Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Splice

Splice. Directed by Vincenzo Natali & Written by Antoinette Terry Bryant, Doug Taylor & Vincenzo Natali.

Preconceptions: Oooh! This looked to be an intelligent sci-fi flick, partially funded by my hard won Canadian tax dollars. I can think of few artistic projects I'd like to fund quite as much as a smarty pants sci-fi movie. And double ooh! Sarah Polley is in it. I'd also heard quite a few people buzzing around about how neat this movie was. All in all, I was jazzed to have an opportunity to watch it.

General Review: For those of you who, unlike me, are not desperately trying to believe that Canada has a movie industry, the plot run down is fairly simple. Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are tragically hip (ha-ha Canadian humour) scientists who have been splicing animals together for...science, I guess. And some sort of protein strain that will improve the health of livestock, or something. Anyways, they're meddling with unknowable forces and decide to throw a bit of human DNA into their Tesla-cocktail. It'll shock you to hear that things don't go particularly well after that.

Ugh. Well. This movie got my hopes up a couple of times. The creature design and CG integration were really something special and I'm still quite partial to Sarah Polley...but wow. Splice had some very specific ideas about gender roles that it was determined to shove down my wholly unwilling throat. Every time the flick started to do something a bit complicated about how men and women react to having children, it veered off into tired and demeaning cliches. Apparently, we're meant to buy that men can't be expected to control their sex drives and that women are incapable of rational thought once their nurturing instincts kick in. Yup. This edgy movie about futuristic technology has 1950's expectations about gender. Space age!

The graceless handling of sex issues wasn't the only thing that twisted my panties, though. Nope, it was also weak sci-fi. It's another movie talking about man being punished for trying to play God. Didn't I just do a review on Frankenstein? Y'know a sci-fi/horror novel from the 1800's, that covered this issue? Why let me have a look: yes, I did. Splice has nothing new to say on the subject of unwise scientific tinkering. I know there is insightful sci-fi out there, exploring new themes, this just isn't it. And having the main characters be sexy young people who say nerd a lot doesn't make this movie any more relevant.

Visually, yes it was impressive. I liked the look of the creature and how it aged and developed. It looked great interacting with the cast and the sets. Delphine Chaneac and Abigail Chu both did some excellent physical acting to make the CG believable. The sets were fairly simple, but I believed I was in a large R&D building despite only seeing a few rooms in it. This was all done for a reasonable budget, but didn't look cheap or like it was being filmed in the director's basement. It was shot competently and I didn't feel ill watching it.

Excellent CG, being well shot and a couple of good actors were all this movie had going for it. The script was unconscionably weak. Issues that demanded to be taken seriously, like our main characters finding out they were lying to each other and being discovered in huge ethical breaches, were shoved aside for a slap-dash horror ending. Instead of having to deal with the dilemmas brought up in the second act, the writers decided to make a monster fighting scene instead. While I'm typically all for monster fighting, if you're writing a smart character piece that (up until the last ten minutes) is entirely driven by cerebral issues, you can't throw a battle in at the end, clap your hands together and consider it a job well done.

I finished watching this movie feeling completely unsatisfied. It didn't solve any of the problems it created, its depiction of what could have been complex characters was cartoonish and shallow. Also: it wasted a perfectly good alien monster. Please, take my word on it, save yourself the energy you'd squander being irritated by this movie and give something else a try. Like...oh say...Moon.

1 comment:

  1. I've been looking forward to seeing this movie but every review I read really paints it in a negative light. Oh well at least I save some money this way.