Director: Roger Donaldson
Stars: Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
When this film came out in 1995 it made a lot out of the fact that the creature design was based off the work of artist H.R. Giger. You know, the same guy that designed the creepy critter in Alien. So you know the monster will look good, but is there anything more to the creature feature or is it style (looks) over substance? Well let’s find out.
Aliens make contact with the Earth, but not like how you think they would. They send a message coded with their DNA and instructions on how to combine it with human DNA. The government decides to do this and the result is a little girl who grows up very fast. In fact: too fast. In a couple of months she looks as if she’s a teenager, so the government decides to kill the half breed, but the alien does not agree with that idea and she escapes. A quick metamorphosis later and she is now the stunningly beautiful Natasha Henstridge, and now that she’s all grown up she’s looking for a baby daddy. You see this was all the alien’s plan to do away with us all along. They FedExed us our own doom and allowed us to put it together. If this femme-alien is allowed to breed, it will spell disaster for humanity because its offspring will be legion and take over the Earth.
To stop this the government assembles a super strike force team headed up by Michael Madsen as the tough guy, Ben Kingsley as the brain, Forest Whitaker as an on-again/off-again psychic with unreliable powers, etc. This group then begins a cat and mouse game with the alien hybrid, called Sil, as she scours Los Angeles for the right man to jump her bones. Surprisingly this is harder than you would think it would be for someone who looks like Natasha Henstridge, but that is just the beginning of where this movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The chase that takes up the majority of this movie is pretty hit-or-miss, relying on a lot of coincidences and happenstance for it to all come together. Then there are the aforementioned psychic powers which sometimes work with amazing accuracy in a crowded room, other times they can sense nothing, even if the target is just six feet away hiding behind some bushes. They basically function as needed for the sake of the plot. As for the alien, Sil, it is ridiculous how complex its plan is when you consider the whole “fish out of water” thing they try to do, and that it is much less than a year old. But the chase is fun most of the time and the alien, when it shows its true form, is pretty memorable and you can definitely see the influence from Alien in there. But this critter is also very feminine, and yes that includes nipple tentacles, because why the hell not? Unfortunately a lot of that alien look is represented through the use of early CGI which doesn’t hold up well. Truth be told, that didn’t look all that good when it first came out and things have only gone downhill over the years.
Let’s get to those extras that’s on this two disc special edition from Scream Factory. There is an audio commentary with director Roger Donaldson and stars Natasha Henstridge and Michael Madsen. There is also a second commentary with director Donaldson, makeup artist Steve Johnson, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund, and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. There is a 36-minute retrospective on making the movie, an over 16 minute interview with Natasha Henstridge, a vintage behind the scenes feature that runs nearly 17 minutes, a look at the work of alien artist H.R. Giger that’s 12 minutes in length, yet another making of featurette that’s nearly 50 minutes long, and a special about creating the alien on screen that is over 15 minutes long. Wait, we’re still not done. There is also an alternate ending, theatrical trailer, production design gallery, creature design gallery, and a general still gallery. Now that’s a lot of bang for your buck.
Species is a fun monster flick that has a very few thrills but not much more than that. If you can take it at face value and that’s all you want, you should get some enjoyment out of this movie. If you’re looking for something more, a game changer like Alien, for example, you will be disappointed. But for a cool creature, some nice action beats, and a fair amount of nudity from the lovely Ms. Henstridge, this one can be stupid fun, and I like that, so it gets a recommendation from me.