Ridley Scott tapped screenwriter Jon Spahits to write the prequel to Alien, and the script for Spahits' unproduced film Shadow 19 shows us why: it's a videogame-fueled romp through an alien planet filled with space battles, sentient machines, and mecha.
Script review site Scriptshadow got a hold of the Shadow 19 script, which was purchased by Warner Bros. with Keanu Reeves set to star. (A grain of salt is indicated, of course: We're assuming Scriptshadow read the real script, and this isn't a hoax.) The project eventually fell apart, and Spahits ended up successfully pitching his idea for the Alien prequel to Fox and Ridley Scott. Spoilers for Shadow 19 below.
Shadow 19 may have fallen by the wayside, but its blood-pumping, hard sci-fi, action flick plotline promises great things for the Alien prequel. The script introduces us to space marine Conrad Vance, already outfitted in his mecha suit and about to be launched into an off-world battle. Vance is a warrior, but also a survivor, the brilliant strategist who always comes back from battle. It's just our introduction to Vance and the sorts of military technology that exist in this future, but Scriptshadow assures us it's perfectly thrilling in its own right:
And in a battle that made me cum in my pants, Vance takes the offensive. He rips a turret off the thing, enters the Colossus, and starts to kill every living thing inside like a goddamn bull in a China shop. Of course, the look on all of the officer's faces is pretty fucking priceless when Vance uses his jump-jets to blast through a ladder-well, collide into the ceiling of the bridge, fall, land, and proceed to slaughter the Hegemony scum ED-209 style. Kudos to you, Mr. Spaihts. I never had multiple orgasms while reading the first ten pages of a screenplay until Shadow 19 (and I've read a lot of scripts).
After this successful battle, Vance is quickly whisked off to a top secret mission that brings him to the State Science Agency, an organization of cyberpunk Scientists who are completely loyal to the Agency, not just by contract, but by design. The most advanced Scientists are fitted with a cybernetic crown, one that enhances their cognitive abilities and renders them capable of operating the Agency's technology with their minds, but also plugs them into the Agency permanently and irreparably, so that treason means death.
The Agency has created a secret sentient terraforming ship called Prometheus, and Prometheus has been sent to transform the planet Erix into a habitable world. One of Prometheus' submachines, known as a Crawler, has broken down, and Vance has to brave the hostile planet in order to repair it. The Agency also has a device that sends a projection of Vance to Erix rather than Vance himself, so that when he dies (something that happens repeatedly), he has an endless videogame supply of "extra lives." So, Vance is sent to Erix over and over again until he can figure out how to survive long enough to repair the Crawler. Meanwhile, he develops a relationship with a mid-level Scientist, forcing them both to question their loyalties to their respective organizations. And there may be evidence of intelligent life on Erix, but the Agency is determined no Scientist will live long enough to discover it. Eventually, the movie culminates in an enormous battle for which Vance has requisitioned Earth's most powerful weapons, a scene designed to please lovers of first-person shooter games.
Although Scriptshadow's review indicates some flaws in the script (Vance's repeated attempts to survive Erix are, apparently, at points repetitive), they claim it's an impressive piece of work, even just on paper:
Shadow 19 is a gunmetal paean to id Software and cyberpunk. A hymn to boys (and girls, are you out there?) who spent many a night playing Doom, or any videogame, really, and you were so engrossed in the virtual world the next time you looked out the window it was already dawn. It is a love letter to fans of smart and ambitious science fiction.
It's a movie we might never see, but at least we might get shades of Shadow 19 in the Alien prequel.
Shadow 19 [Scriptshadow]