A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Consider The Moral Implications of Splicing A Man And A Snail

In Horror, sci-fi on June 4, 2010 at 2:56 am

Vincenzo Natali’s newest movie, SPLICE opens this weekend, and it’s a fascinating movie. First there’s the fact that it’s from the mind and hand of the person that created one of the greatest indie sci-fi/horror movies of the past twenty years (that’d be Natali’s CUBE, in case you’re wondering. And if you don’t believe me, check it out and then wonder where SAW and the RESIDENT EVIL movie would have been without CUBE coming first…No, those aren’t exactly the most endorsing of examples, but it’s all I have right now.); secondly, there’s the fact that this small movie is being released as a Summer movie tentpole for Warner Bros. spear-headed by a man who helped bring to the screen one of the biggest science-fiction phenomenon’s in the past two decades (that’s Joel Silver, and THE MATRIX, in case you didn’t know that and I don’t feel the need to justify those claims.). Lastly, there’s the movie itself. A parable, heck maybe even an anthem of “what’s the worst that could happen”, but above all, a love letter to science-fiction; and to how we’re in the twenty-first century but we still look at genetics and cloning as things that shouldn’t be tampered with.

SPLICE starts off with some pretty spectacular opening interstitials – how many times do you hear those talked about in movie reviews? X-Rays of animal skeletons momentarily morph into the production company logos that are bringing us this movie. Then we get to the weird opening credits, that harken back to the CGI opening credits of movies like FIGHT CLUB, X-MEN and LOOK WHO’S TALKING (?? Yes, I know LWT’s opening credits weren’t CGI…Just go with it.) Finally we meet our main characters. Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody), who have just given birth to something in their lab, that we don’t initially see, but is apparently “so cute.” Then we meet Fred, the creature we were brought into this filmic world with, and he is kind of cute; in that way that giant, slimy veiny penises are cute. (Sorry, but it’s true. Well, not that penises are cute, but that Fred is…Anyway.)

We’re given the information that this creature, and his mate with a suitable counter-part name (no, it’s not Wilma; think of a different Fred), are being bred to create new proteins to cure livestock ailments – is this some unexplained “near future” where livestock are suffering from some weird diseases, or are they just trying to cure udder-blisters (think about that for a while, with your next glass of milk); and from Elsa’s point of view, a stepping stone, to adding human DNA to the mix to cure Parkinson’s Disease and Cancer. Obviously that is put to bed real quick. NO HUMAN GENETICS TESTING will be tolerated!!

Then the movie’s over….

Oh wait, no it’s not, because obviously Clive and Elsa have to go against their corporate overlords and create their own genetic creature, indeed with human DNA included. Hence, now we have the movie we came to see. I’m not going to go into much further detail, because not knowing what happens is half the fun and while the movie certainly breaks a few places of new ground and stretches some taboos – it’s not entirely that surprising of a plot-line. (Have you never heard the FRANKENSTEIN story?) But, it is a fun movie nonetheless. Yeah, you get some gory moments, some scary scenes and even an ambiguous and foreboding ending.

All fun and helped even more-so by the pretty great leading cast. First the people you probably do know. Adrien Brody has been great in pretty much everything I’ve ever seen him in going back to I think SUMMER OF SAM, which might have been the first movie I saw him in. (Or maybe it was LIBERTY HEIGHTS, I don’t remember. Definitely wasn’t ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD, though.) Here, as Clive, he gets to wear lab coats covered in punk-rock fashion accessories and wears fun shirts to business meetings under a suit jacket. To say it’s his natural charisma that leads us to like the character he plays is probably underselling his talents, but there’s not really much to say. Polley, on the other hand gets a little more meat with her potatoes. We’re given some strange insights into her childhood and mental faculties. There are quite a few layers to Elsa and they all play out by the end of the movie.

But, of course, the star of the show is the one character that doesn’t utter a single word in the entire movie – she does chirp, squeal and purr a lot though. And that’s French actress Delphine Chaneac, as the genetic creation of our two Frankensteins, Dren. She has the bald head of Samantha Morton in MINORITY REPORT, the benevolence of Milla Jovovich from THE FIFTH ELEMENT, and yes, the alluring danger of Natasha Henstridge from SPECIES. Dren is a character who works because of the physicality that Chaneac brings to the role. Yes, there’s the help of the special effects, but it’s her posture and lip movements that give a soul to those goat eyes and ostrich legs. Plus, Baby Dren – before it has a human face is pretty darn cute…I almost want one.

The movie definitely takes us on a trip and shows us the dangers of being on the fringes of science, but it’s also daring us to not be afraid; because really it’s showing us what the worst could happen might be. Without getting into GODZILLA or MIMIC – that’s to say, over-blown and mindless fear of the unknown. (Though, if MIMIC were to happen in real life, I’d die of happiness…Then again there are people that might argue, there already are human-shaped cockroaches walking amongst us, but this isn’t a political blog.)

All this to say, that I can see SPLICE possibly becoming this year’s equivalent to DISTRICT 9. Granted it’s not going to have the mass-audience appeal that D9 had – there’s nary one explosion or gunshot in the whole movie – there’s enough to it that it just might find an audience. Which I think is why the mighty WB is taking the chance it is with this movie.

Prove them and me right by going to see it.

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