by J.F. Sargent
Whether you loved it or hated it, there’s no denying the fact that Prometheus was pretty polarizing – most obviously because everyone reading this probably either loved it or hated it. Among those who hated it, the criticisms are generally focused on the script. Character motivations were unclear or nonexistent. People reached out to lovingly pet blatantly malicious monsters. DAVID, the most interesting character by far (largely due to Michael Fassbender’s amazing performance) is never explained, even though he incites the core conflict of the film.
So naturally those who hated it (like me) are pretty upset with Damon Lindelof (Lost) for messing up what could easily have been a really great movie. Because as much as Prometheus sucked (for some people), it’s also pretty clear that the ghost of greatness is lingering just beneath the surface. So when we learned that Lindelof had done major revisions to the original script written by Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour, the unproduced Passengers), many assumed that the original script had been brilliant before Lindelof came along and Lost’d it all up. Because that’s a far more palatable reality.
Turns out, we were right.
The original script for Prometheus (then called Alien: Engineers) has been leaked, and it solves virtually all the problems with the original. Is it perfect? By no means – but at least it achieves a lot that the finished version doesn’t. Here are 8 terrible examples:
8. Why Weyland Does What He Does And Why the Crew Members are a Bunch of Dicks
The crew of the good ship Prometheus that aren’t main characters are just a bunch of salty, nasty dudes – but we never know why. This is a science expedition, right? To discover the origins of human life? If you’re a scientist (or, like, a person) that’s a pretty rad thing to get paid to do. But everyone is just a jerk to one other for what seems to be no reason.
Turns out in the original script, Weyland (Guy Pearce in the version we saw) needs the crew to be in the dark on what they’re doing because he’s trying to keep ahead of all the other businesses in the world. He needs alien technology to help Terraform Mars. That’s the whole point of the endeavor, and it explains perfectly why everything is kept under wraps and why the crew is grumpy about what they’re up to:
7. Linking the Story Back to the Alien Movies in a Meaningful Way
Though everyone kept insisting that Prometheus wasn’t really an Alien prequel because, well, because – what were their reasons again? Obviously it’s a prequel. There’s an alien in it. It tells us where they came from. It takes place in the same universe. That’s what a prequel is.
After a viewing, all the “this isn’t really a prequel” stuff just seems like an excuse to avoid having to explain all the connections with the original films, which doesn’t make for good storytelling.
Well, in the original:
For those that don’t remember, LV-426 is the “planetoid” that the Nostromo encounters at the beginning of the original Alien, as well as its setting for the sequel Aliens.
6. The Allusions Magically Make Sense
And the ship’s not called Prometheus, it’s called The Magellan. Because Prometheus is a stupid name for a ship that made no sense in the movie we saw – but, somewhat ironically, would have made perfect sense in this film.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the Gods. Fire, as you might know, makes uninhabitable places habitable for people by providing warmth and light. Terraforming technology is actually a pretty good contemporary metaphor for Prometheus’s quest for light, so naming the ship Prometheus actually would have made sense in the originally scripted version of the film. But it makes no sense as the name for a ship on a quest for immortality, which is what the ship in the version we saw is doing.
Does this mean that Lindelof didn’t think through the changes he made? Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what it means.
And the more of this script you read, the more this becomes clear..
5. The Scientists Keep Their Helmets On
Remember when everyone took their helmets off?
Yeah, that doesn’t make sense. This might seem like a nitpick, but when you’re trying to set up a believable, hard-science-fiction world, with intelligent characters, making them take entirely unnecessary risks sort of subverts that.
This is such a perfect example of how something small, something almost throw-away (like making sure its clear that the characters are nervous about being on a planet that might have aliens on it), can make such a big difference in how effective a screenplay is. Without this, Fifield panicking and running away when he sees the dead aliens doesn’t make sense. Oh, and by the way…
4. Why Fifield Running Away Makes Sense
When Fifield abandons the rest of the scientists, he doesn’t do it because a dead alien freaked him out, he does it because of the digital apparition (which is also explained). More importantly, Fifield isn’t in charge of mapping the area, so it actually makes sense that he freaks out.
I dunno if it’s because I’m so desperate to like this movie that I’ll accept any kind of explanation, or if that it’s actually good writing, but holy crap do I find this explanation satisfactory. “We forgot the map” is so much better than “Oh look, we’re lost now because screw it we don’t need to explain this to you.”
3. This is Actually An Alien Prequel (Part 2)
See? Told you it was a goddamn Alien prequel. There are even vents:
Because you need vents.
2. Getting to Know What DAVID is Up To
But without a doubt the biggest disappointment with the film is that we never get to know what DAVID is up to. Once again:
As played out as villainous monologues from robots are, at least this tells us what is going on. As I already said, the script isn’t perfect, like this scene where DAVID learns to think in trinary code:
But character motivations aren’t the kind of thing that can be casually left on the cutting room floor. You need to explain that stuff, especially when that character’s unexplained motivation creates the core conflict of the film.
1. If It’s Alright, Let’s Just End With This One
Like I said: not perfect. But still… Haha.
Oh, man. Okay.
Would this have made everything better?