bad happened here"
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,
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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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