn, can we at least try a little bit?

    Anyway, after the ‘2001’- esque opening act, we basically have an identity crisis. Are we making Alien or Aliens? Is this a prequel to Alien, or something new altogether? How many licks does it take to get to the center of a black goo-containing vessel? Wait, don’t answer that.

  • Danny Gordon

    It shouldn’t, but it still surprises me to see this quality-disconnect between spec work and studio work from the same writer. Passengers is a great spec, and I’ve heard the same of Shadow 19. And yet Spaihts first produced credit is Darkest Hour and now we have Prometheus. An obvious remark to my comment would be to site how often studios have a handful of execs influencing rewrites (too many cooks in the kitchen leads to bad soup, etc.), in addition to a likely limited timeframe to complete rewrites and a handful of other writers coming aboard to do a weekly. But still, I find the disparity shocking. Here’s hoping Spaihts is eventually credited with something that connects as well as his specs do.

  • smaild

    Carson: Ridley didn’t decide to scrap the “half baked alien subplot” – it was an order from the FOX Executives who wanted to distance it from the franchise; a decision made easier by how convoluted the AVP crap was. Secondly, you’re assuming that this draft was Spaihts’ final draft and that we immediately jumped to Lindelof’s. That’s not the case either: on his twitter, Spaihts stated that he went through 5 rewrites of Prometheus and that this is “closer to the end” which means it’s either a minor tweak of 3 or 4 but definitely not the last draft he wrote. That said, you can’t assume that the fleshing out of David solely happened under Lindelof – especially since Lindelof’s script isn’t available for side by side comparison (though if/when it does leak I would love to see you compare the two without involving the final product). I imagine Lindelof really had to strain his brain while reading Lovecraft during the rewrite.

    Also in the film it was perfectly clear why David was behaving the way he was: his primary directive was to do whatever Weyland ordered – poisoning Holloway, searching for the Engineers, etc. At least in Spaihts’ draft we kind of understand how he can go off script rather than the convenience in Lindelof’s where Weyland dies and suddenly David is “free.”

  • fejumas

    Just testing to check that my logline is working on the new site.

    I have nothing to add to this conversation. Maybe tomorrow…

  • Murphy

    For me this is the much better version. It is more like Alien, in that I mean it sets out to achieve the same thing Alien did in the beginning – a sci-fi movie that scares.

    I think the problem with the finished movie is that it takes itself too damn seriously. Ridley Scott was trying to make the movie too important, and thus it ended up being filled to the brim of importance, the whole movie was walking about like an arrogant gunslinger with no other motive other than trying to be as big and as impressive as he can.

    What Ridley should have realised was that this movie is important anyway, it is a Ridley Scott directed Alien prequel for God’s sake – of course it is going to be important. Just make fun filled sci-fi horror movie, throw in some guff about engineers, have lots of aliens running around, then leave the importance to the fans. We’ll make it important! don’t try and fill it with fake grandstanding and big ideas to make it the big movie you want it to be.

    That being said I enjoyed the movie, but it’s flaws seemingly were fixed in an earlier, discarded draft.

  • Murphy

    Hey Carson, how come the new site is moderating me?????

  • Citizen M

    I never saw Prometheus so I can’t compare the film and this script. I have to judge it as a stand-alone work.

    And I’m impressed. Most of all by the writing. It was a clean, easy read with restrained but graphic descriptions in 2- and 3-line paragraphs. Most of the time I could follow what the place looked like, who was where, and what they were trying to do. And that’s not easy with a large cast in scattered alien locations.

    As for the story, erm, well, I couldn’t figure out if the aliens were servants of the Engineers turning on their masters, or the Engineers worked for the aliens. No matter. The thing is, was it tense and scary? And the answer is, yes, quite.

    It takes a long time to set up, But that’s understandable, because there’s a lot of strange and wondrous stuff for us to absorb. The dead Engineers are first met at the half way point, and from that moment on we know we’re in for Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien Edition. And it delivers. Scariest moment for me was when Watts wakes in the medical pod and there’s an alien in the room. I thought to myself, how you gonna get out of this one? And the finale with the two ships duking it out as an alien storm front approaches was suitably big and awe-inspiring.

    As I say, I never saw Prometheus, but judging by the comments of others, this Spaihts version is much better.

  • Westfieldc

    You remember in Alien versus Predator when they Predator ship picked up the impregnanted Predator at the end and a little chest burster popped out? I would pay money to see a homage to the origina Alien movie taking place on the predator ship, complete with cool Predator sub titles. Please make that happen Hollywood.

  • jridge32

    Nice Rodin’s Thinker reference..
    An ENGINEER eats a “dark, sticky, seething cake” – and it turns into a bunch of Black Scarabs that eat him from the inside out. A sacrifice. I remember having questions about this during the opening moments of “Prometheus” then realizing very quickly, I couldn’t care less. Beautifully shot film. One of the very first wide open landscape shots looked absolutely stunning in 3D. But, the search for man’s origins (or whatever), and that pale, smooth, muscular CG dude going all crazy and battling the squid monster thing with Noomi Rapace tangled up between them at the end… I mean, I guess you just have to love the “Alien” series no matter what – like, some people loved the last three “Star Wars” movies (er, first three) even though they were awful because they love “Star Wars”, period, end of story – to be drawn into this. I prefer “Aliens”.
    Nothing in this script or its eventual version compares to Hudson suggesting Paul Reiser be greased right then and there. Takes me back to 1986. Anyway..
    Side note: the first 2 pages of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D” kick major ass.

  • HenrySwanson12

    Oh, poor Damon didn’t have enough time. Is that what the problem was?

    I don’t think so. Spaihts’ version is superior in every way, as most of the scriptshadow commenters have stated.

  • ChadStuart

    “Scott wanted to make an original SF movie, but also have it tie into the
    ALIEN franchise (to get more money? for better marketing? who knows).”

    Or probably because the studio would only give him money if he made another Alien film.

  • peisley

    If the most interesting character among the crew isn’t even human, then there’s a problem. I found him to be disturbing but lacking. The main problem with this entire movie was having a lot of really smart people doing a lot of really dumb things. (Take off our helmets in an alien environment? Sure. No problem. Stick my hand out at an alien snake? Why not?) Ripley was very smart and did not make one questionable move. That’s why you loved her. She wasn’t some genius dispstick with her head in the clouds. Maybe that’s a good title: Really Smart People Doing Really Dumb Things.

  • dkFrizzell

    When I first heard of Prometheus, I was excited. When I saw the trailer, I was doubly so. Finally, after waiting for months with bated breath, opening day finally arrived… and I was devastated.

    Having assumed that the original script was de-nutted by a corrupt Hollywood system, I was thrilled when I read Carson’s email this weekend. Finally, I would be able to ‘see’ the Prometheus I expected all those months prior.

    117 pages later, I once again feel let down. Yes, Spaihts’ version is better, but only so much as Spam is better than Potted Meat.

  • Terraling

    Some good points covered here in the review and the comments. Lindelof certainly improved some things in the filmed version — trimming the character count, tightening up the opening, but he also muddied the waters too much for me, left too many things unexplained, either as wilful teasing, or because he didn’t really know himself. I could certainly follow Spaihts’ version much more readily, but, reading the script after seeing the film, I found I didn’t like some of the explanations that had been excised from the movie anyway.

    Why o why would the Engineers keep visiting Earth every couple of thousand years and leave clues that point to a distant star system that *isn’t theirs*, has some barren moon, that at some future date they will attempt to terraform (but get wiped out when multi-tasking by the deadly cargo they are trying to deliver to Earth).

    The one thing which I hated about Lindelof’s version (or Scott’s version), which was absent from Spaiht’s script, was the dumb-ass tacked-on Fatal Attraction type the-bad-guy-is-dead-no!-he’s-alive! ending.

    Supposedly the inspiration for the whole movie was Scott wondering what was the story of the guy sat in the pilot’s seat of the horseshoe spaceship from the original Alien movie. Well, in Spaiht’s version, the Engineer is piloting the ship and dies in the seat. He’s that guy in the original movie. But in Lindelof’s gimmicky ending, he gets out of the seat for one last oh-my-God-that-was-so-fucking-scary-I-never-saw-that-coming attack on Watts. So who the fuck is in the seat in the original Alien movie? Maybe that’s what they mean when they say this isn’t a prequel. And so much for artistic integrity when you ditch the raison d’etre of the film for a cheap scare.

    But apart from that I liked it! And I’m glad it was made, not enough ambitious Sci-Fi is.

  • Thomas A. Schwenn

    I found this a solid read. I’ve yet to see Prometheus, or read the Lindelof version. This is very visual treat, but never bogged down by description. I enjoyed that it took its time to set up the relationship and atmosphere. I have no complaints with it.

  • yeebarr

    Um, although it may force me to hand in my sci-fi nerd card I have to admit I haven’t seen Prometheus. Aliens3 and then the gawd-awful AvP series just put me off the whole Aliens mythology. Plus as a father of 3 my time to watch non-Pixar films is limited so I’ve gotten very choosy on what I watch these days.

    Someone suggest an order to read/watch them? The movie, followed by Lindelof and then Spaihts? (MIght take me a while to get to them though)

  • TGivens

    I think it’s great they made all the changes in the final draft. I liked Prometheus. It’s not a masterpiece, but still better than another straight Alien sequel/prequel would’ve been.

  • denisniel

    I’m just testing the commenting section, to see if it works…
    (but I still think Damin Lindelof ruined this script, by trying to bring in the same religious aspects he tried to bring to LOST, and failed…)

  • Michael De Luca

    Lindelof keeps things moving in his draft, but by basically fudging the xenomorph elements of Spaihts’ draft, we have logical holes and stuff that is “Alien” in everything but name and visual presentation. Thus, he manages to fuck up the Alien mythology in the process. The xenomorphs in Spaihts’ draft are genuinely menacing, as opposed to the Engineers, who are really tall versions of the creeps from “Dark City”. The sexburster would have been amazing, the terraforming motivation for Weyland makes more sense, and Holloway would not have been such a detestable asshat, the kind of dickhole boyfriend that makes one think less of the protagonist. And Lindelof’s bull-in-a-china-shop style paired with the Fox-to-Ridley directives makes plot holes seem almost inevitable. But, at the end of the day, we end up with the more or less Giger-less quasi-Alien pic that Ridley and Fox seemed to be happy with at the end of the day. Also, it is worth noting that the Lindelof draft inserted the pop cultural references (Lawrence of Arabia, Stephen Stills). Reading Spaihts’ draft gave me the feeling you get when you watch a movie adapted from a book, you like it, then read the book, find the book superior and end up thinking less of the movie.
    The xenomorphs would have horrible and beautiful (in that Giger way) like that half-formed terradactyl-looking thing at the end of the film.

  • lumi

    I loved Prometheus. I don’t know what all the dislike about the movie was, it was really well paced and shot.

  • edw1225

    Overall, it’s a tough call for me. I definitely liked Spaiths’ first half of the script better. It spelled out the back-story of the engineers well, which I found interesting. The movie didn’t explain it nearly as well (or I just missed it).

    I agree that the movie version of DAVID was better. The Spaiths version seemed largely a mix between HAL from 2001 and the androids from Blade Runner. The movie version felt kind of unique to me, with the Lawrence of Arabia stuff and a touch of humanity.

  • MrTibbsLive

    Wow! Party over here. I’m loving the new site.

    • carsonreeves1

      thank you mr. tibbs. :)

  • Montana Gillis

    Great “What I Learned”! I have been so guilty of this up until now. It can be difficult to not “race to the finish line” or be “just plain damn tired” or be “exceptionally lazy” or “deluded by an imagined brilliance brought on by the passage of PROP 64 here in Colorado and spend your days lost in a haze of legal pot smoke” which could give a new twist (get it? twist? Like twisting a joint?) to “High Concept”…. badda bing! Obviously, i probably should fire up a fatty, then I could come across as a lot more cool..

  • Premiger

    I actually liked Prometheus better than Aliens….probably because I was more intrigued by the premise.

  • AlanWilder

    Spaiht’s script reads like a better film than Prometheus ended up being, but Lindelof still made some very sensible moves in his re-write (cutting down on characters, getting rid of the incredibly slow scene at Weyland’s office and thereby upping the tempo of the first act, expanding David’s role, delivering a more gripping finale), and it’s interesting to see how some of the stupid slasher movie clichés that Lindelof got so much flak for were still in Spaith’s draft. Still (again) Lindelof seems to have expanded on those clichés (For example, I hated all the extremely manufactured conflicts that arose the very second the crew woke up) and getting rid of the unoriginal but very serviceable Alien subplot was definitely a bad idea. Also, while I liked the sense of awe some of the questions and themes Lindelof pushed to the foreground gave it’s sad that he had to do it at the cost of clarity. Either Lindelof had an extremely uneven working process when he wrote this, or he was pushed into some very awkward corners by Ridley Scott and the practical constraints of writing for a film that has basically started shooting.

  • Octamed

    Hmm, after reading the first 35 it seems they just deleted the whole first 30 and jumped straight to the planet. Just that bit explains lots of questions that people criticised. Eg yes, the engineers definitely HELPED engineer ONLY humans, not all of life. Therefore dismissing all the “what about evolution. Why is our DNA the same as the engineers?” arguments people (and the characters) had.
    Now I love a mystery and I love discussing movies. But the question is how much do you spell out to the audience? Just from a business standpoint wasn’t the endless internet arguments good for it? You couldn’t buy that amount of free exposure…

  • courlo

    though i have not seen aliens, prometheus, though, i am abreast of the myth, or read lindelof’s draft, i can say that i doubt seriously that it’s as well scripted as is john spaiths’s material. this read is a testament to marketing, insight, incite and plain old gettin’ it done – and good! i always love it when i read a script and have to do a double take. to me, that says that the scribe is a thinking man’s writer. i love dialogue that stands out, but, more than that, descriptions make me read on…movies are a very visual medium, and, in the absence of images on screen, the mind’s eye is assigned the task of inventing scenery as you read. this script turned mine on and kept it generating through fascination. i never know what works or doesn’t; i don’t make decisions regarding those choices or rules, i just think that i know what good writing feels like and looks like. alien -engineers is that, plus a side of coleslaw. enjoyed it, i did. gonna glean from, i will! thanks, carson.

  • Chris

    JakeBarnes12: this is a reply to your first post. I tried several
    times to reply directly to your post but Disqus has followed us to the
    new site. What I tried to say was:

    “Jake, nicely done. PROMETHEUS
    was certainly strong in both acting and VFX but the script was so bad
    that I actually rolled my eyes. Not once, not twice but five times. I
    almost wondered if it was meant as an SNL parody of sorts. As you lay
    out in some detail, the Spaihts’ draft is much superior to the Lindelof
    version and it’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to see the former”.

  • Jake Gott

    Hey Carson, congrats on the new site.

    I was disappointed with the film so I was hoping that this version of the script would be a great “coulda been” that just wasn’t, but Carson’s right, it’s not that much different. At least not enough to make it an Alien movie which is probably what I wanted.

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    I understand the problem with tight rewriting deadlines, really, I do. But isn’t it also the mark of the PROFESSIONAL writer to think on his feet ? To be able to come up with really good ideas in a very short time ? To me, Spaihts’ script definitely proves once and for all that what went wrong with the movie was Lindeloser’s fault (and also Scott’s to an extent). Yes, some of it needs work (which script doesn’t ?) and I thought there were too many characters (the soldiers should go which they did but instead, we got a rubber-faced Weyland – WTF ?) but at least, everything makes sense. The characters act in accordance with who they are and some vital things are even explained through dialogue but never ended up in the movie which led to even further viewer confusion.

    And when you’re on a tight-ass deadline, WHY would you want to make such huge changes that you KNOW you won’t have time to think them through to their logical point ? Seriously, when I read this and thought about the movie, I really got the feeling of a writer (Lindeloser) who made changes just for the sake of making them. There’s enough good material here to have made a really good B-movie such as JakeBarnes mentions above. So why turn it into some pseudo philosophical-mystical-religious crap ?

    PROMETHEUS was already my disappointment of the year but now, doubly so :-(

    • Poe_Serling

      Nicely said!

  • ChinaSplash2

    Well, after reading Spaihts’ version yesterday, I just read the Lindelof draft (‘Paradise’). It still has far too many instances of WTF character behavior, and unlike Spaihts, Lindelof obviously doesn’t have the first clue about anything scientific — my favorite was on p44: ‘Can you run a stim-line into the locus ceruleus? Just eighty amps?’ Holy fuck! Yeah, 80 amps should stim it all right! — but all in all this draft has a lot going for it! And again, it’s a helluva lot better than the movie. Heck, in this version, even David’s deliberately infecting Holloway with black goo makes sense!

    In fact, you know what? — If this one was cleaned up, I think I might actually prefer it to the Spaihts version.

    So with at least two perfectly fine — albeit still in need of work — scripts to choose from, how in the name of all that’s holy did we end up with such a shitty movie?

  • keyst

    As with some of the other posts, I can only compare this to the final film… which I
    liked enough to keep watching and it certainly provoked a lot of discussion
    afterwards but I still felt was a let down after all the hype. A lot of this I
    thought was down to some character motivation being quite vague. Reading this version
    and taking into account the change in writer you can definitely see how
    motivations and plot points got diluted without some explanation being put in
    to replace this. Also shows that you can never do too many drafts as even the ‘final’
    draft can usually use improvement!

  • ldetectivestory

    Lot of comments to scroll through, so apologies if someone has already posted this link to both Lindelof and Spaihts drafts…

  • ldetectivestory

    Personally, while I like Spaihts’ style more (man knows how to write science, no doubt), I thought Lindelof did an excellent job in focussing the themes of the story. I wonder if Spaihts was asked to do a second draft? All the plot holes in the finished film were pretty much addressed by Lindolof earlier, but seem to have been cut (or not filmed) by Ridley Scott. In the script, his handling of Old Man Weyland is excellent, giving a very good reason why they cast a young Guy Pearce and then buried him under latex.

  • Cavewriter

    I agree that the film is not that much different than the basic story elements in the Spaihts draft–but the Spaihts draft makes so much more sense. I don’t know how much better the film would’ve been overall if Scott had gone with that draft, but t would’ve had more cohesion, and sense behind it. For me, it still suffered from a lot of the issues that the film did. All have been well mentioned here– but also the lack of a strong protagonist. Alhtough Watts is better written in Alien: Engineers and Vickers is too– they are still just splintered characters. Too many stories and characters circling around.

  • cfyork

    Overall I agree with everything you said. There wasn’t a any big changes but the ones that were made improved the story.

    Intellectual property takes on a life of its own. This is what happens when somebody creates a cool story and then years later it becomes a franchise and then at some point the studio is like….well our fans need more…..and they do – they want an origin story so then stuff is added on which was nowhere in the minds of the original creator.

    I thought it gave a satisfying origin story for the most part – and of course we can wait and see where the sequel of the origin story goes….

    Reminds me of the what is happening to the Star Wars franchise.

  • BillyMozart

    From the comments, it seems everyone made up there minds with or without scripts – “Damon Lindelof ruined what would have been a great film, in spite of the best efforts of Spaiths and Ridley.”

    I read both, and I’m going to have to agree with the reviewer – it’s basically the same script, same plot – which is to say, boring and unimaginative. The best parts of the filmed movie, aside from the visuals, were David, and the juxtaposition of the different parent – offspring ideas. In Spaith’s script, David was a cipher, a less interesting bond villain, ultimately a plot tool. Lindelof’s David, the star of that viral video advert, was leagues better than anything in the movie. In Spaith’s version, he occassional references God and mankind when discussing the Engineers, usually through dialogue. In Lindelof’s version, he expands on that theme by actually bringing the humanoid characters into it. Weyland’s relationship to his human daughter juxtaposed to that with his robotic son. Weyland’s desire to be an immortal god, as opposed to the Engineer’s willingness to sacrifice theirselves a la the opening scene. I’ll agree, trying to make Weyland’s presence on board a secret TWIST was lame, but thematically it made gave the movie much more potential. Maybe not potential achieved, but much better than the dry paint-by-numbers franchise installment that Spaith’s gave us.

    On top of that, both are good writers in terms of their use of language, but again, Spaith’s script is SO DRY. Lindelof might need to take his science a little more seriously, but he knows how to write a living, breathing narrative. Seriously, to all the people who say they haven’t read the Lindelof script yet, go and read it to compare the use of language.

    Spaiths has written two pretty boringly plotted films so far – I’m going to try and hunt down his script for Passengers, and see if it’s really as “genius” as some people say it is. I think it sucks that there’s this crusade against Lindelof – he has his flaws, but he’s immensely talented and imaginative. I really hope his career isn’t too hampered by this – a lot of you may not want to see his work, but I (and many others) do.

  • BillyMozart

    From the comments, it seems everyone made up there minds with or without scripts – “Damon Lindelof ruined what would have been a great film, in spite of the best efforts of Spaiths and Ridley.”

    I read both, and I’m going to have to agree with the reviewer – it’s basically the same script, same plot – which is to say, boring and unimaginative. The best parts of the filmed movie, aside from the visuals, were David, and the juxtaposition of the different parent – offspring ideas. In Spaith’s script, David was a cipher, a less interesting bond villain, ultimately a plot tool. Lindelof’s David, the star of that viral video advert, was leagues better than anything in the movie. In Spaith’s version, he occassional references God and mankind when discussing the Engineers, usually through dialogue. In Lindelof’s version, he expands on that theme by actually bringing the humanoid characters into it. Weyland’s relationship to his human daughter juxtaposed to that with his robotic son. Weyland’s desire to be an immortal god, as opposed to the Engineer’s willingness to sacrifice theirselves a la the opening scene. I’ll agree, trying to make Weyland’s presence on board a secret TWIST was lame, but thematically it made gave the movie much more potential. Maybe not potential achieved, but much better than the dry paint-by-numbers franchise installment that Spaith’s gave us.

    On top of that, both are good writers in terms of their use of language, but again, Spaith’s script is SO DRY. Lindelof might need to take his science a little more seriously, but he knows how to write a living, breathing narrative. Seriously, to all the people who say they haven’t read the Lindelof script yet, go and read it to compare the use of language.

    Spaiths has written two pretty boringly plotted films so far – I’m going to try and hunt down his script for
    Passengers, and see if it’s really as “genius” as some people say it is. I think it sucks that there’s this crusade against Lindelof – he has his flaws, but he’s immensely talented and imaginative. I really hope his career isn’t too hampered by this – a lot of you may not want to see his work, but I (and many others) do.

    • JakeMLB

      I’ve read both and I still stand by Spaihts’ draft. There’s no denying that Spaihts’ script was dry but his story at least made a hell of a lot more sense. To be honest, I wish the two drafts could be fused in another few rewrites.

      Lindelof certainly has a way of amping the on-page excitement — he’s far more cinematic in his writing and there are undoubtedly many improvements — but his script really muddies the narrative.

      It should be said though that I would never place the blame solely on the writer. Similarly, I don’t think you can credit all of the improvements to Lindelof alone.

      For me the biggest issues are these:

      Inconsistent or absurd character motivations/actions

      Holloway goes from brilliant scientist/bold adventurer to manic depressive in the blink of an eye. How any individual let alone scientist could form such a definitive conclusion–the Engineers are all dead; humanity was an experiment–from their first five-minute expedition is ludicrous. And this isn’t a small issue because we as the audience haven’t even come to that conclusion so how can we expect the characters to?

      David hits the ground running as a stone-cold psychopath. There’s no metamorphosis, no slow build to his transformation, and worse, no logical explanation for his actions. Weyland wants to live forever? Fine. So David infects a crewman, potentially jeopardizing the lives of everyone on board, including Weyland himself, because he couldn’t find what Weyland wanted (i.e., the key to immortality) and thus by his own accord decides to improvise? And David too bases this conclusion–that he couldn’t find what Weyland wanted–on that first five-minute expedition? Absurd. Particularly when David ends up finding what he’s looking for on his next five-minute expedition. The Lawrence of Arabia Stuff? Hokey. That’s the only way I can describe it.

      Vickers felt just aimless in Lindelof’s draft. She serves literally no purpose other than the second piece of some hinted-at daughter-son dichotomy (which thus makes that theme feel contrived). And of course, she’s also inexplicably the only one on the bridge, working the comm, when Shaw radios in that Holloway is infected which leads to Vickers torching Holloway with a flamethrower. Sexy as hell. But an entirely contrived plot point.


      Yes, Lindelof tried to inject theme. But this is a perfect example of what happens when you work in reverse; trying to force themes into a narrative that weren’t there in formative stages. It simply didn’t come together as intended. Too many competing themes and a story that wasn’t built to explore them. I’m still not clear on what point the film was trying to make.


      Spaihts’ draft had a clear and obvious build. You could feel the pace slowly accelerating to climax. The pacing of Lindelof’s draft is all over the place. This is particularly the case near the end of the second act (pages 70-90). It’s not as difficult to follow in the script but on-screen it was a mess. The biggest issue were the time cuts once Shaw goes under sedation. The action is literally climaxing and then suddenly we take this massive pause which forces the audience to lose track of the offscreen film (i.e,. the events going on offscreen).

      Logic issues

      Holloway’s infection doesn’t set until a full 24 hours and yet Shaw becomes three-months pregnant (somehow without noticing) in half that time from semen? Okay.

      Okay, phew. I wrote too much. I will say this in defense of Lindelof’s draft, it’s more of a film in the cinematic sense. But much of its potential was lost because of some poor choices early on. They really went ambitious with his draft and unfortunately tried to cram all of that ambition into 115 pages. I really wish they had taken some more time and expanded the scope to 135+ pages to allow the pace to feel a little more natural and to work out some of the kinks. This is the kind of story that demands more rope.

      • BillyMozart

        Thanks for the reply. I’m definitely a Lindelof fan (the guy won a Peabody for an episode of Lost), and that might be why I’m reacting so aggressively against Spaiths, but I concede that there was a lot of stuff Lindelof could have and should have done to fix the script and make his own interjections more sensible.

        HOWEVER, I strongly disagree about David. I loved the whole scene with David waiting awake while everyone else slept – best scene in the movie for me. And he’s most definitely not a psychopath in Lindelof’s version – he’s a child scientist devoid of innate human morality. There’s actually no malice when he’s “experimenting” on Holloway, whereas in Spaith’s draft, he’s almost pissed when he’s infecting Shaw. David’s overhaul was kind of begun with the viral video advertisement – to set up that much more nuanced, chilling AI mindset.

        And theme wasn’t really injected out of nowhere – the original theme about creator and creation and their relationship was there in the original draft. The original draft just didn’t seem too interested in them.

  • Chi

    After reading both scripts I can see the ambition behind the movie. I’m assuming the story was conceived by Scott and he left the plot up to the writers (Spaihts and Lindelof). I’m picturing the events unfolding as detailed below (not in correct format)

    Scott to Producers: You know the idea that interest me the most in the Aliens Franchise is the story of hubris and how “our creations ultimately end up destroying us”. God creates man. Man creates God. Man destroys God. God destroys Man. You know that mumble jumble.
    Producers: Great Idea, so can you fill me in on the plot points so i can present this to the studio?
    Scott: Um… I’m an idea guy. Can’t we just hire a writer to fill out the plot ?
    Producer to Spaihts: Wow this is a great first draft, but….
    Spaihts: But what?
    Scott to Spaihts: We have some issues.
    Producer: Also this needs to be a tent pole so we can make Beau Coup Bucks. Can you make these changes and also add a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the script so we can make 2-3 more movies that possibly could answer those questions.
    Spaihts: You are kidding me right?
    Producer: Shit.
    Scott: That’s ok, We can always hire another writer. What’s that guys name?
    Producer: Who?
    Scott: You know that guys that left a lot of unanswered questions on that show LOST.
    Producer: Lindelof.
    Scott: Yeah, he’ll do.
    Scott to Producer: I just don’t understand why Prometheus is getting panned by critics.

    Producer: Fuck it. Who cares we made money? And we set up the franchise for a few more.

    Scott: You realize the Prometheus is the ultimate meta criticism of the story we were trying to film. Man creates film. Man destroys film. Film destroys man.

    Producer: WTF you talking about? Here do a line, everything will be fine. You’ll see.

  • BurntOrangeBoy

    Overall, I liked this script considerably more. Everything made a lot more sense and I thought making the story be about the engineers but still have Xenomorphs made a lot of sense. Sure, the Phase 2 part wasn’t fully explained, but it made sense that they would bring a long soldiers. The only scene that I liked in Prometheus more was the C-Section one but that may have been because watching it was more terrifying than reading it. I think that it’s understandable that Lindelof didn’t turn out a great script since he had a fair amount to change and not much time to do it. I still don’t really see why they needed to change the story so much, though. This would have made for a much more interesting movie and for an equally interesting sequel. Still, Prometheus 2 could still be good, but maybe not have Lindelof write it.

  • Travis

    I think both drafts live in between what the story is… or should be. Either its a story about the search for our beginning. Or it is Alien v Greek Sculpture.

    Someone once told me that if you have a character in your script that could be removed from the story and the script structure is still the same, that character needs to be taken out or folded into another character.

    FIFIELD. MILLBURN. WEYLAND. The “Alien” thing at the end. All superfluos.

  • watchinpreacher

    This was certainly a different beast.

    First, that opening is great. I love both versions of it.

    I loved that they went undersea instead of in a hidden cave; would’ve lead to some nice visuals and shake-up of atmosphere, given that the entire movie is set in a cave-like place. I also liked that it takes a good 30 pages before they got to the planet; pages that are sprinkled with more science – as the entirety of this draft is – as well as their pitch to Weyland.

    Then the real differences starts. First off is the geologists getting lost, as well as Holloway taking off his helmet; the latter happens later, and for an entirely different reasons, the former happens because they’ve forgotten their map. Much more believable.

    I loved that they quoted the bible and other religions as they discovered more about their ancestors – such as “There were giants in the earth in those days…and when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, they bare children to them, who became mighty men.”

    The fact that DAVID was always written in caps helps you remember that he’s not like the others – very good writing.

    This draft had a lot more for each and every character to do. There are objectives, plans, tactics, goals; some for money, others for science, knowledge, for saving people (Janek), etc. In addition, most of the goals are being hid from either us or someone else, which adds to the mystery. Great stuff.

    I hate the hints that Jesus was an Engineer and that him being on the cross was the reason for all this. It completely ruins everything about the original film.

    There’s much more subtle David-stuff in this draft; he’s changing, little by little, and I loved that. His hate for his creators has much more bite here.

    All the monster stuff is similarly awesome. The med-pod-scene might be worse here, and the “chestburster during sex” was vile just to read.

    There’s less scenes with the Engineer in this one, which makes them scarier, but we walk off knowing more about them; how they see the world, and more science. I loved that, especially the fact that we get to see the world through their eyes.

    The third act is completely different to the film that was made. It’s similarly awesome, but a lot of the deaths feel necessary instead of “shit there’s a lot of characters here. Gotta kill some of these off”. Janek’s now commits suicide-for-humanity with Watts (the main character’s name in this one), and it’s much more poignant here as we know him more.

    The ending is a bit different; it worked, but the ending of Prometheus was AMAZING with the whole “let’s team up and get some answers!”-thing. There is still room for that sequel though. *crosses fingers*

    There’s a lot to love – particularly seeing the world through Engineers’ eyes, as well as the Elephantian-thing, more “hey, this is actually an Alien-prequel! And they’re on the same planet!”. More science vs. money, creators vs. creations. However the whole “Peter Weyland is also on the ship” plotline is missing, which was one of the things I very much enjoyed. The plus side of getting rid of that was that David got to go off on his own, scheming to kill humanity, which I thought was pretty great.

    In summation, I’d say that I liked this about the same as the film actually. The film had some parts I enjoyed a lot and some parts I didn’t like, but was overall entertaining. This was pretty much exactly the same; liked some, didn’t like some, all of it was entertaining. I did like that it’s much more an ALIEN-movie, and it sticks to that, though.

    This is a great screenplay. It was a great movie. I’d have enjoyed this version of it too. Best Alien-movie since the first one, definitely.

  • elduderino465

    It’s no better than Lindelof’s script (i.e., it’s crap).

  • devobrownfish

    Wow! I have to say I found myself turning the pages of the script (after we get to LV-426). I enjoyed this script a lot more than the movie that was filmed – though I enjoyed the movie too in its own way. Spaiht’s script seems a lot more logical and the characters seem a lot more truthful than what turned up in the movie. My main disappointment with the movie were character inconsistencies. Holloway’s infection was so much better in this script than in the movie. I wonder what happened to bump Spaiht’s script from the project?

    Someone else mentioned the visual way of “seeing” the engineers’ technology. I thought that was a great way to pull the audience in — by engaging our sense of sight as well as our imaginations.

    All in all, thanks for posting. I’m glad I read this script.