Director: Roger Donaldson
Running Time: 108 Minutes
This movie is finally old enough to legally consume alcohol in the U.S.A.!
In a year not specified, the SETI programme receives a response transmission from an alien source. The message explains how to create endless, safe, effortless fuel. Due to the nature of the message, the aliens are considered friendly. So, when they send an additional message showing how to combine human DNA and alien DNA, our scientist friends decide to try this out.
Thus, Sil (Natasha Henstridge and Michelle Williams as young Sil) is created. Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) leads the experiment but ultimately decides that it must be terminated due to Sil’s outbursts during REM sleep and a lack of data. Upon trying to terminate Sil, she manages to break out of her cell and escape the facility. We meet Sil in her 12 year old body but she is in fact only 3 months old. Gestation and growth development are highly accelerated in this hybrid. While she travels, not knowing where she is going and having had very little socialisation, the government had assembled a team to track and destroy the hybrid. The team consists of anthropologist Dr Stephen Arden (Alfred Molina), molecular biologist Dr Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger), “empath” Dan Smithson (Forest Whitaker) and the merc Preston Lennox (Michael Madsen).
Their troubles are only beginning, as Sil reaches full maturity after cocooning herself on a train. Now, she is on the hunt for a man, and leaving a trail of dead bodies in her wake.
Special Effects & Performances
With H. R. Giger at the helm for creature design, Sil was always going to look awesome. She doesn’t disappoint, with a mixture of 1 part metal machine, 2 parts tentacles and 1 part sexy female antagonist, it is a recipe for success but does feel very Alien. The CGI did fall a bit flat for me towards the end of the movie but I try to bear in mind that this film is 21 years old. Clearly a large portion of the budget was put into visual effects, and all-in-all, it has not aged badly.
The performances weren’t terrible but no-one stood out as exceptional. I enjoyed the way Dan’s character was written and through his eyes, they are able to humanise Sil. The characters work well as a team and I enjoyed the fact that there was no inherent animosity written into the script. Drs Baker and Arden are useful in profiling the hybred and her behaviour, very quickly picking up on predatory nature and need to take out mating competition.
Though a fan of Kingsley, I felt that his performance was lacking, as with Madsen. They seemed almost superfluous to the film. As Natasha Henstridge’s first film, she was a great Sil. She was able to convey her confusion in her new world and pulled off the child-like quality extremely well. She was also able to portray the character’s humanity and predatory nature with ease. She adapts quickly and the character evolves with this adaptation to the environment.
Though not a terrible film, Species is very similar to other Sci-Fi films prior to this period. The plot is pretty unique and the story is well executed but the veneer is decidedly Alien. The CGI, for the time, would have been great and added a new dimension to the film but it let me down the most in its acting. Whitaker is an A-lister, as is Kingsley but the acting was not great. It was nowhere near as terrible as Red Planet but there was a lack of chemistry and cohesion. Helgenberger and Madsen played off each other well and it shows in their interactions but overall, I was underwhelmed.
It’s still a fun “movie night” film with some friends. It doesn’t require oodles of brain power or concentration. Plus, who doesn’t love a little underwater alien sex? Amirite?
My Rating: 2.5/5
Buy or rent Species from Amazon.
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