A bit of old-fashioned sci-fi fun, "Species" went on to become one of the biggest sleeper hits of 1995. Purely B-movie material, the film managed to work thanks to terrific casting and slick style from director Roger Donaldson and cinematographer Adrzej Bartkowiak (who went on to become a director himself).
The film opens with Sil, a young alien/human hybrid, about to be terminated. In the middle of things, she breaks out of the government lab she's been locked in, and goes on the run. Proceeding to grow faster and faster, by the time she reaches Los Angeles, she has taken on her adult form (Natasha Henstridge).
Meanwhile, Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley), the scientist who created her, has hired a team of experts to join him in tracking her down. These include: hired assassin, Preston Lennox (Michael Madsen); a biologist, Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger); an "empath", Dan Smithson (Forest Whitaker) and Dr. Stephen Arden (Alfred Molina). Once Sil hits Los Angeles, she realizes her biological clock is ticking, and sets out to find men to breed with her, who all wind up dead after. If she gives birth, human kind is essentially done.
The film generates mild tension at times during its mid-section, as the team somehow manages to be right behind Sil at all times. Attempts at a deeper story - Sil trying to cope with her half-human, half-alien form - are essentially forgotten about. Although a few of the film's jump-scares work (there's one great sequence where two team members replace a camera in a sealed lab, not realizing a creature had already started growing), there's a couple of ridiculous ones (such as one involving a squirrel).
The film's performances are perfectly good, considering the material. Leading the way is Madsen, whose cynical performance gets some genuine laughs. Also good are Whitaker, Kingsley and Helgenberg. Molina is pretty much wasted in a minor role and Henstridge looks great, but doesn't do much actual acting. Overall, "Species" isn't great art, but it's a fun genre picture that moves along well enough and entertains.
VIDEO: "Species" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This appears to be a new transfer, and while it does have its share of faults, it is a largely satisfying effort. Sharpness and detail are generally solid, as the picture appeared crisp and detailed throughout the majority of the film. Some minor softness was visible at times, but it seemed to be an intentional element of the photography.
The picture appeared free of edge enhancement, but some minor instances of pixelation were noticed in a couple of the darker sequences. The print appeared to be in fine shape, aside from a couple of light specks and a mark or two. Light-to-mild grain that was present in some scenes is part of the look of the film.
Colors appeared natural, looking well-saturated and clean, with no smearing or other faults. Black level looked solid, while flesh tones were accurate.
SOUND: "Species" is presented by MGM in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. The film's soundtrack is fairly ordinary, for an action picture. Surrounds are put to use here-and-there (a helicopter/car chase later in the film), but there's really not much in the way of creative use of the rear speakers throughout. Dialogue and effects seemed well-recorded, while occasional deep bass was heard. Both the DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks seemed equal.
EXTRAS: A commentary from director Roger Donaldson and actors Natasha Henstridge and Michael Madsen is included, as well as an additional commentary from director Roger Donaldson, make-up effects creator Steve Johnson, producer Frank Mancuso and visual effects supervisor Richard Endlund. The commentary with the two actors is a fun "look back" at the production, as Donaldson and the pair joke about some of the behind-the-scenes stories and try to recall tidbits about the production. The second commentary is fun, but a bit more technical, as we learn about construction of the visual effects, conceptualization of the creatures and more.
The DVD also includes a brief look at the upcoming "Species III", a trailer for "Species" and promos for other MGM titles.
Final Thoughts: "Species" is an entertaining sci-fi picture that still holds up fairly well nearly 10 years later. The new DVD edition offers very good video quality, fine audio and some new supplements - mainly a couple of informative commentaries. Recommended.