In 1993, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Project receives a transmission detailing an alien DNA structure, along with instructions on how to splice it with human DNA. The result is Sil, a sensual but deadly creature who can change from a beautiful woman to an armour-plated killing machine in the blink of an eye. Government agent Xavier Fitch assembles a team of scientists and mercenaries to locate and destroy Sil before she manages to find a mate and breed.
Directed by: Roger Donaldson
. Starring: Ben Kingsley
, Michael Madsen
, Alfred Molina
, Forest Whitaker
, Marg Helgenberger
, Natasha Henstridge
, Michelle Williams
, Jordan Lund
, Don Fischer
, Scott McKenna
, Virginia Morris
, Jayne Luke
, David K. Schroeder
. Music by: Christopher Young
There's certain films that I like to call "trailer flicks" -- films that look like terrific fun as a ninety-second trailer or preview, but make a rotten ninety-minute movie. "Species" is a terrific example of a trailer flick. Lots of action, lots of science fiction technobabble, alien monster designs by H.R. Giger (of "Alien"), good actors, a drop-dead gorgeous, sexy babe to play a sex-crazed alien... what more could a filmgoer (or, at least a sci-fi filmgeek) want? As it turns out, quite a lot, actually. Like a plot. Or a sense of direction. Or an ounce of common sense. Or a clue. "Species" features none of these commodities, which makes it unappealing for the vast majority of filmgoers; it also features precious few moments of excitement, gratuitous violence, and gratuitous nudity, which makes it unappealing for the teenaged male filmgeek audience. Either way, the movie is pure garbage, little more than a "Friday the 13th, Part 5" film with a sci-fi label slapped on its side.
The convoluted mess that passes itself off as a story in "Species" actually starts off with a slightly interesting premise: Radio telescopes pick up signals from deep space that, when translated properly, reveal a formula for an alien DNA string that can be combined with human DNA. This DNA combination, in theory, should produce a hybrid creature that has both human and alien characteristics, allowing humans to learn about this alien species in a manner that is at least slightly familiar ground. The premise, though, quickly devolves into schlock as the alien hybrid -- named "Sil" (Natasha Henstridge) -- quickly develops and matures into a blonde bombshell capable of posing as a Penthouse centerfold. She also develops a need to breed with human males -- turns out that her progeny, of course, will turn into vicious alien killers that want to destroy humankind. Scientists figure out a little too late that Sil is basically bad news for mankind, so she is able to escape from them without much difficulty, and it is left up to Professor Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) and his motley crew of scientists and soldier to either capture or destroy Sil before she can mutate into her true, disgusting, alien form -' and is able to set in motion the destruction of the Earth...
"Species" is predictable to a fault, and offers no insight into any of the potential (and few) interesting ideas it offers. Who are the alien beings? Where do they come from? Why do they care about humanity at all, and why do they want the human race wiped out of existence? Because alien beings are bad -- at least that's the only explanation offered. Sil, the alien hybrid, also offers some true glimmers of interest. At one point in the film, when confronted with her destructive nature, she asks her creators "What am I?" in a somewhat pitiful manner -- her need to mate and destroy is driven by instinct, not by conscious thought, and even she recognizes the horror lurking inside her. A savvier film would've explored this idea further; "Species" instead chooses to focus on deep, insightful things like Sil removing her bra in slow motion, blood, and big explosions. By the time our supposedly smart heroes are chasing Sil through a dark labyrinth of sewers, it's obvious that "Species" has nothing to offer apart from the message offered in the first ten minutes -- alien beings are bad.
The direction of "Species" is obscenely lazy -- most of the supposed thrills generated by the film involve Sil jumping out of the darkness and attacking things. This works maybe once or twice, but after the first dozen or so times, it stops being even remotely scary. Director Roger Donaldson's solution to this problem is so simply start adding blood and gore to these scenes, which again works once or twice... and then gets boring fast. Unfortunately, everything gets permanently boring somewhere around the halfway mark of the film. "Species" is a film that thinks it's enough to just show up with cool-looking monsters and special effects... wrong. It's called suspense, and it's sorely missing from this film. You'd think that a film borrowing from the look and designs of "Alien" would at least have the decency to check out how Ridley Scott made "Alien" a masterpiece of suspense.
The acting? Not much can be said about it, apart from it's mediocre at best, awful at worst. It's hard to knock Natasha Henstridge for a role that merely asks that she become eye candy for the first half of the film -- she does exactly that, and nothing more. I hope she was paid well. As for Ben Kingsley... I'm a big fan of his in other films, but he simply mails in a performance here. He actually looks bored in his scenes. I can't say I blame him, given how bad this flick is, but still, c'mon, a little effort, please? The rest of the cast is completely forgettable, which is probably a good thing. I wouldn't want to be remembered as a featured actor in "Species", either.
"Species" is a film that aspires for big-budget greatness. Unfortunately, it's crap that even Roger Corman wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. There's worse sci-fi films than "Species" -- namely, "Species 2" -- but not many. Unless you want to deliberately waste an hour and a half of your life, don't bother with this movie.
Review by MadReviewer from the Internet Movie Database.