• Splice



    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: 10/5/10
    Director: Vincenzo Natali
    Cast: Adrian Brody, Sarah Polley, Abigail Chu, Delphine Chaneac
    Year: 2010
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    The Movie:

    Written and directed by Vincenzo Natali and originally intended to be made after Cube earned him some recognition, Splice wasn’t made until Guillermo Del Toro got on board at which point Natali’s film found major studio funding from the mighty WB. How does it shape up? It’s okay. It’s not great, and it should have been better, but it’s okay.

    The film follows two genetic scientists – Colin (Adrian Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) – who work for a typically evil corporation where they splice DNA and create things. When they manage to create male and female versions of a new creature that they hope to milk for a strain of DNA that has countless medical possibilities, their bosses are understandably stoked but our scientists’ hopes for further research are dashed by the typical greed that accompanies typically evil corporations such as this. As such, they carry out a bit more research away from prying eyes and wind up creating a creature they dub Dren (Abigail Chu and then later Delphine Chaneac), an alien looking female that is sort of the next step that their weird blob creations should have taken in their controlled evolution.

    As Dren evolves, Colin and Elsa debate what to do with her – kill her? Raise her in secret? They surely can’t let her loose on the world, who knows what would happen. They decide to sneak her out of the lab and bring her to Elsa’s late mother’s farm out in the middle of nowhere. They soon learn, however, that Dren’s evolution can’t be controlled the way that they want it to be and that both of them have an emotional investment in her life that cannot be overlooked.

    Splice starts off interestingly enough. The concept of humans creating an entirely new species is a topical one as science evolves to the point where cloning is possible and the mystery of genetics becomes not so mysterious anymore. There’s a really interesting idea underneath this picture that should have resulted in a pretty tense and unique film. Instead, it quickly morphs into a bit of an Alien rip off before trying to spreads its wings and find its own strengths in an ending that doesn’t quite work. Predictability digs its claws into the script at about the half way point and you won’t have much trouble figuring out where it’s all heading. The movie goes at a good pace and has some interesting set pieces and a nice visual style to it, but that’s not quite enough to really make it stand out the way that it had the potential to.

    Performance wise, Brody and Polley are a good match though their characters’ obnoxious rock n roll/hipster scientist styling can grate on the nerves a bit. If nothing else, Splice plays against stereotypes in that regard. More interesting are the collective performances of Abigail Chu and Delphine Chaneac as Dren in her different forms. Here we have a character that’s familiar and alien at the same time and the physicality behind the work the two actresses do here really helps convey Dren’s understandable confusion and her emotional stress. The film definitely gets this aspect of the story right and you will feel for Dren as you watch the humans around her continually screw things up.

    As a cautionary tale and heavy handed warning, Splice is predictable and not all that interesting but as a monster movie it’s not bad. The film had the potential to really carve out something more unique and more interesting than it winds up being but it’s not a complete wash. It entertains and it touches a couple of interesting nerves now and then and if nothing else it shows off some interesting camera work and great creature design.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Splice looks good in this VC-1 encoded 1.78.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. The film makes use of a very cool color palette, from the stale environment of the laboratories of the first half to the decaying barn of the last half, this isn’t a particularly colorful film, in fact, it’s very drab looking. This was obviously a stylistic choice on the part of Natali and his cinematographer, Tetsuo Nagata, obviously had a very distinct look in mind for the film and that look is replicated here. If it doesn’t give you the color pop you might want from a brand new feature, so be it. Detail is generally pretty strong, though some of the CGI sequences look a bit soft. Skin tones look nice and natural, black levels are as strong as they need to be and don’t hurt shadow detail at all, and the disc is nicely authored and despite the softness that creeps in here and there, the movie looks very good in high definition.

    The primary track is a rock solid English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, though a dubbed Spanish mix is also offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with subtitles provided in both languages. There’s some excellent surround use and very impressive ambient noise scattered throughout the film that helps build atmosphere and tension as the story unfolds. The score sounds nice and bass response is plentiful and strong. There are some spots where the dialogue gets just a little bit buried in some of the effects but these moments are infrequent. Overall, the movie really does sound very good.

    The only supplement of any substance on this release is a half hour standard definition featurette entitled A Director’s Playground which gives us a look at what Vincenzo Natali did in order to stay on top of this project and how he brought his own vision to the film. There’s some decent behind the scenes footage here and it is worth a look if you dug the feature. Aside from that, there are previews for a few other Warner releases that play before you get to the animated menu, which also offers chapter selection. A second disc inside the keepcase includes a digital copy.

    The Final Word:

    Interesting but flawed, Splice isn’t essential viewing or one of the year’s best but it’s entertaining enough even if it loses it in the last half hour. Warner’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds good but is light on extras. Worth seeing? Sure, but not a must own.