Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DVD Review: Splice (by Dave Machado)

I always find it disheartening when certain types of movies are thought of as just brain candy. They get incorrectly labeled as superfluous distractions that may be entertaining but leave us with no real substance to digest. I'm typically a big fan of these movies and find lots to chew over where many others find emptiness (see: Kick-Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). It's usually the "B" movies that get this unfortunate label as certain people are not able to see past the gimmicks and get to the heart of the story. Splice is one of the better examples of this that I have seen in a long time. While I fear some may be put off by the sci-fi elements of the story (which are fantastic), once you are able to get past that, you are rewarded with a rich story that wrestles with multiple philosophical issues while also being one of the best movies of 2010.

Splice centers on scientists Clive and Elsa (played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) who are employed by a large corporation and tasked with creating organisms that will lead to important medical breakthroughs. To do this, they have successfully spliced together the DNA of multiple (non-human) organisms in order to create a new species that can be studied in order to possibly find the cure for all of life's greatest diseases. When they are told that they are to stop splicing and focus on getting the protein that is needed from their current specimens, they decide to go off the books and experiment on their own. By adding human DNA to their already successful organism, they are able to create a new life form that is both highly intelligent and possibly dangerous beyond anyones imagination.

If years of sci-fi movies have taught us anything, it's that all instances of humans playing God will end tragically and/or violently. Splice is no exception. In fact, the movie plays tribute to the original God of cinema, Dr. Frankenstein, by having the main characters named after actors from James Whales's 1935 masterpiece, Bride of Frankenstein. The new organism created in Splice ages at a very advanced speed, giving Clive and Elsa the idea to let it live so they can view the species entire lifespan in a short span of time. One of the great things about this movie is seeing how the creature, named Dren, evolves over a short period of time. At key points throughout the movie, we see that this creature has developed numerous defense mechanisms that make it very difficult to put down.

The best thing about Splice to me was that it was able to incorporate a surprisingly human subplot regarding the way victims of abuse tend to become their tormentor as they grow up, usually without even realizing it. It was amazing how they snuck that idea into an already overloaded movie without causing it to seem like the cast and crew bit off more than they could chew. Between philosophical debates about the obligation of mankind to do everything in our power to further our species, even at the risk of harming what cannot easily be described as other lifeforms, the movie takes a very smart left turn and grounds the story in some very human drama. It all unfolds in an organic way that to me never felt forced. It's amazing that Splice works as well as it does, which I think causes me to have more respect for it than other sci-fi movies that take the more expected route.

There were a few things I didn't like about the movie, namely the final act, which has a twist that is too easily telegraphed and causes the movie to delve quickly into a generic horror setup. It was disheartening to see such a smart sci-fi movie that deals with very human issues boil down to a "stalk and kill" climax. Luckily, the payoff puts the movie back on good footing, but for a while I was afraid the whole thing was going to implode. Certain characters become far too expendable and it seems they were almost shoehorned into the movie specifically for the final few "horror" scenes. These complaints, along with a bit of hammy acting from the supporting cast, are certainly not large enough to ruin the movie. 

I hope more people give this movie a shot. I get tired of always saying that, but typically the movies I love the most are the ones that need a bigger audience in the first place. Fans of sci-fi will love this movie unconditionally but I think even those who typically shy away from these types of films should give it a shot. Splice challenged my perception of right vs. wrong while also providing one of the coolest sci-fi creations (Dren) that I've seen in quite some time. Help celebrate unique and intriguing storytelling by seeing Splice. I have no doubt we will be singing it praises years from now as a true classic of the genre.

You're Welcome,

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