Saturday, June 5, 2010

Splice Film Review

When I was a kid I remember seeing a movie called "The Collector." (1965) It was about a butterfly collector who kidnaps a young woman with tragic results. It unnerved me. I felt the same way after seeing "Splice" a film about genetic engineering. It's pertinent since scientists have now found a way to create a synthetic cell.

Splice starts out with genetic engineers Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrian Brody) creating new life for a pharmaceutical company. The creatures they create are protein blobs, the size of hamsters. The goal for their experiments is to create lifeforms that can produce hormones and cures. The company pressures them due to economic concerns and are about to close down their lab. That's when Elsa and Clive decide to forgo any thought of morality and inject human DNA into a created lifeform.

The creature named Dren (from nerd) starts out like a cute baby-eagle cross. It has wide large eyes and the filmmakers decided to compare its development to other babies across the world in a really cute documentary that's sure to get you to say, "Aaaaw." Okay, that's "Babies." Sorry. Baby Dren is a cute piece of CGI effects. As Dren rapidly ages, she is played by two female actresses. Dren begins to exhibit other animal traits. She has amphibian lungs. Later we see she has wings. She also has a nasty tail with a stinger that can inject venom. Don't' ask me how she gets these traits because the the film doesn't really explain it.

Dren (Delphine Chaneac) exhibits intelligence by matching objects, and spelling with Scrabble pieces. She also draws pictures. Unfortunately, her "parents" Clive and Elsa, are poor role models. That's rather obvious when they totally disregard any sense of scientific ethics to create a human hybrid. And Dren learns affection and cruelty from them.

Actress-director Sarah Polley (John Adams, The Weight of Water) is great as the ambitious and flawed Elsa. Adrian Brody gives a strong performance as a scientist in over his head. Delpine Chaneac conveys a tragic Dren who cannot overcome her animal instincts. Director Vincenzo Natali's direction and writing are tense, and melodramatic.

There are some intense, sick and disturbing scenes in Splice. But one can't walk away from it without thinking about the ethics of creating artificial life. I commend Dark Castle and Warner for releasing such a dark science fiction movie in the summer. I can't say that I had fun in the theater watching it but I can admire the skill and intelligence in making it. The grade is B+.

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