13 March 2011

Movies: Splice

Splice (2009) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1017460/

Two scientists splice together DNA from multiple animals to create cat-sized slug-like creatures that generate proteins and enzymes that can revolutionize medicine.  After the pharmaceutical company funding their research orders them to shut down and concentrate on synthesizing the beneficial components in order to start making money, they go rogue and make generate one more creature built with multiple DNA - only this time including DNA from a human. They get a little more than they bargained for.

Science fiction/drama/thriller exploring moral/ethical questions starring Adrien Brody (as Clive) and Sarah Polley (as Elsa).

Acted well, pretty good special effects, raises the standard fears of unethical scientists mucking about with combining DNA from creatures and humans. 

I've heard many a professional movie critic say how good this film is, that it is an example of what modern horror films should strive to achieve. I agree that the actors are good at playing the roles and delivering the dialog, the special effects are pretty good for the most part. The film is directed well, edited well.
But I have no clue what the critics are talking about - you can have good technical aspects of a film and still fail in other ways.
The premise isn't original. It's been done before many times. The ethical questions raised are straight out of the papers, basically giving us the worst-case chimera that is human-smart, human-ish looking, grows fast, but has dangerous aspects from the other animal DNA and kills people.  It preys directly on the fears of folks who are afraid of the words "genetically modified" - plays right into the stereotype. If this is the modern face of horror films it's a terrible example.

For me the dialog was unreal and the actions of Clive and Elsa seemed to be just a parade of two people following the worst decisions possible out of all their choices.  They really don't seem to act logically, don't seem near as smart as they'd have to be in order to be brilliant enough to build artificial wombs and grow cobbled-together-DNA creatures to full term. Now, Elsa's emotional issues stemming from her upbringing are hinted at throughout and do explain why she acts as she does in most cases. Clive has no excuse. Then, stupidly, Clive crosses a most wrong boundary for no reason at all. Elsa, of course, walks in on it. She is at first understandably angry, yet within minutes the two of them are right back where they were before, marching in lock-step as if nothing happened. Worse yet, and stereotypical, crossing that same line is forced on Elsa.

And I noticed that pretty much everything that is going to happen is telegraphed early in the film. The second half of the film almost parallels its first half. To me it got predictable quick, even the parts that weren't telegraphed by events early on in the film just seemed to be the next worst-case logical step in the progression.  No surprises.

Before I even watched the film I kept wondering if this film was going to be like 1995's Species.  There might be some similarities (DNA spliced with human DNA into a chimera, fast growing result, things get out of hand), but I was a lot more entertained by Species than by Splice. And, IMO, Species is a better movie.

Yes, in most technical aspects Splice is a good film and the actors do a fine job with what they're given, but when a tired story is trotted out and the characters act like imbeciles it just doesn't work for me.

I won't recommend not watching it, but I certainly won't recommend seeing it either.

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