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Species II

Director: Peter Medak

USA - 1998

    Hoff! Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!    


When the first Species movie came out, I thought it was interesting, but deeply flawed.  Shape-shifting Geiger alien, one of whose shapes was attractive Natasha Henstridge.  It was kind of gory, misogynistic, and seemed to say that if humanity had real instincts, our vaunted intelligence would be subservient to our biological drives (a full counter to most of our religions and philosophies), but the effects were decent enough, if grotesque, and I’ve always had fun with shape-shifter movies (I believe the Proteus review covers that, to some degree).  It wasn’t my dear George’s favorite, even though she had petitioned to go see it, on the recommendation of her brother Sean (the smartest and friendliest punk-goth I know, or at least he used to be; he’s a bit more mainstream now, but still smart and friendly).  And now she detests it, and I’m cooled on the movie as a whole.  Even still, I found elements of it quite intriguing.  And Ben Knock, knock, it's Mars!  No, really.  See, it's all red and stuff.Kingsley played the “heavy,” really, despite Michael Madsen’s character’s fighting-man demeanor.

I can also remember when Species II came out, but it was at a bad time for going out to movies.  This was neat, though; another Sil, but male, and they had to use one of the other frozen embryos to beat him.  I could just imagine the shifter-on-shifter combat, the government game of cat and mouse…

Too bad this movie was total crap.  I should have known, after sitting through the rest of my personal Bad Movie Weekend, that my final selection would prove worthy of the event’s name.  Mind you, my local video store, Dark Star Video, has an excellent selection of excellent films, both foreign and domestic, general release and art house, but it also stocks a bunch of crap.  This isn’t to say the owner(s) has indiscriminate tastes, but there is a place for shlock as well as quality, and hey, if it rents, you might as well carry it.  And small local businesses need as much help as they can get (including yours, so stop giving your money to the mega-corporate right-wing ninnies and check out that corner shop in your neighborhood).

I should have had a hint from the preview trailers shown at the start of the tape.  Thank goodness there were no product ads, but the movies were bad enough.  Dirty Work, Phantasm 6 (“the horror movie with balls”), a few dramas, The Curse of Inferno (direct to video, starring Pauly Shore and Janeine Turner, another weaselly-thug-inexplicably connects-with-knockout movie; I like to call that the Bogart-Joel-Lovett Syndrome, and several of we internet movie reviewers seem to suffer from it), The Spree (Jennifer Beals, Powers Boothe and Rita Mareno – how can you go wrong with a cast like that?), Double Edge, Major League 3: Back to the Minors (they made it to 3?), The Butcher Boy (rather off-kilter, but looks scary, actually), that recent Tarzan movie with, inexplicably, Casper Van Dien as Tarzan, A Perfect Murder (Michael Douglas, again marrying women 1/37th his age), and Disturbing Behavior.  Can you believe they handled all that in under 8 minutes?  But no, I ignored the signs and portents, and went ahead and watched the movie, anyway.

We open on a camera-fly-by of this big framework space vessel, fronted by a classic Space Shuttle.  Oh, yes, we can’t ever get away from that design, largely because the model kits are so cheap.  The rest of the vessel, however, is appropriately non-streamlined, as would likely be the case should we ever end up constructing something like that in real life.  It also bears the labels of endorsements, providing not only product placement in the movie, but also making a comment on the increasing commercialism of even the space program.  Danger!  Danger, Will Robinson!  No, wait, maybe the rest of the movie won’t be so heavy-handed.  Maybe there’s some hope, yet, on the horizon.

And in answer to the question, no, I never do learn.  And for warning, I’m going to be explicit in some of my revelations, i.e. spoiler alert.  This movie doesn’t deserve to have the suspense it’s trying to build.

Entering orbit around Mars, pointing its belly to the planet, the vessel settles in.  Now it’s time to deploy the lander.  Big doors open up… in the top of the vessel?  Away from the planet?  The hell?  The lander jets up, wasting precious fuel, and then descends – STILL FIRING ITS JETS.  This is such an interesting twist in physics, how you can thrust in one direction, and then, without changing the vector or intensity ofThe shuttle suffers a broken hose from an unidentified system. your thrust, fall in the complete other direction.  The twin sickening crunches of insensible engineering and stupidly violated physics finally announced to me that this was not going to be a pleasant experience.  Amusing, perhaps, but not pleasant.

As the lander settles toward Mars, we see our heroic First Man on Mars, Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard, from a bunch of movies I've never really heard of and Universal Soldier: The Return), and his flight crew (nobody remembers the flight crew, but everybody remembers the first ones down.  Aldrin and Armstrong, and who stayed up in the orbiter?  See what I mean).  Since they actually do have roles in the rest of the film, the crew is Anne Sampas (Myriam Cyr, from France and Israel and Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound) and Dennis Gamble (Mykelti Williamson, all the way from Streets of Fire to Ali, with a brief stop at Free Willy 2).  They chat with Mission Control as Patrick heads down.  Wait a minute: where’s the light-speed delay?  Radio waves are not instantaneous, and it’s an incredible distance to Mars.  I haven’t crunched the numbers, but there’s got to be at least a few seconds lag between when a message is sent from Earth and reaches the ship around Mars, depending on where each planet is with respect to the other in orbit.  Ye canna change the laws of physics without inventing a new technology, but these folks apparently don’t know that.

Patrick looks overwhelmed at the enormity of his mission, but he certainly looks spiffy in his bright red vacuum suit and his bubble helmet (which, in later scenes, inexplicably disappears when he looks out a window, and then his red suit turns standard white when he leaves the lander; where was the continuity person in all this?).  The lander, um, lands, and then they wheel out these cheap little robots.  Why does he need robots?  I know there are NASA instructions to commit to robot exploration, but come on, you’ve got a perfectly good human right there!  Then Patrick leaves the lander through a blank, flat, swing-out door.  Apparently, NASA is building their planetary exploration landers out of parts from the local Home Depot.  Lander Doors!  With windows!  Only $74.99!

The robots are there for two purposes: to set up the video feed for Man’s First Step on Mars, and to drill out some earth samples.  Now, the video camera thing, I can almost understand; it would be good to have a video feed for the public interest angle, to continue support for the space program.  But wouldn’t it be simpler to just equip your man with a hand-held driller?  Especially since he has to follow the little robot around and transfer each sample it drills into a hand-held carrying case.  With that kind of manual involvement, you might as well have the guy do the whole thing.  Particularly since you leave the robots behind!  Why?  It cost the government at least a few bucks to make them (probably millions, no matter how cheap they look), and it’s not like you didn’t have a perfectly good human to load them in.  I mean, the reason we abandoned the previous robots is because there was never a planned return trip; this time, there’s a definite return trip, so there’s not a need to leave lots of expensive equipment behind.  In fact, the robots are the only things left behind.  D’oh!

Better yet, when the lander (the whole thing) gets up to the ship, doors open IN THE BOTTOM of the craft hangar.  Let me get this straight; you built two sets of doors when one would have done, made one exit and one entrance… for what reason, now?  No really, explain it to me.  Twice as much potential for error, for break-down, and a very suspicious methodology in deployment.  What manual does this appear in?  Oh, wait, that’s right, this was a NASA project.  That explains everything.

Okay, while this has been going on, there’s cut-away shots to the crowds on Earth, celebrating the First Man on Mars.  Including Peter Boyle in a mental institution, throwing furniture, sort of a throwback to Dream Team, but without the nudity.  Boy, here I thought he was doing well enough on Everybody Loves Raymond, but no, he was forced to do this piece of crap.  Actually, his lunacy, while not comic, provides a touch of action in an otherwise profoundly slow and stupid section of the movie.  One can almost forgive the parroting of insane “scientific conclusions” the writers gave him later on.  Boy, I’m thinking the movie should have been set entirely where it was written: in the loony bin.  Instead, we just get momentary glimpses.

As the astronauts are preparing to leave orbit, one of their samples breaks free, but they do not hear a darn thing.  Apparently, deafness was considered an acceptable flaw in our finest space-goers.  Intelligent sludge stalks through the ship in a tense, gripping action scene leading to taut suspense… ah, who am I kidding?  It takes far too long for things to happen, and when they do, they’re not worth it.  However, finally, everybody is off and running to Earth.  We skip forward to when the shuttle disengages from the rest of the apparatus, and goes in for landing.  I suppose the rest of it either drifts into orbit or shoots off into the sun, to gradually add to the heat-death of the universe.  Dear God, let it come soon!  As you can see, the movie is already having its effect.

The astronauts are given physicals, and then are put under quarantine, which apparently means they can’t have sex for two weeks.  What?  I though quarantine was when you wanted to make sure there were no Wait, I've had this dream before!infectious agents, not just STDs.  You can transmit a heck of a lot without sexual contact, people!  But then, you wouldn’t have the risk of this kind of plague, now, would we?  So they’re forbidden to Do It, and then let free, to spread those space germs far and wide.  Oh, except they gave their word not to, you know, and as we all know, solemn vows are never, ever broken.  Especially not by hot-blooded young military guys.

In any case, we cut to Natasha Henstridge (reprising her alien role from the first movie) strapped naked in a complicated bondage chair.  Unfortunately, it’s not as fun as it sounds.  However, the chair does have a full-motion mounting, going up and down and sliding around.  They used this motion to gas her with some kind of caustic agent.  The hell?  Why put all that engineering into a custom gimballed PlayChair™ when you’re just going to use it for something that you could use, oh, a Lay-Z-Boy™ for?  That’s the government for you.  Anyway, so they gas her, and then the lead scientist, Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger, from the first movie and CSI), calls a halt to the proceedings.  Seems this time, she’s more personally connected to the test subject, Eve (which name makes more sense than Sil.  What was Sil, short for Silver?  Silmarillion?  Silective?  Silly?); she’s raised Eve in a male-free environment, so her mating instinct doesn’t get triggered.  Which, actually, doesn’t mean she couldn’t have sexual feelings, just not that male-triggered reproductive drive.  Which, by the way, would put it in an entirely different class of movie, but we can’t review those here.  In any case, she’s protective of her charge.

It turns out that the alien DNA enables her to eventually acclimate to any chemical agent that might otherwise kill her.  It’s not that she can’t be killed, it’s more like if she can survive exposure for long enough, she develops immunity.  This is a problem for the Pentagon guys, represented by Colonel Carter Burgess Jr. (though his name was never fully mentioned, played by George Dzundza, with a hugely fake-looking white eye device; I’ve seen the man in Crimson Tide, Dangerous Minds, and a bunch of TV, and he had no such appearance.  Apparently, they couldn’t afford a good eye patch).  They see Eve as nothing more than a lab rat, but Dr. Laura has gone to lengths to avoid that approach, seeing how well it worked with Sil.

That night, the astronauts are being given this lovely state dinner in their honor, generally sponsored by Ross’s father, the Congressman (James Cromwell, a long way from Babe; heck, he’s a long way from Star Trek: First Contact).  Although Ross comes with his beautiful blonde fiancée, he is almost immediately shown rolling around with some older brunette woman.  Who is she?  Did she just pick him up?  How did she have time?  Does she have a name?  All questions which are never answered.  It’s not really important, though it’s annoying that such a pivotal scene is so shoe-horned in.  He’s breaking his promise to stay clean for the quarantine, but he’s not even doing it with his loved one.  Yeah, I feel for his pain, I really empathize with his regret and remorse.  Freakin’ chump.

So, he finally gets pulled back to the dinner, gives a creepy speech, and next thing we know, he’s going up to the woman’s room, where she and her personal assistant are waiting.  This has moderate interest factor, until you realize later that they’re just tag-teaming.  Not that it’s not sexy in its way (if that’s what you’re into), but part of the fun of a threesome is mixing it all up, all the logistics of an extra body, that kind of thing.  The tag-team method is less effective, because after the first, you’re just more sleepy than anything else, so you don’t usually have enough energy to deal with a fresh woman coming to bed.  Er, or at least, that’s what I’ve heard.  Yeah.  Anyway, there’s a bit of nudity, and the movie’s progressing nicely (logistics aside), but it goes wrong oh, so suddenly.  We’ve seen what female aliens are like when they reproduce, from the first movie; apparently male aliens are more vicious, and tip their hands way early.  Not that time is all that much of a factor, because onset of symptoms is almost instant.  So it’s an Alien-style chest-burster effect, but not in the chest.  Eeewww.  Also, there are tentacles, for no good reason.  What’s the point of that?  Other than audience gross-out, that is.

At the same time, Eve is experiencing elevated responses, but doesn’t know why.  It seems to take forever for any scientists to follow up on this; wouldn’t this be a situation that demands instant research?  Further, after all this, Ross apparently does a good clean-up job.  No mention of those two women is ever made, and all we see of the results is Ross leading these two little boys (yes, that fast) into a barn or something.  Apparently, he just leaves them there.  Yes, this is the father of the master race.

A NASA doctor (Baxter Harris, in a step up from his usual background cop/coroner role) discovers something wrong with Ross’s blood, and tries to contact Peter Boyle, but the man’s in his nightly straight-jacket, and can’t come to the phone.  However, the blood figures out how to kill him, anyway.  Smart blood, that.  But not smart enough to eliminate all the DNA traces!  So now, the Pentagon is tipped that there’s another alien out there.  Nice going, blood, you big dope.  And the hunt is on!  Which means we have to assemble the hunters, again.

So we cut to a SWAT team assault on an embassy, or something.  It’s all very neat and military, and then Mike Madsen, as Preston Lennox, steps out and starts making a presentation to some assembled dignitaries.  Seems he’s gone private sector, although this is a bit high-profile for a former Government Assassin.  Something along the lines of Martin Blank’s operation in Grosse Point Blank is more of what I would expect.  But then again, I might also expect some basic engineering knowledge, and we’ve seen how that was handled.  Lennox is roped in by the offer of a million dollars, tax free (can the Government do that?  And if they’ve got that kind of money to offer a guy for one job, why the heck can’t I get a refund from the IRS?).  It’s too bad they couldn’t see clear to get Forest Whitaker in on this one, but then again, he’s got a bit too much independent cred after Ghost Dog.  Plus, he’s too smart for this movie.

Somehow, Carter and Lennox get into Eve’s no-males-allowed work space, and Dr. Baker (quite rightly, actually) demands that they leave.  We get a bit of arguing that wants to be banter between Lennox and Baker, as their relationship obviously went south not long after the last movie.  But they have to work together: the Pentagon demands it!  So they figure out that the dead NASA doctor called for Peter Boyle, and they go and talk to the loon.

You know he’s a loon, because he starts spouting off “scientific conclusions” that nobody can reasonably assess.  Of course, the movie being what it is, his “conclusions” are accurate with regard to the plot, and serve to explain the background of the alien attack, and that’s why the Government had him committed, toNatasha Henstridge begins preparations for an evening out. keep him out of their business.  Excepting for the moment the idea that the Government would bother committing him, when a bullet in the brain would be much cheaper, I have to take exception to his science.  Sure, it’s valid to theorize about the possibility of life on Mars, based on the 1996 meteorite find, but what’s this nonsense about carbon-based elements found only in a different galaxy?  I wasn’t aware that we had much in the way of materials science from much beyond our immediate star system, much less such specific analysis.  And I know the evidence in the meteorite was on the level of cellular fossils, largely microscopic; how do you reasonably extrapolate a whole biome out of that, with any reasonable accuracy, much less what happened to it?  And the military has strategic plans for Mars.  Just so you all know.  After all, while there’s no enemy that far out, and a military base on the moon would not only be cheaper but would be in a much better strike range, Mars is the planet of war.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Oh, and by the way, in the first movie, the alien DNA was produced by humans using data transmitted to the SETI receivers, along with a catalyst for methane, to turn it into a technological energy source.  Now it’s being portrayed as a plague that already killed the life off of Mars.  So, which is it?  Both?  I could see that, perhaps, but the methodology is completely different.  In the first movie, you had to be born to it to be an alien.  That brought out the whole nature vs. nurture conflict, and put the time pressure on the team to find Sil before she reproduced.  Now, the method of initial transmission is vastly different, enabling a full-grown human to be changed into a human/alien hybrid.  Forget the reproductive angle at first; import some of that sludge, and your goals are accomplished.  Waiting for the biological process to work is so slow, even for the hottie-killing superman alien; it doesn’t make sense to have an infection vector that leads to a much less efficient methodology.  But at the heart of it, man, it wouldn’t be possible for the script to actually have a thematic connection to the first movie, would it?  Of course not.

Also, at this point in the movie, we realize that allowing Eve to have a more “normal” existence means that she loves crap, too, judging by her normal TV habits.  Just like a typical American.  If they let her have Internet access, I bet she loves the Stomp Tokyo mega-sites!  (yes, yes, I’m shameless, let’s just accept it and move on.)

So, now they’re on the hunt for the Mars astronauts.  But it’s the night that their STD quarantine expires.  Ross has already tried to confide in his hard-butt pol father, after he broke quarantine that one night, but to no avail.  He’s with his way-too-obliging girlfriend, Sampas is with her husband, and Gamble’s picked up some fine woman.  There is supposed to be some kind of tension, but we know the movie’s only half over (only half?  Feels like I’ve been watching this for days!), so we know Ross won’t get caught.  He has to keep the pressure on, after all.  The ensuing pseudo-action does bring up a question; how the heck is this thing supposed to propagate itself if it keeps killing those who it touches?  Except for Ross, of course, but that’s because he’s the lead in the movie.

Actually, when Ross wakes up, he finds himself covered in blood, his girl dead beside him.  He does the logical thing; takes a shotgun, goes out on the porch, and uses it on himself.  This is probably the goriest but yet coolest bit in the movie.  In no way does it excuse the rest of the film, mind you, but seeing the head explode, and then build itself up again from the inside out… and they leave the blood-line accurately!  So, after blowing away his own brain, the brain that is re-constructed has significantly fewer scruples, and so he takes the doe-eyed boy who is left (there’s always a doe-eyed boy left, afterward), and takes him down to stay with the other two.  We never see what he does with the bodies, you understand.  Later on, when he starts preying on strippers and prostitutes (kudos, by the way, for showing a strip club that is relatively accurate, as compared to the clubs in, say The Hidden or Innocent Blood, which really don’t hold water compared to what little I’ve seen of reality), they realize there’s a serial killer on the loose, but I can’t tell if it’s because they’ve started to find bodies, or if it’s because the girls just disappear.  This is the kind of grisly detail that is, in practical terms, important, yet gets glossed over in most movies.  Here, it’s glossed over to the point of being mostly ignored.  Which it really shouldn’t be, because, man, that’s a lot of kids he’s got, at the one point that you see them all.

So during this time, Eve is agitated.  She wants to help, but she’s, you know, a lab rat.  So they offer to put her through this process where they’ll “activate her alien genes.”  Activate her genes?  This isn’t going to be like that thing with the electric dance belt, is it?  But seriously, apparently her genes are located in Zefram Cochrane, the pre-War yearsthe middle of her brain, because they have this extensive set-up with lasers and radial tomography and all that crap.  You know, I’d think something that organic would be better served with an injection.  Physics to Chemistry to Biology, that’s the steps, I believe.  But no, they want to skip over a step.  What do you expect from folks who can’t even put together a believable Mars lander, when you’ve already got ample historical examples?

So she starts homing in on his actions, seeing through his eyes.  She uses this to give the field team a fix on where the man is.  He homes in on a woman in a supermarket.  Man, kind of an obvious place to pick someone up, don’t you think?  You know, security tapes, all that?  And why fixate on just this one woman?  We’ve already seen in the first movie that the alien instinct turns down those with faulty genes or transmissible diseases (and indeed, this is restated in this movie), but come on, why follow this woman all the way back to the produce aisle?  And then attack her and drag her through the building… to the outside?  The heck?  It’s a busy parking lot, you’d think someone would see all this, with her screaming and all that.  Damn, his technique is sloppy.  If it was going to be this much trouble, you’d think he’d pick someone else.  I mean, come on, Ross, your blood was smarter than this on its own!  Man, what else did you lose when you blew your head off?  But, of course, even though the Most Inept Kidnapper/Rapist/Murderer can’t keep his victim quiet, the Goon Squad still goes a knockin’ on the wrong van a’rockin’.  And I mean, come on, how likely is that, anyway, in the middle of a supermarket parking lot?

But the key is, Ross has a chance to see through Eve’s eyes, too.  Duh, it works both ways, kids!  So he gives himself up to get inside, and when he does, he breaks free and runs to find Eve.  Oh, the heat!  I’ve never seen two people less involved with each other try to fake sexual passion.  Oh, wait, yes I have: the shower scene in The Specialist.  Crikey.  Anyway, so when nobody will open the door for him, he gets all psycho, and then has to flee.  And he gets away, surprisingly, when later on, Eve (yes, she must break out, didn’t you see that coming?) has very stiff competition.

So now we’re getting down to the wire, and the kids are going into cocoons to undergo metamorphoses into adults.  Eve is, like, pacing her cage like a beast.  Finally, she decides to bust out, and she makes a decent showing of it (and no, I’m not making a crack about her undies, though others should take the tip that when breaking out of a high-security installation bare-handed, it’s better to wear pants, rather than an admittedly lovely sun-dress), until she gets peppered with lead up on the surface.  But then she’s up!  She’s up and running!  Apparently, bullets are just another vector that she has to analyze and eliminate.  After that, not even the kinetic energy of the bullets seems to affect her.  What?  Even monster-Sil had to deal with bullets knocking her around.  So Eve, you can deal with the impact trauma, sure, but what biological adaptation allows you to negate inertia?  Sign me up for that one, baby!  I could make millions, just in the car safety devices!  Not to mention military applications…  but anyway, after proving she’s bra-less in a slow-motion running scene, she hops into a Jeep, and takes off.  Seems her favorite show is Dukes of Hazard (“round about this time, that Eve was cookin’ up a mess of trouble…”), so she can drive like a maniac.  Except she doesn’t; that would put the movie over-budget.  And except that wouldn’t work; if it did, I would have been an expert stunt driver by the time I was 13.

I know people go on about the idiocy of Hollywood movies, but it seems especially prevalent when you’re dealing with science fiction.  I realize it’s not always the fault of the writers, because scripts get adulterated far beyond reason, but without knowing the back-story, it’s hard to know who to blame.  Regardless, it has always seemed to be a general attitude in Hollywood that “it’s sci-fi; who cares if it makes sense?”  Look, pally, just because you can’t understand Anthony or Asimov or Herbert or Niven or Van Vogt or pretty much anybody quality doesn’t mean that SF doesn’t make sense, it just means that you can’t deal with anything longer than a one-page double-spaced summary.  My sister said once that people who don’t understand a movie generally say it’s stupid.  I would also say that people who try to make an SF movie without understanding the source are doomed to make a stupid movie.

Hollywood seems to think people want “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen, when we were capable of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game a while ago.  Not that Smith isn’t a fun read, in a juvenile frame of mind, bAs this is a mainstream movie, you just know this will end badly.ut there’s no reason to turn off the brain just because a story has SF elements.  If anything, good SF stories are all the more rigorous in terms of self-consistency.  Why not SF movies or TV?  Because people are lazy, I’d imagine.  Granted, there are people who try to stick to the ground rules, at least, but they’re few in far between.  On TV, for all their flaws, Andromeda and Dark Angel give it a shot, though I’ve given up on E:FC or any of the Star Trek franchise for maintaining technical consistency.  Buffy and Angel, Babylon 5, and that superhero/love story Now and Then were pretty good on that count, Quantum Leap only really had one gimmick to worry about, and Sliders stayed fairly true for the first couple of seasons.  Those are all exceptions.  In movies, the rule-breakers are too numerous to count.

My point being, it frustrates the hell out of me.  For all the intelligent fiction I read, I have to sit through dumbed-down visual media, where the relative scientific accuracy of Evolution shines through.  Why is it that a movie getting the number of base pairs in terrestrial DNA right counts as a victory in my mind?  Have my expectations sunk so low?  Apparently so.  You would think it would be simple to get modern science right, and trickier to project futuristic developments (a la Strange Days), but you really have to shake your head when they can’t even get today’s facts correct.

Okay, back to the review.  Sorry about the diatribe; just call me Mr. Tangent.

After the break-out, it doesn’t surprise me that she finds where he is; there is that psychic link, and all.  What does surprise me is that she’s lost her undies somewhere.  There’s a lot of H. R. Giger (the famous artist who designed the Alien aliens and the first Species) model-work, or maybe it’s CGI; whenever you’re dealing with those Alien-like designs, it can be hard to tell.  This is the first actual alien-sex scene I can recall (as opposed to the dream-images of the first one), and it’s… not pleasant.  Not that you would expect it to be, especially given the earlier portions of the movie.  I suppose it’s supposed to seem primal, but when it’s not ugly, it’s just dull.  Come on, they’re supposed to be a form of shape-shifter.  Not hugely plastic, perhaps, but still, they’re sticking to the fairly conventional.  Er, relatively speaking.  When it comes down to it, they’re pretty wimpy as shape-shifting critters; they seem to kill best by stealth.  Unlike Sil, who was hell on wheels when she got going.  Then there’s a last-ditch effort to stop the spread, and then a climatic battle, and then the thoroughly stupid denouement, involving way too many people in an ambulance (there’s no place to hide in those things, people; they’re built for efficiency, not for concealment) and, at this late point, what seems like a Spring-Loaded Cat™.  And then the old chestnut, “it’s not really over because…” just like the squirming teddy bear in Screamers.  And just as useless.

I suppose I should comment on the people behind the scenes.  Director Peter Medak was responsible for a heck of a lot of TV, including some Space 1999, Hart to Hart, Crime Story, Beauty and the Beast, China Beach, and an episode of The Return of the Saint.  He also did a couple of episodes of Kindred: The Embraced.  I suppose he must have done the best he could with what he had to work with, but come on, a man of his experience must have been embarrassed with the final product; I'm surprised it's not an Alan Smithee film.  Dennis Feldman (listed on the IMDb as responsible for "characters") wrote and produced Just One of the Guys, The Golden Child, and the first Species.  I'm conflicted over the first two, but you would have thought that the author of the first screenplay would have been able to get the freaking background details correct!  Aaaargh!  Writer Chris Brancato also stands accused of writing ...here I am, stuck in the middle with you...several episodes of Beverly Hills, 90210, and The X-Files, as well as creating the TV series First Wave.  Besides establishing the Spelling connection with Medak, I don't know what that means as to his culpability in this wretched mess.

This is not a very friendly movie.  The first film seemed to want make some argument about instinct and intellect, predators and humanity, while this one just seemed to be an excuse for gore and dreadful violence against women.  Eve is more of a puppet, even when she becomes more alien, she’s at the mercy of her counterpart.  The first movie had enough buttons to push, this one takes those and moves even farther down the line.  It’s ugly and weak, and the numerous pretty faces and bosoms and butts of the essentially disposable actresses tend to actually bring it down, counter to general expectations for nudity.  Well, my personal general expectations, anyway.  It’s sad when a shapely actress baring all can’t make it a more pleasant viewing experience.  But then, that’s perhaps the point of the exercise, to further demonize promiscuous sex.  Maybe.  If it has a point at all.

We came close to a Flair on this one, but in the long run, it’s more likely to put you to sleep than it is likely to make you whack your neighbor, thereby avoiding the fate.  However, individual results may vary.

Peter Boyle, Man of Action!



These are the times of which to cherish...

- Michael Madsen trying to make as little of an impression on this movie as possible.  Not since my last viewing of Michael Caine in On Deadly Ground have I seen such a phoned-in performance, and with such good reason.  Both of these actors occasionally display the knowledge that they’re in crap movies, and behave accordingly.  There’s something I can respect about that.

- Why do they close the door of the weapons area, when there’s nobody but authorized people in the whole area?  So they can be trapped when something happens, of course!  Wouldn’t make much sense, otherwise.

- Proof that all good alien shape-shifters buy Haynes.  Of course, once they really turn bad, the Haynes briefs disappear.  So Haynes are derived from morality.  Useful to know.

- Excellent use of a supermarket, for all the flaws of the action; points for that.  Not since Spaceman has a market served so ably as a setting.

- True proof that when the van’s a-rockin’…


-- Copyright © 2002 by E. Mark Mitchell





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