director Roger Donaldson
I’d been watching a lot more “quality” movies of late, as I’m trying to work my way through a laundry list of “major” films that I’ve never seen. But sometimes to really need more classic “junk cinema” to clear your head.
I’d seen Species back in the day, that day being close to 20 years ago. I saw it either on cable or video. I’m open-minded toward cheap science fiction and horror, meaning I’ll almost watch anything sometimes.
Species, in my recollection, was a decent flick. Most notable for its H.R. Giger designs and its oft-naked Natasha Henstridge loping around Los Angeles. Actually, I couldn’t recall a lot else about it, but sort of remembered Ben Kingsley as the government dude involved in the shenanigans.
Actually, it’s kind of interesting, the idea. Aliens communicate back with Earth offering tech info and a sequence of their own genome. Government scientists splice this information together with human DNA and develop a young girl (who turns out to be a young Michelle Williams as the teen form of Natasha Henstridge). They decide she’s too dangerous and try to destroy her, but she escapes and starts to mutate/develop further, primarily driven by the need to procreate.
Kingsley is the head of the science team and he assembles a rather odd crew of people to help him track her down. Michael Madsen is a sort of “fixer” type. Alfred Molina is a science nerd. Forest Whitaker is an empathetic empath. And Marg Helgenberger is some other type of scientist. Actually if you consider Kingsley, Williams, Whitaker, and Molina, you’ve got a pretty decent cast here.
The designs may be cool but they are done in what was then moderately top of the line computer animation, which today looks pretty cheap and shoddy. It’s perhaps the most dated element of this film that is in many ways a very evocatively 1990’s movie.
But kind of what’s most interesting is this sort of biological female, driven entirely by the need to procreate. Henstridge is tall and blond and right out of Playboy magazine, if you will. It’s not hard for her to find willing mates in LA, though her senses warn her of potential fallibility of certain men’s genetic possibilities. She’s also sort of lethal like a preying mantis or other such creature that kills its mate after the procreation is complete. She’s kind of a femme fatale deluxe.
It’s possible to see it as either sort of misogynist or alternatively kind of pro-feminist. The scientists made her female because they thought she’d be easier to handle (what ho! irony!)
It’s directed by Roger Donaldson who brought us No Way Out (1987) and Cocktail (1988) during his period of having touched the American movie zeitgeist. And while the film is never grasping at greatness, it does have more inherent qualities than one might remember. It’s also quite the progenitor of Splice (2010), would actually make a reasonable double feature with it.
It went on to a few sequels, which I never saw. And, for now, I may well leave it at that.