- Natasha Henstridge as Sil
- Ben Kingsley as Xavier Fitch
- Michael Madsen as Press Lennox
- Alfred Molina as Dr. Stephen Arden
- Forest Whitaker as Dan Smithson
- Marg Helgenberger as Dr. Laura Baker
- Michelle Williams as Young Sil
Scientists tampering with what they really shouldn’t and the horrifying product of this are given a sexy edge in Species; a sci-fi/horror-thriller. If you are looking for logic, look elsewhere as this film is all about the entertainment factor and that is where it delivers the goods.
After sending a telescope into space many years prior to search for extraterrestrial life, a highly secret government science lab gains the knowledge and means of how to splice human and alien DNA. The project, headed up by Xavier Fitch, is put into effect and sets about using these newly gained information for a genetic engineering program. The program is a success with the production of Sil; who appears to look like a young girl, but whose genetic make up christen her as a hybrid who grows from a baby into a young girl in a matter of days. When it becomes known to Fitch that she exhibits potentially dangerous parts to her, he decides to shut down the operation. He has cyanide gas pumped into her chamber in order to kill her, but Sil has developed agility and super strength and escapes from her confines. Worried that this experiment will be exposed, Fitch assembles a team that will track her down. The team features assassin Press Lennox, British anthropologist Dr. Stephen Arden, molecular biologist Dr. Laura Baker and empath Dan Smithson. By the time the rag-tag team has been briefed and begin searching for her, she has already matured into a beautiful woman who enters Los Angeles. Quickly absorbing things from the world around her, Sil sets out on a mission to mate and reproduce. The hitch is that as she is a predator when she feels threatened she attacks, leaving a host of dead bodies in her wake as she seeks out the perfect mate. The team follow her, but find it difficult keeping up with the spawn as her growing mind and alien abilities provide no shortage of confusion. If Sil does successfully conceive and give birth, it would produce a whole new kind of species that the world would not be able to handle. The mission to stop this is now on as the team discover the motives of the creature.
Roger Donaldson takes what is basically a clichéd and slightly silly plot and has a ball with it. He creates a fun ride that is scary and sexy in that order. His glossy filming style and handling of pace is also in evidence throughout Species. I enjoyed how Donaldson opened the film with not giving us a lot of information as Sil escapes. Something about it really stuck with me as enigmatic and a little atmospheric, as I do enjoy a cold open in a film that leaves you wanting to know more.I have to praise the practical effects that made Sil look so good and especially when the beast side emerges. The CGI used is however a bit underwhelming, and they should have really stuck with the ace practical effects and artistry instead. The script of Species is one that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and is probably the weakest are of the movie. It tries to be both entertaining and intellectual, but is lacking in the latter part. When you hear the characters discussing either the genetic make up or scientific parts of Sil, it just rings more than a little hollow as it never provides much of an insight to her or the other characters. I think it is best to enjoy Species as what it is, a sort of B-movie given the Hollywood treatment and fun that doesn’t require much in the way of straining the brain. And on the horror front, Species hits bulls eye with some pretty icky and gruesome deaths arising from Sil and her insatiable desire. Though with the other positive elements to be found in the picture, the weak script can be sort of forgiven as the film hurtles along with thrills and horror. The exceptional score from Christopher Young has an unusual but necessary vibe to it; switching quickly from eccentric sounds to quickening thrills in a matter of minutes.
Despite the shortcomings of the script, a highly capable set of actors give life and personality to their parts. In what was her debut role, former model Natasha Henstridge plays the pretty predator who is half human and half alien. While Henstridge is physically ideal for the part with a gorgeous face and shapely body(that is displayed prominently), she also demonstrates considerable acting skill as Sil uses her instincts that she acquires at an alarming rate. Her reactions to the world are interesting to watch, as she soaks up what makes humans tick and then through primal desire, takes deadly control. She doesn’t know why she is the way she is, but slowly her vicious, cunning and savage need takes hold and her seductive smile is just the start of mayhem. Ben Kingsley is pretty good as the scientist concerned about the implications of his creation and pretty selfish in his motivations too. I enjoyed the presence of Michael Madsen as the wise ass man of action, whose sarcastic attitude and skill with a gun make him pretty forceful in hunting down Sil. You can tell that Madsen is having a good time in this part. Alfred Molina was pretty solid as the snarky guy in the team, while the sensitive vibe of the reliably good Forest Whitaker strikes more emotion into his part than was probably scripted. Marg Helgenberger does very well as the only female in the group who is the most curious member to be sure. And look out for a young Michelle Williams playing Sil when she looks like a girl before her transformation. All of the actors present rise above the flaws in writing to keep you watching as the carnage unfolds.
So the CGI can be dated, the script a bit scatter shot and the whole exercise more than a little sleazy, but Species still dazzles in a tongue-in-cheek way and with a glossy and sexy surface to it, among the gory horror and thrills.