Posts Tagged ‘Vincenzo Natali’

Film Reviews! Splice

December 16, 2010

With every fiber of my being I wanted to write this review objectively.  I wanted to use the most academic cinematic language possible and write candidly, but without bias or humor, on the film at hand.  Unfortunately, I find now that I simply cannot do that.  Splice is a movie that attempts to do so much in such a short amount of time.  And while certain aspects of the film actually shine through rather nicely and create a seamless image at times on screen, nothing can truly buoy the absurdly fluctuating tone of the film and the insane character development and plot progression.

I think my biggest grievance is with the fact that splice takes itself deadly seriously.  There are no allusions to meta-cinema or the creature horror genre to which this film primarily looks to occupy.  Which means that what occurs onscreen should either buy in to some semblance of formatted pacing, or otherwise create its own.  Splice rides a pacing and plot structure that comes across as strongly traditional.  Time and events occur in what is clearly modern day, devoid of variations.  And yet, the two main characters of Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) have absolutely NO semblance of consistency or morale of any kind.  These two characters go through so many internal, emotional transformations that it’s nearly impossible to get a grasp of who the hell they are.  Adrien Brody goes from being against the idea of splicing human and animal DNA, to catalyzing the experiment itself, to being weary of the product of the experiment, to trying to murder the product, to feeling sympathy for it, to feeling fatherly to it, to feeling seduced and sexually attracted to it, to murdering it.  In the course of a film under two hours.  And Sarah Polley’s character’s progression is not much better.  Within the course of ten minutes, Polley goes from being the ever-loving mother to the creature, to carelessly dissecting the being and playing with its genetic code.  Of course there are specific lines delivered throughout the film that are intended to give the audience SOME frame of reference to these inane mood swings, but they literally consist of Adrien Brody lecturing his wife about how the experiment has gotten out of hand and is no longer about ‘science,’ which helps launch Polley into a cold, thoughtless surgeon.  She operates on her own daughter/creature/porpoise/thing after it kills a cat.  Ridiculous doesn’t halfway describe the inconsistencies of tone.

Further, the creature itself, Dren, is a curious amalgamation of nothing at all.  Starting out as a highly intelligent and fast-developing creature with a penchant for coloring and playing with words, by film’s end the character has become a vampire-demon that can fly, use a scorpion tail, run with the speed of a gazelle, breathe both underwater and on land, shoot laser beams out of its eyes, and teleport through time.  Granted, I may have added those last two in, I can’t even remember anymore.  Anyway, the character seems to go completely feral rather than taking the intellectual high road (At one point it spells out the word, ‘Tedious,’ for the love of Ray Harryhausen).  During the scene’s climax, after Dren has metamorphised into a male, it actually speaks for the first time as it is raping Sarah Polley, its mother (take a second to re-read that last statement, then take another second, and read it again).  It says, “Inside you,” in a sickening, deep reference to an earlier part of the film.  But the point I’m trying to make is that the first phrase this creature says despite its clearly adept vocabulary, is an inuendo for rape and procreation.  It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

While I could go on and on about the awful up-and-down, backwards-and-forwards tone of this film and the written inconsistencies that abound, I must comment on certain things that worked really well.  First and foremost, I applaud anyone who’s willing to step into this genre’s territory and make something big, and difficult, and different, like director Vincenzo Natali chose to.  It’s very hard to do a work in this realm and it’s very easy to step off and work on lighter fare, or even, choose to not take your content seriously, almost creating a farce in the meta-theatrical realm.  Additionally, while always being the first to jump on the “CGI SUCKS” bandwagon, I will be the first to happily admit, the CGI in this film looked incredibly seamless.  The creature, Dren’s, legs were perfectly animated and never gave me the impression that I wasn’t looking at something tangible.  Dren’s face, as well, both young and older, came across as perfectly legit, never feeling produced or obviously added in.  Everything felt very honest, very physical.  And yet, so little of the monster was.  Watching the behind the scenes footage, it became apparent that the only part of Dren that was always the actress was her torso, and even then, the added things on, like a tail and wings.  It gave me great hope in the future for effects and CG work, which was something this film needed to be at all redeemable.

Overall I respect the efforts that were taken and the film certainly never fails to keep you entertained.  As far as quality spectacle, however, Splice falls quite short.  The performances are barely above average and the story just cannot be taken seriously.  The key to making sci-fi or horror or any fantastical genre work is to either establish strong character work or establish your tone and pacing and keep it within some realm of consistency or fabricate a framework of absurdism.  Splice doesn’t do any of these things well and instead opts to do all of these things poorly.

Performances: 64/100

Cinematography/Aesthetics: 90/100

Score: 50/100

Script: 28/100

Overall: 42/100

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