|Review||Species :The Awakening (2007)||Director||Nick Lyon|
|Writer||Dennis Feldman and Ben Ripley|
|Cast||Ben Cross, Helena Mattsson, Dominic Keating, Marlene Favela and Roger Codney|
“I don’t know if I’m human or not. Or if I have a soul or not” – Miranda
Have you ever sat down with zero expectations to view something and come away pleasantly surprised? Of course you have! That’s why we cult film/horror aficionados take so many gambles on flicks we initially expect will leave us bummed out. That was certainly the case with “Species: The Awakening”, the fourth instalment in the sci-fi/horror series. I bought the “Species: Collection” Blu-ray box set from 88 Films last year and watched the first three. “Species” (1995) has proved to be a highly re-watchable mini-classic of the sci-fi/horror genre and was responsible for endless crushes on actress Natasha Henstridge. “Species II” (1998) is a better than average follow-up that was trashed upon release by critics but has gained some latter day respect. But I thought “Species III” (2004) was just dreadful. It, and subsequently the fourth film as well, was a miniscule budget direct-to-DVD follow up so viewers had better temper their expectations if they were to get any enjoyment out of it. The third one didn’t click for me but the fourth one unexpectedly did when I finally popped it in the player.
Miranda (Mattsson), or G-187, is a descendant of the alien strand scientists mutated with human hormones and created human/alien hybrids. One of the scientists, Tom (Cross), abducted her at an early age, raised her as a human and pretended to be her uncle. He repeatedly told her fabricated family stories until she believed them and managed to stump her alien growth with regular injections of human hormones. Miranda becomes a super successful, and highly intelligent scholar, and Tom creates a name for himself as a scientist studying fossils. One day Miranda is hospitalised and turns into her alien form and kills a number of hospital staff before returning to human form and being obviously sick. Tom rushes her to Mexico to find former colleague Forbes (Keating) who informs Tom that her lifespan has reached it’s end. In an order to prolong her life the two scientists accidentally awaken the sexual predator within Miranda.
I don’t know exactly why “Species III” falls flat for me and “Species: The Awakening” registers when they’re cut completely from the same cloth. More than likely it’s because “Species III” is much grander in it’s ambitions and has a more complicated story to tell and not nearly the resources to pull it off successfully. “Species: The Awakening” is a fairly low-key affair with minimum action set-pieces and more emphasis put in the story of Tom’s obsession with saving his “niece” as he feels responsible for her condition having partaken in the experiments with human/alien hybrids. It also helps that the lead performance by Cross is a good one and the late veteran actor doesn’t look at all like he phoned this one in. Pretty much all the dramatic weight falls on him and he’s up to the task. That’s not to say, though, that Mattsson is no good as she delivers a fine performance as Miranda displaying both a vulnerable side and a predatory one. Good casting always helps.
The set-pieces are few but well handled when they rear their head. These aren’t top-of-the-line special effects here but they’re more than adequately pulled off and the final alien showdown is actually more of an acrobatic show-off in costumes that looks better than lacklustre CGI. Script wise this isn’t exactly stellar stuff, more or less rehashing the first film’s storyline on a much smaller scale, but it is low-key enough to get by with the limited financial resources. It develops into a kind of morality play, in which Cross’s character has to do a tough thing and, again, his performance sells it well. The script does include one character (the character of Leland, played by Codney) that makes no sense whatsoever and creates a nonsensical turn of events that conveniently brings Tom effectively from A to B so the story can move on. It feels like lazy writing but after that the film gets back on track.
I’m not suggesting that “Species: The Awakening” is any sort of gem worth rediscovering but it is a perfectly serviceable time-waster that does OK with it’s limited aspirations. It’s good to know one’s place in the big scheme of things and the film effectively plays to it’s strengths while scaling down on big moments as to avoid embarrassment. Solid to good performances anchor the film in it’s slow stretches, competency in the few set-pieces provide decent action highlights and the script skates by, though with some occurrences of laziness.
It’s amazing how one’s enjoyment for a film depends on expectations beforehand. Maybe now you’ll read this and go in expecting good things and be bummed out. Oh well…