4/10 Test Tube Babies
It’s Parenthood meets The Fly. Sure, why not?
Splice is about two genetic scientists who create an entirely new species out of various animal DNA – one that happens to look a lot like an enormous cock slug (hooray for science!) – and then start to get real curious in terms of what they could do if human DNA got thrown into the mix. Not far down the road, they pull it off and create Dren, a part-human, part-whatever organism that they end up sort of raising in private because of all the potential new possibilities that come with creating a mutant and also because they were thinking about having a kid anyway.
It’s directed by one Vincenzo Natali, a guy whose work I’m completely unfamiliar with since Cube continues to get pushed further and further down on my Netflix queue, but after watching this, something tells me that it’s not gonna get bumped up anytime soon either. Then again, Splice has a good deal of potential going for it thanks to things like Dolly the sheep, stem cell research and that weird fascination we’ve all had in High School science class that made you wonder what a half-human, half-animal baby would look like. Unfortunately for Vincenzo, potential only goes so far when you have a script that doesn’t really know where the hell it’s going.
See, the script works when it sticks to the clean genetic slate it’s created by focusing on the notions of right and wrong that come with playing God or the amazing/horrific possibilities of science. That kinda stuff’s got endless potential and I can’t think of a whole lot of movies that delve into this territory either. The problem is that while it starts out down this road, Vinny ends up paying way too much attention to a story line that feels wildly out of place in a movie like this.
But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s get to Dren.
My issue with movie monsters has always been that, more often than not, they just look like knockoffs of stuff we’ve already seen, like Spielberg’s bite-size version of the Independence Day aliens in War of the Worlds. So when Dren is first “born”, she looks new, like someone got busy with a chicken, and that was good, I hadn’t really seen that before. But then she grows up overnight and all of a sudden she looks like Sinead O’Connor with a huge gap between her eyes, a tail and the legs of those aliens from The Arrival. Yeah, I know she’s part-human, but it’s still a bit disappointing that that was the best they could come up with when working from scratch.
The other thing is that she doesn’t even talk, she just has this god-awful squawk that she uses to communicate along with her handy dandy bag of Scrabble letters. The reason this sucks, outside of how totally annoying it is to listen to, is that Dren is the one character I really wanted to hear from being that she’s easily the most interesting character of the bunch. A simple voice would have added an Elephant Manquality to it that definitely would have been a welcome addition.
But the real downfall of Splice is the other story line I alluded to earlier, the story line that’s all about how being a parent is tough, especially if your kid is a creepy-ass biological mistake. The thing is, who gives a shit? I’m interested in Dren and all the ethical debates that come along with her and I think everyone else is too. Really, why bother taking the script in this direction? That story’s already been told a million times and they’re not fooling anyone by slapping a tail on the kid.
Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley – who I usually think is great – are also fine as Dren’s “parents”, but they’re just kinda there and don’t really contribute a whole lot to the movie in the long run aside from, you know, delivering their lines.
But for all my bitching and moaning, Splice is actually pretty decent for a while, it’s only towards the last half-hour or so that the plot crashes and burns in a truly bizarre fireball and there’s really no coming back after that no matter how hard it tries. And even though it’s not exactly scary or thrilling and never fully delivers on all the cool stuff it’s premise has to go off of, it’s not terrible by any means. It’s just not the movie it had the potential to be is all.