Is the Alien Harvest script out there really the Alien prequel movie we'll see?
Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Monday, June 14, 2010
Lurking away in the dark reaches of the internet is a PDF file for what some believe is the next Alien movie, the prequel film that Ridley Scott is prepping for 20th Century Fox. But is the Alien Harvest screenplay legitimate or is it a piece of fan fiction? Six months after the script leaked online the question still remains unanswered, and with the latest bits of information that Scott himself said publically last night, the mystery has deepened still further.
Here are the known facts as best as I've been able to sort them out:
Sometime in early January 2010 the Alien Harvest PDF file was uploaded to the Scribd file sharing website. The 122-page script is credited to Jon Spaights, the screenwriter hired to write the untitled Alien prequel that Ridley Scott was developing at Fox. Shortly thereafter word about Alien Harvest began to trickle out to Alien fansites about the existence of this script. Discussions arose in the message forums of these sites (like this one at AVP Galaxy, this one at Alien vs Predator forum and a third at the IMDb) whether it was actually a leaked draft written by Spaights or someone's idea for a practical joke. Throwing yet more confusion into the mix, the original PDF file was removed from Scribd and a screenshot of what is allegedly a cease-and-desist email from a legal firm representing Fox was uploaded in its place. To this date no one knows for certain if the Alien fan community has been punked or if Fox has been trying its best to contain its intellectual property from spilling out on the net.
But at the event held last night by the L.A. Times' Hero Complex blog where Alien director Ridley Scott answered questions from the audience about the prequel he's developing, new information that the filmmaker dropped on the audience about the Alien prequel seems to give more weight to the Alien Harvest script being legit, or its creator being eerily prescient.
During the post-Alien Q&A, Scott reiterated several story points about his Alien prequel that were already known:
- it takes place approximately 30 years before Alien.
- it reveals the origins of how the skeletal alien at the controls of the crashed spaceship came to be found by the crew of the Nostromo.
- as Scott explained to the crowd, the prequel will show us "who [the Space Jockey] was and where did he come from. . . then you may want to find out where they came from, you might want to go to him and go to the place where his people come from."
- it will feature a new group of characters not seen in the Alien films.
- it will feature a new version of the Alien as Ridley Scott believes the original impact of the creature has lost its shock value.
Furthermore, these new story items were mentioned by Scott at last night's event and had not been previously known about the Alien prequel:
- the movie will expand on the notion of terraforming, the process of turning an inhospitable planet into one where beings can live on it.
- somehow the way that faster-than-light travel is accomplished in the movie is going to be shown in a realistic manner, and with apparent downsides. As Ain't It Cool News' Quint quoted Scott as saying at the Q&A: "But what we're allowed to do [showing interstellar travel] by movies is to cheat like hell. But I think the closer it is to the truth, the closer it is to the technological feasibility then it becomes that much more interesting. And if it's a film like the one I’m going to do, then it becomes that much more frightening."
These latest two points are particularly revealing as they are indeed raised in the screenplay available on the net.
Now that the known facts are on the table, let's turn to the main piece of evidence: the Alien Harvest screenplay. Even though it's not confirmed that this script is authentic, the spoiler flag is raised. Turn away if you don't want to know any more possible story elements for the Alien prequel.
There are two stories at play in Alien Harvest. On an alien world outside of human exploration, two human men are living among the elephantine race we call Space Jockeys. Here they are referred to as "growers" as they are terraforming the world the men find themselves on. Using a second mule-like alien race, the growers/Space Jockeys are cultivating wheat-like plants. The two men, the experienced Fin and newcomer Karik, were each rescued from deep space by the growers and are now assisting in the farming of the wheat. Among them is a cat called Oleo, another survivor.
The growers don't communicate much to the humans except for gut feelings delivered by what the men think is a weak psychic link, thus Fin has to explain what he thinks is going on to Karik. In another corner of the area is a hive where the Giger Aliens live -- except they're the size of three-inch insects in this place, with four to six legs. Fin thinks that the growers use the "ant-aliens" as part of their terraforming. Small leathery alien eggs are within the ant-alien's hive, but the facehuggers contained in them are too small to harm the humans -- but not Oleo the cat.
The second storyline concerns a human spaceship called the Arrowhead in deep space. They are under orders from the Complex, hinted at being a rival faction to the Company from the Alien movies, to protect certain regions of space from interlopers. Upon detecting a strange vessel, the Arrowhead gives chase and pursues the alien vessel -- the future derelict craft from Alien -- to the same solar system that the Nostromo went to, LV-426.
I don't have to get into further details or what happens that sets the stage for Alien; the info is out there if you want to search for it. Upon first reading the Alien Harvest script I was immediately struck by how strange it was. Even though I didn't have much of a shaped idea as to what the prequel's direction could be, it was not the kind of Alien prequel storyline that I had been expecting. For starters, there were really unusual ideas in it, even for a supposed fanboy creation. Let's begin with the miniature ant-aliens. Would anyone out there have figured that the new version of the Alien would be a diminunative, bug-sized version? Then there's the two separate storylines which, while they set up what we see in Alien, never intersect in Alien Harvest. And for an Alien movie there's very little horror in the plot; in fact, no one is killed by an Alien during the course of the script. It's really more of a drama that takes place in outer space and on an unusual planet. Furthermore, there's a subplot involving, believe it or not, forced homosexuality between Fin and Karik that would be odd to see in a mainstream sci-fi movie, especially one as commercial as the Alien series. I don't have an issue with the homosexual content, or the weirdness of the ant-aliens or the revealing of the grower/Space Jockey society, or adding new elements to the Alien universe, but if Alien Harvest is real then it represents not just a harder sci-fi edge to its storyline but an inherit alienness from the earlier films. After this franchise has had just about every drop of originality squeezed from it, having weirdness return to it is not a bad thing at all...it's just that I find this sort of direction completely unexpected from what I assumed Fox would want and eventually market for mainstream commercial purposes. Hey, with Ridley Scott behind the wheel, who knows what he's convinced Fox to go along with?
What works against Alien Harvest being legitimate are small circumstantial pieces of evidence: in the based on original characters credit that comes at the beginning of the script, the name of Alien co-screenwriter Ronald Shusett is misspelled; an email address for Spaights is given but it doesn't correlate with the email that appears on his earlier screenplays Passengers or Shadow 19; and under the PDF properties the author of the file is given as "David Bryan". There are also the story peculiarities: the traditional three-act structure of nearly all screenplays is almost dispensed with in Alien Harvest; the absence of a strong horror undertone as is found with the other Alien films; and the unconventional character and plot elements.
What works for Alien Harvest being possibly real: the ebb and flow of the script is somewhat remindful of Spaight's earlier work, especially the hardcore strangeness found in Shadow 19; the story is told in a manner indicative of what a professional screenwriter would do; the ending sets up for a second prequel, something that Scott said he plans to make; and, perhaps most importantly, the references that Scott made at the Q&A to the prequel expanding on terraforming and the downside of what real faster-than-light travel would do sync up. On that last note, in the Alien Harvest script the humans onboard the Arrowhead have to follow the derelict rapidly, and using true relativistic physics they age slower than the outside universe does -- meaning that their families will age quicker and they will come home to Earth years later than they originally planned for. That sounds a little like what Ridley Scott said last evening, didn't he?
In the end I can't tell you one way or the other if Alien Harvest is a leaked screenplay or someone's weird idea of a hoax. I've seen stranger leaks turn out to be true, like the leaked Predators draft that was supposed to be bogus but is lining up perfectly with what has been released so far about that movie's storyline. On the flip side, I've also seen screenplays and leaked items turn out to be fake. If this truly is a leaked Alien prequel script then it has to be a first draft; I can't see Scott proceding ahead with this without adding more to the Arrowhead storyline, which is all but a chase sequence stretched out over a two-hour movie. I also can't see Fox suits being too happy with the lack of any Alien-inflicted deaths during the movie. If Fox is cool with giving $90 million dollars to make an art house hard sci-fi movie, I'm cool with it too -- but I highly doubt that's going to be allowed to happen.
Personally? Alien Harvest was strange enough to make me wonder if I liked the answers to the origin of the Space Jockey and the new twists to the origins of the Aliens. Now it's kind of grown on me: if we are to have answers to the mysteries of Alien, then let them be uncomfortably alien.