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Script to Pieces: Alien: Engineers

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Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.

We were promised an Alien prequel with Prometheus. But as it came closer and closer to fruition, that promise began to shift. It turned from a straightforward prequel into something that was promised to share the DNA of Alien. There would be connections, some overt, most of them vague. That would be it.

But Prometheus did begin life as an Alien prequel. The original script by Jon Spaihts was titled Alien: Engineers. Over time it evolved into something entirely different, of course. But one can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to receive a feature that followed that original concept.

With Alien: Covenant set to hit this summer, there’s no better time to stop and imagine what could have been had Engineers come our way.

Alien (1979) The problem with sub-genres - label makers

Luckily, the script for this one has been made available online, so it’s easy to picture the film we could have had. From reading the script, it seems clear that this version would basically be Prometheus, but with actual xenomorphs involved. This is the original incarnation of the same story, and they were removed simply for the purpose of doing something different. Honestly, I think some of the infamous plot holes with the finished feature stem from the decision to remove all of the iconic Alien imagery.

As it stands, the mutation process in Prometheus doesn’t make sense and really just feels like an attempt to recreate the classic facehugger scene in Alien without having to use any of the same creatures. It winds up feeling less creative, not more creative, which is ultimately where it ran into problems. The decision to let this stand apart as its own spiritual film and not its own spiritual Alien film doesn’t wind up working.

Everything that’s good about Prometheus is still here. There are the interesting ideas about how the Engineers are responsible for human life, there’s David—there are great elements in here that made it into the finished product. But the Alien stuff was removed too late in the game for Prometheus as a whole to truly work on its own. It doesn’t feel as spiritual as I’m sure it wants to be.

Alien-Egg-Kane-HybridThe only reason we needed Covenant was because people weren’t happy with what Prometheus turned out to be. They wanted more Alien so Ridley Scott promised to give them that on the next go-round. It’s a situation that feels like it could have been avoided, had the prequel wound up following the original concept. I think people would have been happier with Alien: Engineers, even if Ridley Scott felt like it forced him into a box, creatively.

Even the fact that Ridley Scott was so adamant about removing the xenomorphs and Alien imagery makes me nervous about the upcoming film. At the time, it sounded like the xenomorphs were kept out of Prometheus because he ultimately didn’t want them there. One has to wonder what’s really changed between now and then. I’m definitely excited for Alien: Covenant, but I’m at least a little nervous about the fact that Scott seemed to make it clear at one point that another Alien was not what he wanted to do.

Jon Spaihts script was heavily rewritten by Lost scribe Damon Lindelof to become the Prometheus you know today. It’s hard to tell what could have happened had the prequel been allowed to be a true prequel. There’s no real way of knowing if it would have done better at the box office, or if it would have won over the critics. It’s hard not to think that the decisions were made to keep the film from being “just an Alien prequel” and hopefully Scott’s warmed up to the idea enough for that not to have an effect on Alien: Covenant.

It seems like the upcoming movie will be the happy medium between old and new that people were expecting from Engineers in the first place.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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