Monday, October 31, 2011

Splice (2009)

A humanoid with caretakers from hell

This type of story has no doubt been done before where someone, usually raving mad, messes with science for personal reasons by stepping under the red tape and avoiding public consensus. To think someone could do this right under people's noses brings out fear from assuming things are in control and order behind the scenes. Though this Canadian production from the director of "Cube" and "Cypher" attempts to take more of a drama angle in the way events slowly pack on more weight until the thin house of cards it was using as a structure to begin with not surprisingly starts to topple over.

These type of tales never go the way they're supposed to or have rainbows after the thunderstorms but I guess that's the message: evolution has a natural process and when jumping too far ahead our ability to contain it is never matched by the strength of our ambition from the outset. It's supposed to be a downward spiral of events as it's an idea that doesn't work from the start. It's obvious to everyone but the characters. By the time they realize it themselves, the audience has already been there and back again, which can come with some predictibility. Going with that, the film isn't always thrilling or exciting for that matter but more of a learning lesson on both sides of the screen: a long winded and gradual one to show their missteps and let the audience decide where their own morals lay. Entertainment value wise, this is more of an eye opener than an amusing theatrical experience that would lend feeling to our surface senses like the typical high budget summer flick.

A lab combined DNA from a variety of species to create a new organism. They're on their way to tweak with humans and create a cure for all kinds of diseases, when the pharmaceutical company they work for dodges public scorn before it becomes an issue and instead wants to use their research for a lesser means with a livestock protein. The lead biochemists, Elsa and Clive, who are also a couple outside of work, want to put the question to rest while they have the means and do their own private experiment with female human DNA combined with other species. From what looks a fluke, turns out to be a rapidly evolving species of its own kind. With risk of being found out, they have to hide the growing being, now known as Dren, but only keep on having complications along the way that can not only jeopardize their careers but their personal lives.

This isn't a horror or thriller, except for the final 10 minutes when the double helix's really hit the fan. For the majority, this plays out as a drama/science fiction story where the new organism puts up a divide between their relationship as a couple as well as their job that comes with a few hitches as a result of their growing distraction. Some transitions aren't always shown or explained, such as why they end up switching roles, from cold and distant to caring and understanding, to the other taking on the reversed traits as more time goes on. Yet, there are massive screw ups on both their parts as neither one has the strength to fully stop it despite many opportunities. This goes through different stages as the scientists discover something that has never been done before: enthusiasm, moral choices, sympathy, curiosity, frustration to true horror. The level of misunderstanding and mistreatment by the time it closes is going to make a few uneasy to say the least.

"Splice" doesn't always step out of the initial concept stage. The characters are posed with a problem and impulsively jump right into a solution for lack of better reasons or an end goal in sight despite being scientists for a living, having a career that took time and sacrifice, and then other employees to look after who have families and lives of their own. Selfish, not to mention incredibly short sighted for being supposedly analytical persons by trade? Should be a new word for it here. To make it more of an exceptional case these aren't normal individuals, but still, a share of the connectors that would make one suspend their disbelief are missing or glazed right over despite the gradual pacing. They work in a large corporation with millions of dollars on the line and easily slip through the cracks at first by working their highly illegal and unpredictable experiments in an adjacent room without security or superiors finding out. I mean, I've heard of trust, but this doesn't chime with the way the higher ups acted to begin with by shutting out their ideas like a typical corporation mentality but then at the same time completely letting them be in another sense.

There is supposed to be a hush-hush risk here but it doesn't always feel that way. Damaged equipment, no inventories conducted or janitorial employees and then the lead people going off on their own with little question for some time. There's the moral angle and the potential of such a thing being conceived but that doesn't always carry this along or is engrossing enough to keep the mind from wandering into other areas that don't line up. New abilities show up and some accidents happen with Dren but this mainly concentrates on Elsa and Clive and their reactions to it all. This has some revelations come out but the way the pacing moves along makes it lose its knock-me-over impact. This tries to cover up its inconsistencies with a line here and there pointing it out themselves but after a number of them happening, it makes it feel more like they're sweeping it under the rug with excuses in hopes you'll go along. Decent story, just requires the audience to compensate for too many areas of its outline.

Rating: 6/10

Director: Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Cypher, Nothing)
Stars: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac
Link: IMDB

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