(Note: This 4-disc box set is comprised of three previously released DVDs and a fourth disc of supplements that were previously unavailable in Region 1. If you already own this trilogy on DVD, just skip on down to the Disc 4 heading to see if you'll be double-dipping anytime soon.)
The original Species has a lot going for it, considering it's a cheesy little sci-fi chestnut that most people consider a "guilty pleasure." From the clever screenplay by Dennis Feldman to the crisp, efficient direction by Roger Donaldson, including several solid performances from a strange ensemble cast and several goopy shock scenes that should tickle the horror fans ... Species is a grade-A B-movie.
Story in a nutshell: Stupid scientists decide to follow a DNA recipe that arrives from beyond the stars, thereby creating "Sil," a creature who looks like a stunningly beautiful woman -- but is really a goopy, scaly, ferocious beast beneath the surface. (To say nothing of beneath the sheets.) After Sil escapes from her laboratory confines, she heads off on a quest to find a suitable mate, which means the head of the top-secret project must bring in an eclectic crew of experts to track down the horny female humanoid.
Boasting a solid cast (Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Marg Helgenberger, Forest Whitaker, Alfred Molina, and, in her debut, Natasha Henstridge) and a few rather cool sci-fi concepts, Species is as slyly smart as it is silly, and the flick delivers a clever idea that's wedged in between some rather slick action scenes. All in all, a very good time for the genre fans, and the original Species turned out to be a mildly bigger hit than anyone really expected.
Which brings us to...
Species 2 opens with a shot of a space shuttle coated with advertisements for Pepsi, Sprint, Reebok, and Miller Lite -- and this is one of the least ridiculous things in the movie. (And precisely who are those advertisements there for? It's not a bus, people, it's a space shuttle on its way to MARS.) Also, this is a movie in which Richard Belzer plays the President of the United States. But believe me; it gets even more ridiculous.
Anyway, here's how far a production team will go to construct a sequel to a movie in which the most popular character reverted back into a goopy alien and got her head blown off:
We open a mission to Mars, and it's there that astronaut Patrick Ross snags a mineral sample that's just laden with evil green alien goo. The goo makes its escape, infects the shuttle crew (who show no ill effects from the attack), and hitchhikes a ride back to Earth inside of the three most unconvincing astronauts I've ever seen.
Skipping over to Exposition Central, we learn that the hot blonde alien chick from the first movie... Yeah, they cloned her to make another one. Pretty nifty screenwriting there, eh? Ignore the fact that re-creating such a murderous beast would be the stupidest idea since unsliced bread, because let's face it: The producers had to figure out a way to get Natasha Henstridge back for the sequel. Without Natasha, you've got, well, you've got Species 3, but more on that in a minute.
Anyway, through a series of telepathy-related plot contortions that would give even Stephen Hawking a headache, the astronaut is now mega-alien boy, and Henstridge, of course, is mega-alien girl. And both of 'em are mega-alien horny. Woe is the sequel-money character actor who manages to stand in their icky alien sex-path. Suffice to say that Species 2 is packed to the gills with disgusting belly explosions, slimy alien babies, graphic demises, and a whole lot of comic book-style kookiness.
The sequel ups the "silly" ante without bringing any new brains to the table, which means you'll get a big chunk of high-end "guilty pleasure" material that'll keep you watching, even if it's not a very good movie.
Nine years after Species and five years after the first sequel, Species 3 was unleashed as a direct-to-video cheapie that's as blatantly sexy and dramatically inert as one might expect ... but apparently there's still some good, gristly fun to be mined from this concept; Species 3 offers more mindless fun than it has any right to.
Ms. Henstridge makes a charitable cameo early on, but the alluring antagonist this time around is Sara, offspring of Natasha's character, and more than a little similar to Mommy in several respects. First off, she's just amazingly beautiful, and secondly, she's not shy about gettin' down with the nakedness.
Comprised mainly of scenes, characters, and concepts cobbled together from the first two flicks, Species 3 brings a new novelty to the party. Namely, a second interstellar hottie who stays close on Sara's trail as she searches for a worthy mate. A couple of dorky college kids get involved, and there are a few extra plot divergences inserted in order to get this thing up to 112(!) minutes, but Species fans will undoubtedly notice that this second sequel suffers from frequent familiarity and glitches born from the low-budget trappings.
Still, though, there's absolutely some good fun to be found here. Species 3 is actually a more cohesive and sensible flick than part 2 is, but ultimately, it's just a lot of the same old schtick, only with newer, younger boobs contributed by a newer, younger aliengirl. It sure isn't what you'd call a "good film," but Species 3 has the sense to deliver the goods. The kills are frequent and freaky, the concept is just slick enough to tickle the sci-fi fans, and I believe I already mentioned the frequent female nudity.
Ultimately, Species is the one that stands up to repeat viewings, while the sequels work (just barely) well enough as enjoyably goofy time-wasters. And now you can own the entire trilogy (complete with an extra disc of bonus material) in one handy little box.
I: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
II: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) or Full Frame
III: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
I: Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS (English); Dolby Digital 5.1 French; Spanish Stereo Surround. Optional subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
II: Dolby Digital 5.1 English and French Stereo Surround. Optional subtitles in English and French.
III: Dolby Digital 5.1 English. Optional subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
(Same extras as the '04 Special Edition)
Two feature-length audio commentaries, one with director Roger Donaldson and actors Michael Madsen & Natasha Henstridge, and the other with Donaldson, producer Frank Mancuso Jr., FX genius Richard Edlund, and FX supervisor Steve Johnson. The first track is a laid-back and chatty little breeze; the second is (obviously) a bit more technical, but entirely listenable all the same. The two chat-tracks complement one another quite well, actually.
There's also a Species 3 Sneak Peek (5:18), which you don't really need if you bought this box set, the original Species theatrical trailer (1:51), and a bunch of other MGM sales pitches for Sci-Fi/"Earthsea" Spot, MGM Horror Montage Trailer, MGM Male Action Trailer (huh?), The Howling: Special Edition, and Jeepers Creepers 2.
(Same extras as the previous Species 2 release)
An dry and deluded audio commentary with director Peter Medak, and a collection of four deleted scenes, two of which are noteworthy in that they contain sweaty alien sexuality and/or gratuitous female nakedness. Take note, horndogs. The deleted scenes are titled The Debutants (4:07), The Strip Club (0:56), Transvestite (1:55), and (my personal favorite) Extended Tongue (0:58). Also included is the original Species 2 theatrical trailer (2:13).
(Yet again, the extras are precisely the same as the previous UNRATED release, which hit the shelves less than a year ago.)
There's a feature-length audio commentary with director Brad Turner, screenwriter Ben Ripley, and actor Robin Dunne, which is light and breezy, but not all that especially fascinating. The trio tromp rather blandly through the movie, stopping mainly to praise one another and narrate the onscreen action.
A four-part "behind-the-scenes" featurette is here, and it's broken down into the following chapters: "Evolution" (13:26), "Species DNA" (5:47), "Alien Technology" (5:18), and "Intelligent Lifeforms" (9:36). These cover the basic topics: Conception of the sequel idea, casting, practical effects, production design, digital effects, etc. Fun for a single spin if you're a big fan of the series, but that's about it. You'll also find a photo gallery and trailers for Species 3, The Ranch, Angel of Death, Lost Junction, Unspeakable, "Horror Trailer" and "MGM Means Great Movies".
OK, so the first three discs are exactly the same as the ones you Species freaks already own, so what makes it worth your while to eBay those three platters and plunk down fresh coin for this set?
It's a fourth disc of extra goodies, material previously released in overseas DVDs, but never here in good ol' region 1. Here's what's behind disc number 4:
The Origin (9:49)
The Concept (17:43)
The Discovery (21:15)
Designing a Hybrid (15:44)
H.R. Giger at Work (11:59)
Each featurette focuses on a different topic (conception, casting, production design, FX work, and creature creation, respectively), but there's some spillover info throughout. I suspect these pieces might have worked better as one whole doco, but the material's here nonetheless, and the fans will undoubtedly dig it. (The peek into Giger's workshop is particularly cool.) And yes, Natasha Henstridge shares her thoughts on being non-stop naked throughout the first flick. Interview participants include Feldman, Henstridge, director Roger Donaldson, producer Frank Mancuso Jr., special effects supervisor Richard Edlund, animatronics creator Steve Johnson, production designer John Muto, and actors Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Forest Whitaker, Alfred Molina, Michelle Williams, and Marg Helgenberger.
Also on the bonus disc are these treats:
Species: Alternate Ending (2:14) is a sweet little scene between Madsen and Marg, but I'd say it was snipped for good reason.
Species 2: Eve of Destruction (11:50) is a totally fluffy, puffy EPK featurette used to promote the sequel. Natasha Henstridge, George Dzundza, Justin Lazard, Marg Helgenberger, and Michael Madsen contribute to the "here's our plot, come see our movie" schpiel.
Species 3: Genesis (8:28) begins with a brief Species & Species 2 recap, which prepares us for the inevitable EPK for part 3, but nope. This is just a mini-wrap-up on the series and a shallow reminder that a third entry is on the way. Yawn.
So the bonus disc offers about 75 minutes of solid featurette material, one goofy deleted scene, and a pair of rather worthless promotional pieces.
I'm a big fan of the initial Species, and I'd say the sequels fall squarely into the "guilty pleasure" category. Both are filled with goopy monsters, crazy action scenes, solid body counts, colorful actors, and some really fantastic female nakedness. If you already own the Species Special Edition and don't much care for the sequels, I'd say skip the box set entirely. But if you're new to the series or you actively enjoy the two follow-ups, this 4-discer fanbox comes with our Recommended designation. The sequels are schlocky-but-fun, and the original is a seriously underrated little sci-fi/horror hybrid.
On a 1-5 scale, Species gets a solid 4, Species 2 gets a 2, and the third flick gets a 2.5. But the trilogy does make for one fun-filled evening of aliens, murders, chases, gore-splats, and frequently de-bloused boobies. The extra features are rather plentiful, too, so at least you're getting some stacked packages for your thirty bucks.