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A solid new movie about a tired (and almost overdone) ethical topic
I was privileged enough to catch a screening of Splice last night that headlined the director Vincenzo Natali as a special guest. I've been a moderate fan of his work since his eerie and claustrophobic feature, Cube. Like Cube, I found that this movie was able to set an atmosphere that was almost palatable throughout the film. The main characters, Elsa and Clive (played by Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody, respectively) were both likable and detestable, and yet all the time believable throughout the film. I credit Natali's writing with this emotional tug-of-war, because he was able to explain the motives of the characters without giving too much away and forcing the pacing to lag. (The man is whip smart, and it showed through his handling of the Q&A session after the movie). They do some despicable things, but Natali oft times tries to explain the character's background to justify certain actions. I appreciate the effort, but at the same time, I felt the film required some serious suspension of disbelief on the part of its viewers to really swallow some scenes and resulting relationships.
After seeing the movie, you'll probably realize you've seen this movie and premise before. Without giving too much away, this tale reminds me a lot of Jurassic Park. The overarching narrative parallels the sentiments of Dr. Malcom from Jurassic Park ("but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should. "). The character's themselves were even named after pivotal actors in Bride of Frankenstein (Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester), an homage to one of the great creatures of Science Fiction films, and a source of inspiration to the director himself. The hybrid starts off looking quite alien, but evolves into looking quite human-like (probably due to budget constraints, as well as done to help the viewer identify and empathize with the creature) with legs immediately reminding me of the aliens from The Arrival (1996). Throughout the film, you could see the evolution of all the characters that contributed to the final climax of the film. Elsa and Clive make a lot of mistakes and poor judgments throughout the film considering how 'brilliant' these scientists were supposed to be. They try to approach the creation of this hybrid being with an objective mind - purely for the sake of science. However, in turn, they make a lot of 'human' errors along the way where their emotions come into play. As Chaos Theory explains, small variations in initial conditions renders long-term predictions impossible. The movie keeps you guessing throughout. It evolves in an uncontrolled way, just like the hybrid the scientists created. Like every other creature feature flick before it (Frankenstein, Jurassic Park and even Species), everything culminates into a final climactic scene where the makers are forced to atone for their actions.
The creature effects were solid and the actress playing Dren is amazingly beautiful and exotic looking. Her mild androgyny was perfect for the role. Her sharp movements seemed quite alien to me and she took the creature further than what special effects could have done alone. Brody and Polley were both solid actors throughout the film. I particularly enjoyed Brody's wardrobe and styling. The pacing of the film started almost magical, like ET, then quickly picked up pace, paralleling the frenetic tension the scientists themselves must have been feeling.
It wasn't a perfect movie by any means and it certainly wasn't one of my favourites in recent years, but I enjoyed it. If I had to compare it to his earlier work, Cube, I would have to say that Cube made a much more lasting impression (I own it and recommend it to friends often). This movie is a fun way to spend an evening. You'll come out of the theatre with a positive experience, but it probably won't be a movie you'd rush out to see a second time.
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