Say Something Nice: PROMETHEUS (2012)

In which Scott goes to bat for PROMETHEUS. Again.

Movie fans know all too well that you have to wade through a lot of disappointment to find the good stuff. And it’s not always some binary pile-sorting of "good movies" and "bad movies"; sometimes there’s quality material smack in the middle of the muck. Say Something Nice is dedicated to those gems - memorable, standout, even great moments from movies that...well, aren’t.

Hello. Yes. It me - the guy who defends Prometheus.

Good to see you all here again. I see you're looking as skeptical as ever! That's fine, I'm used to it. And besides, we're not here today to mount a defense of Prometheus in its entirety. We're here to single out a particular sequence from Prometheus, one that I think everyone - even this film's biggest critics - will admit is worth watching. 

That's right: we're here for the C-Section scene.

The set-up: Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) has been infected with...well, whatever we call the thing that eventually mates with an Engineer to create the Deacon (whatever it is, it's very ugly). She busts out of the lab where David and company were about to put her into cryo-sleep - the better for transporting her back to the nefarious scientists at Weyland-Yutani, my dear - and heads for Vickers' chambers. Inside: the med-pod, introduced earlier in the film as one of the many luxurious accommodations inside Vickers' cabin.

First time you see Prometheus, a sense of dread hits the moment that med-pod pops up onscreen. When Shaw escapes the lab, you're thinking, "Well, good for her, but she's still super pregnant with that alien baby". Then you see the med-pod, realize what Shaw's about to do, and your stomach drops: this is going to get very ugly.

Shaw monkeys around with the med-pod's controls (some people have pointed out that it makes no sense that Vickers would have a med-pod "calibrated for male patients only", but that's actually a clue: the pod's calibrated that way because it's not there for Vickers at all, but her extremely old father, Peter Weyland, who's secretly tagged along on the mission), injects herself with what I imagine to be a serious amount of painkillers, and then climbs into the pod.

I submit to you that Rapace is never more convincing in Prometheus than she is during this sequence: look at the strength, the courage, the determination, the wild-eyed self-preservation plastered all over her face. It's mixed in with a healthy amount of terror, because Shaw knows what's gonna happen the minute that med-pod starts working its magic. 

And, hoo boy, does that med-pod work some magic.

We watch it scan Shaw's body, determining where her stowaway is hiding. We watch it lay down a generous layer of anaesthetic. We watch Shaw squirm and scream and very nearly go mad with fear as the med-pod's little arms move into place, ready to make an incision. This moment accounts for maybe thirty seconds' worth of screentime, and yet it feels like it goes on for minutes.

And then the med-pod makes its incision.

We follow along every step of the way. The incision is made via laser. Two more robot arms move into place and peel open the wound. Slowly. Painfully. Across multiple shots. Vickers groans in agony. And then - almost hilariously - yet another med-pod feature reveals itself: it's a little claw arm, like you might use to win a stuffed teddy bear in an arcade. With Shaw still completely awake, it reaches into her open wound and yanks out a truly hideous fetus.

And then the fetus explodes.

Whatever unspeakable fluid was contained in that embryo's sack, a fair amount of it splashes directly back into the wound (Scott makes a point to show us this is, and I imagine him giggling with glee at the grotesquerie of it all). Above, the proto-Deacon lashes its tentacles at the air furiously, filled with rage to be alive and conscious in this bright new world. It is absolutely repulsive.

And then the med-pod starts stapling Shaw's flesh.

I mean, the wound's gotta be sealed, right? Makes sense. But it also delays Shaw being able to leave the pod. The machine works her over as the beast thrashes around above her, perilously close. Eventually the med-pod starts tilting back into place. Shaw climbs out, gasses the creature still trapped inside the pod (surprise: that didn't work!), and flees Vickers' chambers. 

This whole sequence plays out over the course of roughly four minutes, and it's easily the best thing in the entire film. It's a borderline masterclass in escalation, the way each new hideous setback is thrown into the mix. It's also beautifully shot and edited, and blessed with an absolutely ferocious performance from Rapace. It is, indeed, one of the high points of the entire Alien franchise. Were the film just a little more loved (just you watch: five years from now, the still-fledgling Prometheus apologist movement will have grown into a very vocal cult following), it'd be as iconic as the original film's Chestburster sequence.

How could anyone "hate" Prometheus when it contains a scene this good?

Ladies and gentlemen, I have no choice but to smgdh.

Oh, and by the way, here's a fun side note: Prometheus' med-pod sequence was once completely different. In Jon Spaihts' original draft of the screenplay, Shaw (there known as "Watts") puts herself into the pod and successfully removes the alien inside her. It's then jettisoned outside, and Shaw drifts in an out of consciousness over the course of many hours as the machine does its work, putting her back together. While all that's going on, the alien roams the network of rooms outside her enclosure, killing anyone who enters while rapidly gaining in size. It's a different - yet equally-awesome - take on the sequence.