ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 13, 1995
By Steve Newton
Somebody should have told the makers of Species that if they’re gonna blatantly rip off other movies, they should at least do it right. It’s obvious—from the H.R. Giger–designed creature right on down to the glowing, thin-lettered logo—that the folks behind Species took Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens as the inspirations for their film.
Too bad the result is such a shabbily written, ineptly directed, and poorly acted homage to those four-star efforts.
At a secret U.S. government laboratory somewhere in the Utah desert, scientist Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) is overseeing the elimination of a potential threat to mankind in the form of what appears to be a sweet, perfectly normal 12-year-old girl. Seems that she (Michelle Williams, looking like a young Pia Zadora) is the result of the scientists’ experiments with a unique sequence of DNA that was received via transmissions from outer space.
But after videotape surveillance of the fast-growing child during REM sleep shows her making that high-pitched monster noise from Aliens while spiky protuberances rise out of her back, Fitch decides to close down the show. In what turns out to be the only smidgen of expression shown by Kingsley in his somnambulistic portrayal, a tear rolls down his cheek as technicians fill the girl’s observation chamber with cyanide gas. That’s when she/it decides it’s time to split, busting out and hopping a passing train to freak-filled L.A. just in time for some predictable “she’ll fit in well there” quips.
Desperate to destroy the alien before it can breed, the hapless Fitch assembles a hunting team of experts in various fields who turn out to be four of the dimmest and most boring characters you could find. Forest Whitaker plays an “empath” whose gift for intuiting emotions and motivations merely translates into endless, angst-ridden guesswork that goes ridiculously over the top.
Reservoir Dogs’ Michael Madsen plays former Marine Press Lennox, who specializes in tracking and eliminating yet spends most of his time smirking à la Mickey Rourke and running around with a piddly handgun most aliens would eat for breakfast.
Marg Helgenberger as a molecular biologist and Alfred Molina as an anthropology professor are also along for the ride, but their crucial roles in Species are to have frantic sex, respectively, with Lennox and the now older and beautiful alien (Canadian model Natasha Henstridge).
Once impregnated, the alien heads down to the surprisingly well-lit L.A. sewer tunnels to have a kid and await the predictable showdown, which includes a climactic human tug-of-war that’s right out of Aliens. Unfortunately, Species director Roger Donaldson is no James Cameron, and his cartoonlike, computer-generated shots of the alien in battle are the ultimate cop-out in a film more deserving of the title Feces.