The headlong rush into violent, sexy absurdity that is 1995's Species makes me pine for the days when major studios accepted pitches about supermodels who could mutate into killer aliens with little on their minds but reproducing ... Cinemax After Dark style. It's sounds goofy and indeed, it's hard to take Species as seriously as it might like. Certainly, it's a well-pedigreed film that features a pretty solid cast for what's essentially "Basic Alien Instinct" and the special effects, although a bit wobbly at times, are effectively gross.
An actually semi-plausible idea (well, at least in terms of sci-fi films) kicks Species off: SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has been scanning the skies for signals from deep space. The scientists snag a couple transmissions, one of which includes some refined DNA coding. The government eggheads fuse this alien DNA with that of a female ova, resulting, in the words of lead scientist Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley), in a "more docile" creature. This being the movies, stuff goes wrong in a hurry as the hybrid (played initially by a pre-"Dawson's Creek" Michelle Williams) escapes the lab and begins its quest to find a mate and get it on. I wish there were a bit more meat to the narrative, but there you go.
With a crack team of biologists, empaths and nefarious government hitmen (Marg Helgenberger, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker and Alfred Molina)at his disposal, Fitch tracks Sil (now played by a frequently nude Natasha Henstridge, in her feature film debut) to Los Angeles, where she's murdering without compunction and desperately trying to get laid. It's hard to believe that screenwriter Dennis Feldman really wants to take everything onscreen seriously; a lot of the dialogue feels very tongue-in-cheek and while director Roger Donaldson, keeps things moving swiftly along, many of the L.A. setpieces can't help but feel like satiric jabs at the City of Angels. Maybe I'm just reading too much into this gleefully cult movie -- all of the cast acquits itself well, and Richard Edlund's squishy FX are appropriately gooey. A film tailor-made to be enjoyed on cable, Species isn't a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch, but as turn-off-your-brain entertainment, it's worth cracking open a bag of popcorn.
Previously released a decade ago and more recently (2004) as a "special edition," Species is back again on this two-disc "collector's edition," timed to tie-in with the fourth (!) film in the series, the direct-to-video Species 4: The Awakening. Much of what's on the second disc is ported over from its 2004 release, but I'll detail the differences more thoroughly below. The DVD
Not having the 1997 or 2004 editions available for comparison, I can say that this 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very solid -- black levels are inky and rich, flesh tones are warm and accurate and sharpness isn't a problem (so much so that some of the special effects seams are occasionally glimpsed). Not quite reference quality, but great considering the film's relative cult status. The Audio:
Also making the leap from the 2004 disc is the active but not bombastic Dolby Digital 5.1 track; the music and sound effects never overwhelm the dialogue, and truly, save for the few action sequences, there isn't a whole lot for the soundtrack to do. A DTS 5.1 track (held over from the 2004 disc) is also onboard, and ever-so-slightly nudges the Dolby Digital track in terms of warmth and clarity. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 track is on board, as is a Spanish Dolby 2.0 stereo track. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are also here. The Extras:
The first disc houses the film and a pair of commentary tracks -- one features director Roger Donaldson alongside actors Michael Madsen and Natasha Henstridge and the other features Donaldson, make-up effects creator Steve Johnson, visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund and producer Frank Mancuso, Jr. These tracks are ported over from the 2004 single-disc release.
The second disc houses the bulk of the supplements. A quartet of featurettes -- the 16 minute, 48 second "Engineering Life," the 12 minute, eight second "H.R. Giger at Work," the 49 minute, six second "The Making of 'Species'" and the 15 minute, 49 second "Designing a Hybrid" -- are all presented in fullscreen and feature a mixture of old and new interviews with the film's creative team. A two minute, 20 second alternate ending, which includes a brief intro explaining its place in the film, is here, as is the original Species theatrical trailer (in anamorphic widescreen), a teaser for Species 4: The Awakening and a still gallery completes the set. Final Thoughts:
A film tailor-made to be enjoyed on cable, Species isn't a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch, but as turn-off-your-brain entertainment, it's worth cracking open a bag of popcorn. Easily the most complete Species DVD set on the market, it's recommended for the film's fans, but probably a rental for everyone else.