Species (1995)

*. I think this movie is most remembered today for a couple of things. Aside, that is, from the obvious appeal of Natasha Henstridge disrobing. In the first place there is the moment when the team of investigators trying to find the runaway alien Sil enter a railway carriage containing a corpse, with blood splattered all over the walls, and the empath character Dan (Forest Whitaker) tells us “Something bad happened here.”
*. I can tell you that audiences laughed out loud at that line in the theatre in 1995. But it’s worth noting that it’s immediately undercut in the film, as Michael Madsen’s character says “No shit.” Something similar is done later when Sil’s attempt to breed in a hot tub is broken up by the gang. “We interrupted her,” Dan says. “Yes,” Ben Kingsley replies impatiently, “I think we did.” There’s also an early scene where he says he knows something about predators because of a show he saw on the Discovery Channel. I’m not sure Dan is a character we’re meant to take very seriously.
*. The other thing that I think everyone remembers about Species is the Sil creature itself and its near kinship to the monster in Alien. Their resemblance is no surprise given that they were both designed by the same person, the artist H. R. Giger, but more than that they both embody a fear of reproduction. Both Sil and the Xenomorph are looking to breed, a process that involves the destruction of humans who are used either as sperm donors (Sil) or incubators (the Xenomorph).
*. Gender issues? Jonathan Rosenbaum: “in spite of all its unexplained and semiridiculous plot premises [Species] works surprisingly well as a genre exercise, perhaps because, like Alien, it knows how to exploit misogynist biological and sexual anxieties for all they’re worth.” Even Sil’s nipples shoot tentacles!
*. The problem I have with this isn’t the misogyny, if that’s what it is, so much as the fact that this had been done before by the Alien movies and didn’t really need to be introduced again here. Making matters even worse is the fact that the effects in Species aren’t nearly as good as they were in Alien.
*. To which you might well say, with Madsen, “No shit.” The creature effects and design work on Alien set the bar for the entire genre, and have never been surpassed. But still, this was fifteen years later, with a much larger budget (people often forget how low-budget a movie Alien was). They could have come up with something that looked better than this. But then the fact that Alien had to do its effects without CGI helped.
*. The premise actually makes some sense. Alien life has come to Earth by way of information in the form of a code for their DNA. But I had the sense that things got dumbed down as they went along, culminating in the idiotic pause Madsen has to take before blowing Sil’s head off so that he can get in a “Hasta la vista, baby” line (here it’s “Let go, motherfucker”).
*. It also seems like some interesting angles were left undeveloped. Take Alfred Molina’s observation that “Los Angeles is perfect for her. It’s the city of the future. Anything goes. Totally mobile population and everyone’s a stranger. Very little in this town is taboo or unacceptable. No matter what she does no one’s going to notice.” I’d say L.A. is perfect for Sil for other reasons, since she’s a beautiful young woman come to the city of sin to get ahead by sleeping around.
*. It’s also curious how Sil only kills the innocent. The nice lady on the train who lets her ride for half price. The guy who takes her to the hospital. Molina. Even the guy who picks her up (or who she picks up) at the club. He has every reason to expect he’s going to get some action, and the script even makes it clear that he’s not a junky but a diabetic (which is still enough to make him a “loser” for reproductive purposes).
*. This isn’t a bad little movie but I find it disappointing given some of the talent involved. In the end it settles for being something very formulaic, with a not very interesting monster that we hardly even see. The most memorable thing about it is the character of Dan, and that’s only because he’s so silly. For some reason, however, it was felt worthy of a sequel. Or two. Or three.

3 thoughts on “Species (1995)

  1. tensecondsfromnow

    Never dug into the sequels, but this was a decent enough genre effort at the time, with a slumming cast and bursts of nudity for those too shy to seek it elsewhere. Having spent some time in LA, it’s full of Sils…

    Reply
    1. Alex Good Post author

      She would have fit right in. I was surprised the script didn’t run with that joke. Don’t worry about missing the sequels. I’ll be covering them the next few days.

      Reply

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