I also really loved elements of the production design that they weren't able to show in the Alien franchise because they didn't have the technical prowess and because it didn't fit the story. The more I think about this movie, the more I like it. No, they didn't get there with the emotional elements pertaining to the humans' interactions... Though, I think it was deliberate even though that can happen when you make too many passes on a piece. I know they expanded the role of Meredith Vickers, but I really had the sense that they were all just playthings. And I liked that a lot. (Film directors and god complexes and all that). I think they wanted it as tight as it could be and as an intro to a new franchise, which means sacrificing the fullness of this story. I don't think it's meant to stand alone ideally. Even if it did, it's good enough as is, though madly tantalizing.
It did make me wonder about previous cuts several passes back. One of my pet points when I cut something is to bring in fresh eyes late in the process to make sure I didn't cut anything integral to the story and I wonder if that happened with this piece, (always wondering about process). I really do get the sense they were going for short, staccato interactions, almost horror-movie style in terms of character development.