Species II

In real life, some things bear repeating. Great sex. Great food. Great times. Even great movies. In Hollywood, if a film even shows signs of becoming a moderate hit, writers are hired to hammer out a sequel. In a few cases, the sequels equal or better the original (“Godfather II” immediately comes to mind). The rest usually pale by comparison. Some are simply awful.


species IISo it comes as no surprise that MGM has resurrected the science-fiction hit “Species” in “Species II.” You know it’s a sequel and not a prequel because of the “II.” That’s pretty much the only distinction between the two films. Writer Chris Brancato does a decent job of taking the franchise in a different direction, but in the end, it all boils down to alien sex. I get to see enough of that in French films, so why should I care about “Species II.” It’s not a bad film.

It’s sturdily directed by Peter Medak, whose career has given us such gems as “The Ruling Class” and such duds as “Zorro The Gay Blade.” Medak punches all the right buttons, and the film looks great. The story even has some interesting plot points, but there’s no suspense or sense of dread. Like the recent “John Carpenter’s Vampires,” “Species II” just seems to be going through the motions. It starts off interestingly enough with an impressive Mars landing that makes a hero out of Commander Patrick Ross (a very handsome Justin Lazard).

Nice digital work and set design. Unfortunately, soil samples Ross brings back aboard the spaceship infects the rests of his team, who return to Earth to quench their hunger. Meanwhile, a clone of the original alien Eve (Natasha Henstridge, once again) has been made, and is being stored in a top secret laboratory run by the first film’s feisty scientist, Laura (Marg Helgenberger). Under the directions of military liaison Colonel Burgess (George Dzundza), Laura is using Eve as an experiment to test the tolerance levels of her species. It’s a nasty job, but I guess it beats testing shampoo and perfume. Back on Earth, Patrick and the crew, Gamble (Mykelti Williamson) and Anne (Myriam Cyr), are given a hero’s welcome. Then Patrick starts hitting the sheets, turning his lady friends into human incubators.

This allows the film maker’s to fully utilize Steve Johnson’s disturbing special effects, like having women burst open and give birth ala “Alien.” Michael Madsen returns as Press, the damage control expert who is hired to track down Patrick and end his murderous spree. It’s all so paint-by-the- blood-red numbers that there’s little room left for the development of character or suspense.

Splashy special effects are all fine and good, but they work much better in a film that doesn’t rely on them to hide a thin script. “Species II” manages to keep Henstridge in her clothes most of the time, but Lazard and his bevy of beauties get naked a lot. I wasn’t thrilled with “Species II,” and judging by the film’s lukewarm reception, neither did most of the fans of the first film.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] EXCELLENT [ ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

The “Species II” DVD is like a Certs breath mint. It’s a breath mint. No, it’s a candy mint. Why, it’s two mints in one (attention Certs: I’ll be looking for my complimentary case of your product next week). “Species II” is two films in one. The DVD gives you the choice of watching the pan and scan version, or the film’s original 1.85:1 widescreen version. They’re both included on the same side of the RSDL disc, which delivers immaculate clarity and color. I was extremely impressed with the vibrant colors, the flattering flesh tones, and blacks that refuse to budge. I noticed a minuscule amount of digital compression artifacts, but they were few and far in-between. Instead, what you get is a superior digital transfer that looks sensational.

HEARING: [ X ] EXCELLENT [ ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track is an excellent example why they make Dolby Digital receivers. Superior aural experience completely surrounds you in a wave of expressive noises. Excellent dialogue mix, thundering basses, precision high ends, and front-to-rear separation. The surround stereo split is one of the best, tossing ambient noises at you from every direction. Edward Shearmur’s ethereal score grips you with its majestic range. The DVD also features a French Stereo Surround track.

ORAL: [ ] EXCELLENT [ X ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

English and French language subtitles.

COORDINATION: [ X ] EXCELLENT [ ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

The DVD features a running audio commentary by director Peter Medak, who succumbs to the foibles of the task at hand. Medak reminisces while he watches the film, but the process causes him to slip up every now and then. My favorite? The scene introducing Michael Madsen’s character. Medak says “This is the scene where we introduce the Michael Madsen character, played by Michael Madsen.” Really? No! I thought Rosanna Arquette was playing Michael Madsen this outing. Actually, it’s pretty funny and innocent. Later, Medak makes the bold statement that he makes “great” films. I wouldn’t go that far. Luckily, he later retracts the statement by saying that he’s made good films and not-so-good films. The rest of his dialogue covers the usual bases for such fare, including the difficulties of shooting on a tight budget, location problems, special-effects secrets, and admiration for the actors. Medak speaks in such a melancholy tone you might have to fight to stay awake. The DVD also features four scenes deleted due to their explicit nature. All four scenes made it into the final film, just in an abbreviated form. There’s a little more hip grinding during a sex scene, and a stripper spends a little extra time spinning on a pole. These scenes take advantage of the parental lock on your machine. There’s also genuinely creepy main and scene access menus that morph from selection to selection, the original theatrical trailer, and an eight-page booklet with fascinating facts about the making of the film. Okay, they weren’t that fascinating.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] EXCELLENT [ X ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

“Species II” is like an impeccable Gucci bag knock-off. It may look like the original, but deep down in your heart you just know it’s a rip-off. The DVD quality is excellent, but the film is in desperate need of resuscitation.

VITALS:

$24.95/Rated R/93 Min./Color/RSDL/36 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#907036

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: SPECIES II

BIRTH DATE: 1997

HMO: MGM Home Entertainment



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