Prometheus had a lot of problems with not being able to follow through on its ambitious who-created-us questions, but one place where it really shone was the straight-up horror scenes. Anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, beware now: I’m delving into spoilers. For me, the movie’s most satisfying sequence was when Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), impregnated with some early version of the Alien, performs an emergency C-section on herself in the nifty medical pod.
It’s truly horrifying, with Shaw pumping herself full of adrenaline and directing the computer’s laser to cut into her abdomen. A further wrinkle is that the pod is calibrated for a man, ostensibly Peter Weyland, and so Shaw has to deal with that workaround while, you know, an alien lifeform is trying to burst out of her stomach like in the original Alien. Then she staggers around the Prometheus covered in blood and gore, with a hastily-stapled stomach wound. Because the religious scientist is actually kinda badass.
But The L.A. Times informs us that this scene is the sole reason the movie was rated R, and almost didn’t end up in the final cut:
The scene, according to Scott, is the one that tipped the film’s rating from a PG-13 to an R. The director said the only way to land the more family-friendly rating would have been to remove the scene entirely.
“They didn’t even want the scene,” Scott said. “It wasn’t about just cutting it down, they didn’t want the scene.”
And that was something neither Scott nor studio chief Tom Rothman wanted considering the importance of the sequence and the toll it took on Rapace.
I couldn’t imagine the movie without this scene! For those of us trying so hard to connect the narrative threads between Prometheus and Alien, it was the perfect nod to Ridley Scott‘s original sci-fi horror film. And yet, it was still fresh: Instead of John Hurt getting surprised by his alien stomach-burster during dinner, Shaw quickly realizes she has a limited time before the creature is “born,” and she somehow gathers the fortitude to perform surgery on herself. Her agonized, terrified screams during the scene — no wonder it took four days to shoot! — add a whole new level.
As The Mary Sue points out, contemplating why the studio wanted to cut the scene entirely does compel us to put our feminist hats on. The scene is gory on its own but also contains heavy overtones to abortion. And even though Shaw literally has a few hours to gestate this fetus before it starts fighting its way out and never bonds with the creature at all, a lot of weight is put on the fact that she’s an “imperfect human” (or whatever she calls herself a few scenes prior) because she’s infertile. (I kept hoping against hope that she would turn out to be Ripley’s mom, but alas.)
While the scene didn’t necessarily direct Shaw’s character arc, we would still have missed out on the incident that hardens her and makes her able to deal with the rest of this movie, including the crippling disappointment at not knowing why the Engineers made us. So, consider me very grateful that Ridley Scott overrode the executives.