Aliens Attack Yet Again! Species III Edition

Oh no! not again! Species III is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-line Review: Better than the second, not a bad direct-to-DVD movie.

Species III (2004) – Not rated

“In this third film of the sci-fi horror franchise, Eve’s progeny — the part-alien, part-human Sara (Sunny Mabrey) — takes after her bloodthirsty mother. In search of someone to mate with, Sara will stop at nothing to find the appropriate partner. The government scrambles to put together a team to nab Sara before she causes total destruction, but she proves as challenging as her predecessor. Natasha Henstridge appears in a cameo as Eve.”

“You don’t want the tongue.”

“Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.” – should be the tagline for every mad scientist movie

Just as Species II ignored the ending and some other aspects of Species, Species III ignores the ending of Species II and some aspects of both films. Seriously, if you are going to do a series of films, hire a continuity writer. I always liked that the Universal Frankenstein movies started where the last one left off.

Obviously Species II must not have done very well as it took until 2004 for the next film to come out and even then it went straight to video. The only star to return in this film is Natasha Henstridge and she only has a cameo. Directing duties have been turned over to veteran TV director Brad Turner and writing to newcomer Ben Ripley.

Character actor Robert (Heroes, Prison Break) Knepper plays our scientist with an anger management problem, Dr. Abbot. Robin Dunne (Dr. Will Zimmerman in Sanctuary) plays a super-intelligent grad student named Dean. Our Henstridge substitute is Sara, played by Sunny Mabrey once Sara reaches adulthood. Mabrey’s attractiveness is shown off but not fetishized the way Henstridge was in Species.

Writing is a bit above average for this sort of thing. Acting and directing are just average – no one is exceedingly good or bad. Shot compositions are flat, continuity needs work, and special effects could be better. Not much to really recommend it but not a terrible waste of an afternoon either.

People Watch: After writing the followup Species IV: The Awakening, Ben Ripley wrote the screenplay for Source Code, my favorite science fiction movie of last year.

Aliens Attack Again! Species II Edition

Apparently Species was not enough so here we have Species II – also available on instant Netflix.

One-line Review: More nudity + less coherence + James Cromwell = meh

Species II (1998) – Rated R

“This 1998 sequel follows Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard), an astronaut on his way back to Earth after a mission to Mars. It seems that Ross picked up something on his voyage: an alien virus that’s causing his DNA to mutate, transforming him into a randy crossbreed intent on world domination through procreation. Can authorities stop him before he mates with Eve (Natasha Henstridge), a government-created clone of her human-alien hybrid mother?”

For the (inevitable) sequel to Species, the directing reins passed to veteran TV director Peter Medak. Rather obviously Species II decides to explore the male side of the equation. This allows the film to shamelessly pander to male fantasy scenarios. Yes I know the first one did that but this practically starts with an impromptu threesome.

Sil has been recreated as Eve, a rather unfortunate name given that the object is to have her NOT be impregnated. Apparently women of Sil’s race are created through genetic engineering (thus allowing a succession of possible roles for Natasha Henstridge) but men are created through contact with Martian slime. Why was this slime on Mars just waiting for astronauts to encounter it? Well it seems an unnecessary stretch but whatever gets the ball rolling.

Marg Helgenberger and Michael Madsen return to collect paychecks, I mean reprise their roles, as Dr. Laura Baker and Press Lennox respectively. Dr. Baker appears to have left sense behind and Press Lennox is only in the hunt for the money (insert Madsen joke here). Natasha Henstridge returns as Eve, a clone of Sil that Dr. Baker made so she could prevent future disaster (:P).

Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina and Forest Whitaker do not return so to round out the cast we have George Dzundza as Colonel Carter Burgess Jr., Mykelti Williamson as astronaut Dennis Gamble and an always welcome James Cromwell as Senator Ross. Just as a model was chosen as an alien for Species, the other alien here is male model Justin Lazard. Unfortunately he doesn’t shine here in the way Henstridge did in the first film.

Marg Helgenberger must have had a return clause that said she would do the movie if she didn’t have to appear nude and I’m guessing that Natasha Henstridge agreed to but limited her nudity. To make up for that director Peter Medak has pretty much every other woman appear nude or semi-nude in the film. I was only surprised that the all-female staff of the research center didn’t have a shower scene.

Species was a matter of B-movie style over substance. Species II jettisons the fawning over Henstridge, much of the designs of H.R. Giger, and the little bit of coherence that Species had. If you thought the team hunting Sil was stupid, the team hunting Patrick is downright moronic.

Notes to director Medak: Quarantine – that word doesn’t mean what you think it means. Don’t make your justifications needlessly complicated. If you’re staging a manhunt, perhaps more than two people should be involved. At least I didn’t see the boom in this film.

A few hilarious lines of dialogue from Senator Ross to his son – “Not if I can help it. Now there’s no way that they can find you here. The property is still listed under your mother’s maiden name. And I sure as hell am not going to hand you over to those Pentagon b#$%^s. I am taking you into Johns Hopkins for treatment.” Wait let me see if I understand this – you are telling your son that this is the perfect place to hide but that you are taking him into Johns Hopkins. Seriously? Did no one actually read the script?

People Watch: Look for Peter Boyle in an all-too-brief role as Dr. Herman Cromwell. Comedian / Law&Order perennial Richard Belzer appears as the President.

Aliens Attack! Species Edition

Those aliens just can’t beat us down. Species is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-line Review: Gorgeous alien models (Giger and Henstridge) enlivens otherwise routine move.

Species (1995) – Rated R

“When government scientists (led by Ben Kingsley) receive a transmission from space containing alien DNA, they create the ultimate femme fatale: a hybrid woman named Sil (Natasha Henstridge) with supermodel looks, deadly shape-shifting abilities … and raging hormones. When Sil escapes, a team of specialists scrambles to find her before she can reproduce, culminating in a fright-filled climax in the Los Angeles sewer system.”

“Nobody ever asked me to find anything they didn’t want dead.”

Species is definitely a guilty pleasure. It is neither written nor directed well and the acting is all over the place, in spite of the cast. Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, Dante’s Peak) is an adequate director but is often too by-the-numbers to produce something memorable. Dennis Feldman has seven writing credits – three of them are Species films.

Donaldson assembled a nice cast of solid ‘B’ performers. Ben Kingsley is our resident Frankenstein, Xavier Fitch, tampering with the forces of nature. Kingsley proved he was a great actor with Gandhi but since then has appeared in anything anyone asks him to. As usual Michael Madsen plays the killer, though no one seems to get the performance out of him that Tarantino does.

Marg Helgenberger is actually good as Dr. Laura Baker. The same cannot be said of the normally reliable Forest Whitaker as the world’s most clueless empath, Dan Smithson. Alfred Molina rounds out the cast of hunters as the hapless Dr. Stephen Arden.

The real find here, of course, is Natasha Henstridge in her debut performance. She is really good here channeling a Daryl Hannah Splash-type of alien and the camera loves her. From her emergence from the womb, naked and completely covered in KY (I swear I’m not making that up), well let us just say that she had me at hello. I liked her so much that I watched several more of her movies before I realized that I really just liked her as Sil.

The other real star here is H.R. Giger’s creature design. He does a wonderful job of creating monsters that convey an uncomfortable level of sensuality. His Alien design was so classic that it helped spawn a whopping five sequels and now a prequel (of sorts) in Prometheus. His Sil design is reminiscent of the classic Alien crossed with a human which, not coincidentally, is pretty much what Sil is.

Not only is Giger a great artist but he had such a commitment to the project that when MGM canceled the ‘nightmare train’ shoot because it was too expensive, Giger put up a hundred grand to film it. I like that they kept it because it looks neat but it is not actually integral to the plot.

The film is somewhat by-the-numbers. Sil, an unstoppable alien hybrid, escapes from a scientific facility and ;earns human behavior while trying to find a mate. The government assembles a team of experts to hunt her down but can they find her in time? This formula and the other factors would have produced a classic film had portions of this movie not been so terribly stupid.

Notes to filmmakers: Cyanide gas is invisible. Arcade games should be plugged in. Empaths should be empathic. Lab grown aliens do not have pierced ears. You don’t need an empath to state the obvious. You don’t need a psychologist to state the obvious. You don’t need a biologist to state the obvious. Oh fine – let’s just say you don’t need to state the obvious. For goodness sake, learn to hide the boom (Film 101).

Species is a guilty pleasure that I enjoy in moderation but the script is deeply stupid. Every one of the hunters states the obvious repeatedly and almost none of what they say or do requires the expert knowledge they supposedly possess.

People Watch: Look for Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island) as the young Sil (prior to her transformation into Natasha Henstridge). Patricia Belcher, Caroline on Bones, appears briefly as a hospital admittance clerk.