Release Date:  June 4, 2010
Rating:  R (for disturbing elements including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence and language)
Genre:  Science Fiction
Run Time:  104 minutes
Director:  Vincenzo Natali
Actors:  Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac

Species (1995)—starring Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) and Forest Whitaker (The Crying Game)—presented the story of government scientists who had spliced together human DNA and alien DNA to create a hybrid female named SIL. Splice is a near carbon-copy of that plot, except for a few changes:  the evil government has become two likable, thirtysomething scientists (who are also lovers); the alien DNA has been changed to animal DNA; and SIL has been renamed DREN. The most striking difference between the two films, however, is that Splice is simply not as good as Species.

Splice (directed by Vincenzo Natali, Cube) opens well, with eerie video footage from inside the faux-womb of a new life form being grown by scientists Clive Nicoli (Academy Award winner Adrien Brody, The Pianist) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley, Dawn of the Dead). Clive and Elsa are elated at their success and can't wait to take their experiment to the next level by splicing human DNA with animal DNA. But the pharmaceutical company for which they work is not interested. The company only wants a specific protein identified for their own uses. Predictably, the ambitious couple decide to go forward on their own, minus all prescribed safeguards.

Their human/animal hybrid experiment, DREN, much to their shock, is a success. But as soon as she begins to grow rapidly, we are given a hint of what is to come via Elsa's question: "What the h*** is that?" Clive answers, "A bad mistake." Things quickly go from bad to worse as DREN develops into a woman within days, complete with a stinger-tipped tail, a pair of remarkable wings, incredible intelligence, some inherent emotional/psychological problems … and a desire to mate.

Although not a terrible sci-fi film, Splice is unoriginal, as well as inconsistent. Its weakest segment, oddly, is when the overtly sexual aspects of DREN become part of the main plot. Rather than being erotic, these scenes come across as just comical. The movie loses all intensity, realism, and drama. In fact, at several points during scenes that should have been serious and charged with sexual tension, the audience in which I was seated couldn't help but laugh! The action and dialogue were absurd. And it ruined what could have otherwise been a halfway decent sci-fi film. 

Despite the movie's most serious flaw (i.e., the depiction of DREN's sexuality and its place in the story), it includes some interesting sub-themes and subplots surrounding the characters' lives. For example, the obvious moral/ethical questions are raised repeatedly, which gives viewers food for thought as the story evolves. We also have the topics of insanity, child abuse, fidelity, and love mentioned to varying degrees—and these will make the careful moviegoer pause to think.

From a technical standpoint, the film is fairly well made. The editing is tight and clean. The direction is strong and sensible. And the special effects, based on Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), are quite good. The movement of DREN (especially as a child) and the full body shots of her as an adult are incredibly realistic and tantalizing to the senses. The musical score also works very well.

Finally, a word must be said about French actress, Delphine Chaneac, who plays the adult DREN with finesse and depth. She doesn't speak a single line of dialogue—and she doesn't have to. Every emotion, thought, and message DREN needs to communicate is handled perfectly by Chaneac through facial expressions, head angles, twists/turns of her shoulders, and a host of other acting techniques at her disposal. She is cast perfectly.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  The "f" word is used sporadically, but limited to scenes containing arguments.
  • Smoking/Drinking/Drugs:  None.
  • Nudity:  The bare breasts of Delphine Chaneac are shown in two scenes—one wherein she is having an operation; one wherein she is having sex.
  • Sex/Sexual situations:  The sexuality is atypical since the most graphic situation is DREN having intercourse. She is shown fully nude, but the lower part of her body is not real—it's a computer-generated non-human lower body. Her upper-body, however, is real and her simulated sex act with a man is graphic (but the scene doesn't last long). The second sexual situation occurs between Clive and Elsa, who have sex on a couch (both appear fully clothed). There is also a fairly short, but intense, rape scene toward the film's conclusion.
  • Mild Violence:  The violence in this film is what one would expect in a sci-fi movie featuring a monster. Nothing is too graphic. A cat is killed. Two men are killed, but their actual deaths are not shown. And two new life forms (CGI special effects) engage in a bloody battle that ends with their cage toppling over and blood splattering various onlookers.