Theatrical Review: Splice

In the world of genetics, Clive Nikoli and Elsa Kast are rock stars. They’ve been working on combining parts of the DNA of various animals and they’ve been succeeding. They’re working for a pharmaceutical company who’s end goal is to profit from the protein compound that they’re promising to deliver. Clive and Elsa want to take the work to the next step and now add human DNA into the mix. Their employers don’t want them to do that and being ambitious scientists, this doesn’t sit well with Clive and especially Elsa. They agree to go along with their employers, but secretly, they plan to take their work to the next step.

After a few failures, they finally strike gold with a successful combination. Their creation starts to grow at an alarming rate, and soon our ambitious scientists are way too caught up in their experiment, naming their creation Dren and virtually treating it as their child, all the while fighting over the ethical aspects of their experiment. And then there’s Dren, who of course is developing into her own.

Splice is from director Vincenzo Natali, who’s at least best known to me for previously making the science fiction movie Cube, which I enjoyed quite a bit. It puts me in the mind of the type of movie that David Cronenberg used to make, and at least for me, that’s a good thing. Cronenberg’s earlier sci-fi/horror films manage to bring up some high ideas that get on the disturbing side thanks to the ambitions of their lead characters, and Splice certainly does the same.

Now honestly, I don’t know how accurate the science is in something like this, and I don’t necessarily care. It’s science fiction with the accent on the fiction. The story at it’s core has been done before- man plays with nature, man is successful playing with nature, nature has it’s own ideas, nature runs amok, and man must atone for what’s he’s done. That’s certainly here, but the ride getting there is another matter entirely.

Splice has a nice leisured pace and it doesn’t really go for any sort of shock scares. Oh there’s a few, mostly near the end of the movie, but for the most part, Natali is content to fully have you watching Dren’s development and to get both comfortable and disturbed by it. The film certainly has a good look to it, and I think the visual effects work with Dren are absolutely first rate.

Clive and Elsa are played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley and they’re both quite good at playing two exceptionally smart people who end up doing some stupid things, thanks to their own inner demons and ambition. Clive is the warmer of the two, and Brody plays him in an engaging way. Elsa, on the other hand, suffers some deep scars, and we see those play out as she engages with Dren. When the situation becomes too much for her to handle, she goes to a detached state which complicates matters even further. Polley does a good job with this and she’s not really a likeable character, but you certainly understand how she got to where she is. A real surprise here though is actress Delphine Chanéac who plays Dren in her most developed state. Chanéac’s got a tough part here, especially having to deal with special effects end of her physical form. She manages it well though and makes Dren, at least to me, the most sympathetic character of the film.

I had a great time with this. As I said above, it evokes the type of film that David Cronenberg used to make and seeing that Cronenberg isn’t making movies like this any more, it’s time for someone else to pick up the reins. Vincenzo Natali is the guy to do it, and I certainly look forward to seeing what he does next. With all of the big budget effects laden films and lame-looking comedies, even with it’s familiarities, I thought Splice was a breath of fresh air.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

06. June 2010 by Darren Goodhart
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