Today’s exploration of this dirt pile of a movie owes a spiritual debt to one of the best classes I have ever taken in my life: Biology in Film – Fact or Fiction. I was required to take one science class to obtain my undergrad degree, and knocked it out of the way in first year with this sweet little gem of a course where we watched movies, then talked about the science behind them. I’ve actually written an essay on whether or not you could survive having your heart ripped out before you are lowered into a lava pit, Temple of Doom-style. (Spoiler alert: you can’t!)
So today we’re investigating a sequence that sucks in part because it makes no sense. Yes, it’s a science fiction movie and suspension of disbelief and all that, but there’s always, ALWAYS room for logic. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s another reason why I hated Prometheus:
#3. THE SURGERY SCENE IN WHICH THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO GIVES BIRTH TO A SQUID FOR SOME REASON
Credit where credit is due: this is one of the better sequences in the film, mostly because it’s the first time that a character does anything even REMOTELY resembling what a human being would do in that scenario. This has been an untapped area of exploration for the Alien franchise thus far: when characters find out they’re impregnated they typically let things run their super gross and death-inducing course. Personally, I can guarantee you that if I found out I had an alien inside me I’d be in the bathroom in a hot five minutes with a bottle of scotch and a hastily procured scalpel shouting “NO ONE BURSTS OUT OF MY BODY WITHOUT MY EXPLICIT CONSENT YOU ALIEN” so it’s nice to actually see a character be like “Um, CHEQUE PLEASE.” (Presuming “cheque please” is what you say when you realize you’re pregnant with a murder machine.) Also, this sequence is kinda cool because it makes you wonder why no one has thought of this before. (Remember how annoying it was to watch Leland Orser sulk about the fact that he had a chestburster in him? Seize the day, you wet potato of a man!) Plus the idea of having to perform surgery on yourself while lucid is delightfully gross – the perfect sort of squirm-inducing sequence for a horror film that’s too unbelievable to be terrifying but too barfy not to watch through your fingers. It’s a fun idea and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo performs the hell out of the whole sequence.
So obviously, because things are going well, the movie has to revert to its nature – which is to identify the seed of a good idea and SMASH IT WITH A SALT-ENCRUSTED HAMMER UNTIL NOTHING MAY GROW AGAIN – and add this terrifically dumb beat wherein the machine smugly informs Not-Rooney-Mara that it’s only calibrated to operate on males.
- Why did Charlize Theron, a human woman, bring it then? Was it for her father, An Actual Cocoon from the Film Cocoon? What possible operation could he require other than a waterectomy to remove more moisture from his miserable raisin face?
- Why are we trying to inject more tension? Were the stakes not high enough already? THE WOMAN IS PREGNANT WITH CTHULU. This extra tidbit of information just proves to be distracting, because the thing is (and here’s where the science comes in):
- There’s no way that a machine that’s set up only to operate on males could perform a “caesarean” without murdering the EVERLOVING FUCK out of the person inside. The body is not an open cavity where all your organs just happily float about. You have muscles! And blood vessels! And things attaching things to other things! If the amusement park claw that comprises this surgery machine assumes it’s removing an “abdominal mass”, then it’s basically punching a hole through her abs, yanking out a squid ball (if not her entire uterus – which it probably would, because this machine only operates on boys for some reason), and then stapling it shut. Basically this is the equivalent of setting a room on fire, then shutting the door and painting it a lovely shade of white!
- Also what claw game has EVER successfully removed an object on the first try? THIS IS A BRIDGE TOO FAR, PROMETHEUS
Despite basically being turbo-punched in the torso by a robot arm and then having the enormous wound sealed with scotch tape, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo runs, rolls, jumps and fights both Michael Rapaport AND an enormous squid monster (which really deserves its own post because it makes me INSANE) with no indication that a murder has been done to her body. Firstly, if I stub my toe I’m basically out of commission for a day. Secondly, if you’re going to the effort to inject extra tension by saying that she’s having surgery in a man machine, why not make use of the tension you have created by SHOWING HOW SHE HAS BEEN IMPACTED BY THE SURGICAL PROCEDURE SHE ENDURED WITH LOCAL ANESTHETIC LITERALLY MOMENTS AGO? The ending of Die Hard creates huge amounts of tension out of John McClane stepping on a glass shard; this movie features a game of Bobbing for Fetuses and NO ONE BREATHES A WORD.
Also, I know I said I’d write about this later, but—she gives birth to a squid. An actual squid. You just know that the props team were like “Ah, good, we’ve finished all our work for the movie” and Ridley Scott was like “We’re filming the surgery scene in fifteen minutes, we need the monster baby” and the props team collectively did a twelve minute spit take and then used the remaining three minutes to run to a nearby fish shop. Like – I personally find squid and octopi terrifying, and I think a lot of iconic monsters use visual signifiers that resemble squid and octopi (because of the whole thing where they’re TERRIFYING), but… put some muscle into it, guys. I’m pretty certain HR Giger, genius though he was, saw a lobster once and was like “hey guys I know what the alien will look like”, but at least he had the decency to BUILD on his original idea.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
Don’t add things just for the sake of raising the stakes. If the situation you’ve created is good enough (and it totally was!) then the tension will come naturally!
ALSO YOU CAN’T JUST STAPLE UP AN ENORMOUS FLESH WOUND CHRIST ON A CRACKER.