Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker, Marg Helgenberger, Michelle Williams and Natasha Henstridge

Roger Donaldson

Running Time:
108 mins

Out to buy on DVD 13/09/04

"Something bad happened here"

Dan Smithson

After receiving a message from an extra terrestrial civilization through the S.E.T.I. programme, Professor Xavier Fitch (Kingsley) follows the instructions on how to modify human DNA. From them he produces an embryo that grows at an extremely accelerated rate. When the girl, christened Sil (Williams), reaches equivalent of 15 human years within less than a month, the US Government decide the terminate the project and return to research but when threatened Sil escapes and enters the human populous with one goal, to breed.

Science Fiction can be either extremely good or extremely bad with very little middle ground but Species is a combination of the two.

The premise for the movie is an intriguing one. The distances between inhabited planets is most probably extremely vast so if you wanted to visit another world the time it would take to travel there would be far too long for most life spans. So what if you could send yourself, or your genetic makeup via a transmitted message. Then what if your intention was invasion and the genetic formula you sent would produce a hybrid species that could rapidly colonise the planet. This is an excellent science fiction concept that could reap some fascinating storylines, it is just a shame that Species doesn't really capitalise on any of them.

The movie starts very well and then plummets into mediocrity. The initial situation is cleverly introduced. We see the young Sil escape from the facility as Fitch reluctantly tries to terminate the project. Then we see Sil's first interactions with human society as Fitch explains to the gathered experts charged with capturing her the backstory of the project and what they are potentially dealing with. We then see Sil mutate into a fully-grown woman and become driven by the need to find a mate to reproduce. This is when the movie starts to fall off the rails.

From here on in Species just becomes a sex driven monster movie, that forgets about plot building and character development for the pursuit of ever more extreme killings and more excuses for Natasha Henstridge to take her top off. The film just becomes far too predictable to the point that nothing surprises you until the appalling final scene.

The excellent ensemble cast can do nothing to stop crash landing of the movie. Ben Kingsley's presence brings a touch of class to the proceeding but even he can't save his character from becoming very one dimensional and surplus to requirements. Michael Madsen's problem fixer character Preston Lennox is probably the best character but this is more to do with Madsen's acting skills than the script. The character is woefully underdeveloped though and not given enough action. Alfred Molina and Marg Helgenberger are the scientists of the group and try and provide many of the explanations for Sil's behaviour but most of them are very obvious. Forest Whitaker's Dan Smithson is an empath who can read the emotions of people and situations but he just seems to be the unintentional comic relief. When he walks into a room covered in blood with a dead body on the floor and says "Something bad happened here", you can't help but laugh. Natasha Henstridge probably fairs the best out of the cast as she has very few lines and just has to look beautiful with her top off (which she succeeds brilliantly at). This isn't the most taxing of acting roles but she is what you remember most about the movie.

The special effects are quite good however. The H.R. Giger designer monster Sil does look far too much like his earlier Alien design but the computer animation of the character is good for 1995. Also the changing in the skin shape of the human Sil, as her alien side starts to show is also good.

Species is a very mixed bag. Sloppy story development and underdeveloped characters ruin an excellent premise and introduction making the film more like a 50s B-Movie than the big budget Sci-Fi entertainment it should have been.


Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 with choice between Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts surround sound, the transfer is good. In some instances the picture quality might be too good however, as it shows the level of CG images in 1995 wasn't up to the same standard as today. The rest of the film is very good however. The sound quality is also very good, especially during the more action driven sequences.


Disc 1

Commentary track by director Roger Donaldson, Natasha Henstridge and Michael Madsen
This chatty and fun commentary is punctuated by the deadpan humour of Michael Madsen. The actor's one liners and quips make this track well worth listening to. The three of them talk passionately about the film and their experiences making it, revealing many secrets from behind the scenes. They talk about the cast and what it was like to work with Ben Kingsley. Madsen then reveals how he was the practical joker on set and that Sir Ben was the butt of many of his jokes. There is abit too much backslapping and not enough critique but this is still a fun commentary all the same.

Commentary by director Roger Donaldson, producer Frank Mancuso, special effects supervisor Richard Edlund and Steve Johnston (Sil creature creator)
This more technically driven but chatty commentary takes you behind the scenes of the making of Species. The group talk about how they got involved with the script and what they brought to the concept. They then discuss casting and how getting an excellent ensemble raised the profile of the movie and made it more believeable. Edlund and Johnston discuss the special effects of the film and the limitations of the technology of the time compared to what we have now. This commentary offers an insight into how a big budget Sci-Fi movie is made.

Disc 2

The Concept (17.06 mins)
Director Roger Donaldson, producer Frank Mancuso, writer/producer Dennis Feldman and stars Ben Kingsley, Forest Whitaker, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Michelle Williams, Marg Helgenberger and Natasha Henstridge talk about bringing Species to the screen. Combining recently filmed discussions and interviews from 1995 the cast and crew talk about the influences behind the concept and the characters that play out the story.

The Origin (9.31 mins)
Writer/producer Dennis Feldman reveals the influences behind the story. He discusses how he researched the human genome project, S.E.T.I. and UCLA's research into evolution. He also talks about how he changed the script to incorporate the message idea from his original spaceship concept and how the script went through three different endings. The featurette also informs you how the writer sold his spec script to MGM.

The Discovery (20.59 mins)
Director Roger Donaldson, producer Frank Mancuso, writer/producer Dennis Feldman, production designer John Muto and stars Ben Kingsley, Forest Whitaker, Michael Madsen, Michelle Williams and Natasha Henstridge talk about creating the look of Species. The featurette takes you behind the scenes of the lab, chamber and sewer sets as well as showing you how they created Michelle Williams's makeup effects.

Alternative Ending (2.15 mins)
This is an extra scene that would have played after the finale featuring Michael Madsen and Marg Helgenberger's characters, adding a more human side to the story.

Designing a Hybrid (15.11 mins)
Director Roger Donaldson, producer Frank Mancuso, special effects supervisor Richard Edlund and special makeup effects animatronics supervisor Steve Johnston talk about bringing the alien version of Sil to life. Taking you behind the scenes of how the production created the alien from H.R. Giger's design by using a combination of computer graphics, models and makeup. It is also revealed how Sil was the first motion-captured character to be used in film.

H.R. Giger at work (12.08 mins)
Director Roger Donaldson, writer/producer Dennis Feldman and star Natasha Henstridge talk about the visionary artist as the man himself takes you through some of his designs for the movie. He talks about his influences in designing Sil and shows you how he created the Alien Train used in a nightmare sequence.

Species III: Set Invasion (5.09 mins)
Director Brad Turner and star Sunny Mabrey, Robin Dunne, J.P. Pitoc and Natasha Henstridge take you behind the scenes of the new Species movie.


MGM have brought together a good set of bonus features for what is essentially a very average Sci-Fi movie. The two commentary tracks are very good and informative, with Michael Madsen's contribution been extremely funny. The featurettes are also first rate, offering a fascinating insight into the film. For fans of the movie, this is an excellent package that will please them immensely.


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