ARCHIVE: Original Post Date – September 11th, 2006
Species is your typical horror film. Lots of explosions, some plot, actors who don’t belong here but are put in to try to add some credibility to the flick, a relatively unknown woman baring her chest, and lots of killing. Anyhow, the film takes place around 1993. The U.S. government receives a transmission giving us information on how to splice alien D.N.A. with human genetics. Hmm.. Sounds like something we want to do huh? Lots of success will come from this no? After experimenting a few times, the scientists hit the jackpot and the result is ‘Sil’, a woman (played by Natasha Henstridge) who can change from a gorgeous woman to a ‘holy crap I’m about to die’ kick-butt alien in just a few seconds.
The one item that tends to save this film when it seems like it’s going down that very familiar horror road, is the tremendous amount of talent that Director Roger Donaldson enlisted. We have; Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker, and Michael Madsen to name a few). One would think that all these major players could elevate a film like this right? Well it does, to a certain degree. Where the typical B type star would just scream and yell until they were killed, all these actors attempt to work with what they were given. These four men play scientists who have been chosen to track down and stop Sil at all costs before she can mate, spawn, and destroy the human race (why would we even create something like this)?
The obvious biggest star of the film isn’t one of these four men, but rather newcomer Natasha Henstridge. Chosen by Donaldson for two reasons (take a guess), I do admit that she is quite the beautiful woman. But a woman can only be so beautiful, but still needs to put aside that beauty and actually bring something that advances the film. We don’t need the standard ‘stand there and look pretty’ woman, but actually one that kicks some butt.
Species is by no stretch a good film, but it also isn’t a bad film. It’s probably somewhere in between being the type of film that you watch when you can’t think of anything better do and have literally thought of every possible reason why you shouldn’t watch the film. There are better horror type films that come to mind (like Alien), but for what its’ worth, Species does a decent job at telling a story wrapped up in a lot of blood and gore.
Species comes to us in 1080p MPEG2 2:35:1 Widescreen Transfer. This was quite the odd choice for my first Blu-Ray title, but the film has always held a really ‘odd’ place in my mind, so I figured why not. First, the positives. Detail is key here in this film. We have many scenes where the level of detail is so amazing that it feels like you are truly watching an HD presentation. Then we move on to the VERY NEXT scene and the quality of this scene makes you wonder if you were knocked out, and while you were knocked out someone switched out the Blu-Ray version with the SD-DVD version. Loads of inconsistency in terms of detail.
When it comes to colors, this is where Species gains the most points. Colors are highly detailed and very well rounded. Blacks are strong for most of the film, with the possible exception to the final sequence (only if one wants to get ultra critical). Now we’ll move onto the major negative.
Grain. Grain is the biggest issue that has plagued Species for nearly every release. Take any darker scene in the film and pause the film. Walk up to your screen and notice the amount of grain and pixelation that is bothering your set. It amazes me to this day that a film like this, one of which Sony obviously like a lot due to the massive amount of releases, has not been cleaned up. Sure grain is an issue with older films, but give me a break Sony. On the front of the case, there is the logo ‘beyond high definition’, which Sony is using to sell Blu-Ray. If this is a sign of what Sony can do, I would probably change the logo to ‘almost high definition, but not quite there yet,’
Presented using the standard English PCM 5.1 Surround and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Species sounds fine for a film these days, but lacks that ‘let me show you what Blu-Ray is all about’ quality. The biggest issue here is that, while this is an action film, a majority of the action sequences sees absolutely no response from any of the rears, no to mention the sub. What is the point of having a five channel surround audio track, if all five channels aren’t used?
Dialogue is clear for a lot of the film, but like I mentioned above, the lack of response from the rears causes a few sequences to have muddled dialogue. Because the action is so explosive and due to it commanding the front speakers, the dialogue has nowhere to get except to the only working speakers thus mixing the dialogue with the standard ‘bang, boom’ sound effects leaving the dialogue hard to hear (I guess this is why Sony includes so many subtitle options).
A film like Species could have come off as quite the impressive mix due to the film’s nature. There are a few scenes of interest here, but too many scenes leave a mixed result in our ears. Species sounds fine, but lacks that overall spark that we crave from films like this.
- Audio Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson and actors Natasha Henstridge and Michael Madsen: I’ve always found Michael Madsen to be quite the enjoyable actor. All three guests here come off as quite the interesting bunch giving us a lot of information into the film’s ideas and production.
- Audio Commentary with Director, Producer and Visual Effects: Now here I thought this would be awesome because of all the effects in the film. Director Donaldson, Producer Frank Mancuso Jr., visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund and makeup effects creator Steve Johnson are interesting enough to listen to one time around, but don’t really give us that much information of which would require another listen.
- Designing a Hybrid: This feature goes into the transformation of Natasha’s character Sil from human to alien.
- H.R. Giger at Work: This feature looks into the work of H.R. Giger.
Species is quite the mixed bag for me. The film is campy enough to enjoy watching every once in awhile. However, the transfer of both the video and audio is extremely unimpressive and, once again, lacks that spark that HD should have. The included Extra’s were interesting enough one time through, but wouldn’t be something worth watching over and over again. Chalk another title up in the rental column.