Film (1995). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Roger Donaldson. Alien designs by H R Giger. Written by Dennis Feldman. Cast includes Marg Helgenberger, Natasha Henstridge, Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina and Forest Whitaker. 108 minutes. Colour.
Radio transmissions from an extraterrestrial race are intercepted on Earth. They contain a DNA sequence and instructions for combining it with our own. American scientists use the data to genetically engineer (see Genetic Engineering) an Alien-human hybrid, called Sil. On the surface a normal human girl, Sil grows at an accelerated rate and her behaviour is so unsettling that the scientists feel there is no choice but to terminate her. Ignoring the cyanide pumped into her glassed-in compound, she escapes the laboratory and reaches Los Angeles (see California). Now sexually mature and, of course, beautiful, Sil (Henstridge) searches the city for a mate, Shapeshifting into Monster form and killing suitors who don't live up to her high genetic standards. A team of specialists (a mercenary, a psychic, a biologist and an anthropologist) is gathered to hunt Sil, but her burgeoning psychic and regenerative powers make it difficult to stop her. Eventually Sil seduces, mates with and kills the anthropologist (Molina), before giving birth minutes later. The other team members corner Sil and her child beneath the city and kill them both.
Despite similarities to the very original television series A for Andromeda (1961) and an unusually strong cast, Species quickly devolves into a standard exploitation movie. Poor pacing and an underdeveloped script combine to make the movie surprisingly dull considering its subject matter, although individual scenes are sometimes effective. Species also boasts some very lazy, if amusingly brazen, plotting, using the character of Forest Whitaker's psychic; it is his role to fill in logical gaps and explain Sil's otherwise baffling behaviour by way of his "feelings" (see Psi Powers). The acting in the film is respectable; the creature designs by Giger are disappointing. The novelization is Species (1995) by Yvonne Navarro; the sequel is Species II (1998). [JN]
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