*. No number in the title, but this is Species IV. It was originally going to be called Species: Quattro, perhaps because it’s set partly in Mexico and was a U.S-Mexican co-production. As for The Awakening, I’m not sure what is being awakened here. Miranda isn’t waking up but dying, and the film itself seems more like a final chapter or epilogue to the series. At least it hasn’t been followed up (yet) with any further sequels.
*. Not a movie that I think many people saw when it came out (like Species III it premiered on the Sci Fi channel), and not one that I think many people think highly of today. But without wanting to just be perverse, I think it should be rated the most successful entry in the franchise.
*. I don’t mean that it’s the best Species movie. It was, however, done on a fraction of the budget of the first two films and without any of the star power. Ben Cross? Not a name I’d heard for a long time. It took a second for me to remember he was one of the runners in Chariots of Fire (1981). He’s been in a few things after that, none of them standing out very much. But I had seen him in Paperhouse (1988) — a film I’d mostly forgotten about, though I do have vague memories of thinking it was pretty good. He also played Spock’s father Sarek in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek.
*. What I mean by calling The Awakening the most successful Species movie is that it does a respectable job of the one thing that the other movies should have taken as their bread and butter: SF monster action. Again I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for saying this is very well handled, but there are several decent scenes in this movie where we get to see the aliens in action. In one Tom (Cross) is pursued by an evil flying nun and in another he has to go one-on-one against an alien cab driver. Then there’s a showdown between Miranda (Helena Mattsson) and Azura at the end that, again while not exceptional, is at least a decent slugfest. In the previous movies there was nothing as good.
*. The story takes the basic idea in a slightly different direction. Tom and an old colleague spliced Miranda together out of human and alien DNA. Tom went on to raise Miranda on his own (claiming to be her uncle) while his colleague . . . started a genetic chop-shop in a Mexican slum. When Miranda nears the end of her natural life cycle Tom has to hunt his old friend down to see if he can fix her up.
*. It’s not an idea that stands up to close inspection. I love how the reborn Miranda slimes her way out of her cocoon only to have perfect hair and makeup a few minutes later. Or maybe perfect hair and makeup are alien camouflage. Meanwhile, one of the few connecting points to the earlier films has Miranda able to absorb the contents of a book just by placing her hands on it (something that Sara did with a book on the rules of chess in Species III). And yet despite her vast knowledge (she holds “advanced degrees in biochemistry, comparative literature, and classics”) she has no self-awareness. Apparently she has never even questioned these abilities.
*. The movie is also coloured in the sickly blue-green aquarium tones that for some reason became very popular in SF movies around this time. Have we seen the last of them? They don’t seem quite as prevalent these days but I wouldn’t count them out.
*. In short, it’s cheap and silly but throws in some OK action sequences that are enough to make it, in my opinion, just as interesting as the other Species films. I certainly found it a big step up from Species III, and given what they had to work with I thought it did as good a job as Species or Species II. Looking back, this is a series that never made much out of its promising basic premise. None of these movies is particularly sexy or scary or funny or thrilling. I feel a little nervous about saying it, but a reboot wouldn’t be a bad idea.