NB: This review originally appeared in Shivers magazine, issue 49. 

Click on the cover image - left - to order a copy from the publisher

Warning - this article contains major spoilers for Alien: Resurrection!

Joss Whedon’s script for Alien: Resurrection has been available on the Internet for many months now, and now it can be compared to the finished film.

Although labelled as the “Final Draft Screenplay”, the dialogue in the film has obviously been honed and polished through the process of rehearsal and improvisation, and possibly even subsequent re-writes. The script’s basic structure is very similar, and most of the characters and events are unchanged. It does, though, feature one significant change: it has a completely different ending.

It’s possible, of course, that the version of the script on the Internet may have been leaked deliberately, in an effort to mislead, but this seems unlikely. Why give away ninety-percent of your movie in order to misdirect about the other ten? Why release a version of the script with a far more interesting ending than the one in the finished movie? The Final Draft Screenplay doesn’t just have a tacked-on ending, it’s a sequence that is a development of an idea earlier in the script, in a scene that’s slightly, but not entirely, different to the one in the finished film. Also, the film’s actual ending is in the Final Draft Screenplay anyway, albeit in a different, less climactic, manifestation.

The ending in the film, (Ripley splashes her acidic blood on a window, and the newborn is sucked onto the resulting hole), appears to have been a development of a minor scene set in one of the Auriga’s Lifeboat Bays, where a soldier shoots an attacking alien drone, and the creature’s blood splashes on the window. General Perez immediately recognises the danger, and orders everybody out, but it is too late and he loses several men. 

The scripted ending is foreshadowed by a more elaborate version of a scene early in the film, where Call, Johner and the wheelchair-bound Vriess are introduced. In the film Johner throws a knife into Vriess’ non-existent leg. In the script Vriess is working underneath a machine called a harvester, described as “big rusty hovering threshers roughly the size of winnebagos”. At the base of the harvester are “a hundred blades and claws”. Johner switches the harvester on, to scare Vriess, “Thought I’d give you a little haircut there”. The harvester machines play an important role in the scripted finale.

The script begins to deviate from the completed film shortly after Ripley and the surviving crew of the Betty are betrayed by Wren, (he shoots Call, revealing that she’s an android). The crew enter the Auriga’s enormous garden section. At nearly half a mile across it’s “the single biggest space on the ship”. It supplies the ship’s food, and also houses some hybrid experiments. It has an artificial lighting system, and it’s twilight when the survivors reach it. It’s so expansive that they use “a small loading truck” to cross it. They pass through sections dedicated to the cultivation of wheat and corn before arriving at an area growing cannabis plants ten foot high, prompting St Just to say “So this is what heaven looks like”. Hillard speculates that this is how the project is funded. Suddenly they are attacked by several alien drones, and Ripley drives the truck through the plants as the others blast away at their attackers. The truck eventually outruns the aliens, and clears the jungle. The drones soon catch up, and the mortally wounded St Just holds off the creatures until their acidic blood breaches the hull, and everything is sucked out into space.

St Just’s sacrifice has bought the others enough time to escape further into the Auriga. Ripley senses that they are near the hive. They are attacked again, and Ripley is dragged off, unconscious. They take her to the hive, where, like Gediman, she is cocooned and attached to the ceiling.

The next part of the script is similar to the finished film. The alien queen gives birth to “the newborn” and the others reach the Betty. Wren ambushes them, but is killed by Purvis as the chestburster erupts from his ribcage. Ripley blasts her way out of the hive, pursued by the newborn. The Betty prepares to leave as the Auriga plummets towards Earth.

The rest of the script is almost completely different. Ripley and the newborn cling on to the Betty as it’s falls from the Auriga “like trash thrown out of a speeding car”. The Auriga collides with the Earth and explodes. The newborn attacks Ripley whilst hanging on to the Betty’s hull. Call helps by shooting at the creature with a grenade launcher, distracting the newborn long enough for Ripley to get inside. The newborn is blasted by the ship’s thrusters as the ship crashes in a wooded, snow-covered mountainous area. Even this fails to kill it, however, and it escapes into the woods, chased by Ripley. They catch up with it on the edge of a cliff overlooking a city. Call arrives riding one of the harvesters, but is knocked off by the creature, leaving the harvester upside down. Ripley throws herself at the creature, knocking it onto the exposed blades. Call switches the machine on, and the newborn is drawn into the machine. Ripley and Call are showered by blood. Later, Johner, Vriess, Call, Christie and Ripley share a bottle of whiskey around a campfire. Call asks Ripley what they should do now. “I don’t know”, she shrugs, “I’m a stranger here myself”.

This ambitious alternative ending would have probably doubled the film’s budget. It would have necessitated large, jungle-like Garden sets to be built, additional effects sequences to convey the required sense of scale, and the manufacture of an expensive truck-like prop. The final battle between the Betty crew and the newborn would have meant either extensive location filming or, more likely, the construction of another elaborate set. They would also have had to make a functioning harvester machine, and this would have also have needed special effects to make it hover.

The ending of the script was probably dropped early in the production. It doesn’t appear as a footnote to the published screenplay, and there are no designs for the Harvester in the Making of Alien: Resurrection book. Oddly enough, though, the storyboards for the ending aren’t in the book, either, and the design sketches for the newborn aren’t very different from the version in the film. You might have expected a series of radically different preliminary designs based on Joss Whedon's description in the script: “An alien, to be sure, but nothing we've seen so far, its forelegs arch out of its back like spiders legs, its back legs set on enormous haunches, thick and powerful. Its head is long, eyeless, like the others, but along its white expanse red veins, coming out of the skin and running like thick black hairs to the back. It has retracted pincers at the side of head that come out when its tongue does. Its much bigger the others, nearly the size of the queen herself. And it's bone white.” Whedon’s script for the fight between the newborn and Ripley on the hull of the Betty, and the final battle around the harvester, also mention that  the creature has tendrils, or tentacles.

Clearly having the script for a major multi-million dollar blockbuster published on the Internet, months before the film opens, would embarrass any studio, so it’s surprising that Fox apparently took no action to have it removed. (Perhaps doing so would have given credibility to its content?) The Final Draft Screenplay provides an intriguing insight into the development of the film, but one which perhaps detracts from the finished film.











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