When reviewing older movies it’s always interesting to read what other reviewers had to say about the movie at the time of its release. Sometimes they are prophetic like Roger Ebert’s comment on Toy Story that it would be the first of many full length CG-animated movies. In other cases it’s funny because a reviewer applauded or hated a movie that since has then has gone on to become either an overrated movie or a classic. In the case of Species I chuckled at the comments of well-known reviewer James Berardinelli about this movie:
The top-notch special effects, which use a lot of seamless computer animation, make the climax look very nice.
If you would watch the movie now for the first time you would probably agree that the effects are lackluster to say the least, especially during the climax. It’s fun to see how quickly some special effects really lose their “special” after a couple of viewings, while other impress still after 20 years.
Story wise it’s incredibly simple and can be summed up to: Scientists chase escaped Alien. There is nothing more to this movie; no plot-twists, no shady government double-crosses, no nothing. X-Files did a whole lot more with their Alien story line, but that’s another story.
The Alien here is, when we meet her, a young girl at the age of 14 played by a young Michelle Williams. They call her SIL and is later on played by Natasha Henstridge who was obviously picked for her physique and lack of problems with doing nudity. We learn that she is a human/alien hybrid, made by our and their DNA which we received through satellite communication. The Alien DNA generates a rapid growth rate going from embryo to 14 years old within a couple of days. During the climax SIL gives birth to a boy even though being impregnated only an hour earlier. Within a couple of scenes he’s already looking like an 8 year old. When SIL escapes from the lab she stowaways on a train and at one point goes into a cocoon emerging from it as a 20 year old woman. After that the rapid aging process probably stops because the rest of the movie she stays this way.
This is the moment the movie starts to resemble a sleazy B-movie. Apparently SIL wants to procreate and therefor becomes this “slut” who walks around in just a bra looking for a guy to have sex with. Of course with her looks picking up a guy is as hard as counting to three but somehow there’s constantly something that makes her go all praying mantis on her mate. The first guy turns out to be a diabetic, another is killed because he flips when she mentions she wants to have a baby. Despite being able to talk, socially interact to a certain degree and being able to drive a car without even one lesson SIL’s not the most adept at saying the right things to guys. Though this feels more true to her character than the whole driving thing was.
I have fond memories of Species, but mostly due to two reasons: it has a stellar cast with familiar names like Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker and C.S.I.’s Marg Helgenberger. The other reason is of course Natasha Henstridge who not only looks gorgeous but also has one nude scene after another. This is basically the Showgirls of sci-fi/horror, but with better acting. Now me, being 17 at the time I saw this loved it of course. I was the target audience, and they knew how to reach me.
Revisiting it I can say that the things that made it cool back then, still make it enjoyable today. But other than that there’s nothing much here. The story is paper thin, the effects are not so special anymore and the skewed effect used in SIL’s dreams becomes repetitive pretty quickly. It’s a fun watch, especially if you like boobies, but it’s not a classic.