NB: This review originally appeared in Shivers magazine, issue 57. 

Click on the image to order a copy from the publisher


Director: Peter Medak

Stars: Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge, Marg Helgenberger

UK Release:  28th August 1998

Certificate: 18

Running Time: 92m approx.

Charismatic young astronaut Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard) lands on the surface of Mars, and claims it for mankind. As Ross and his fellow astronauts leave the planet, an alien slime leaks from their soil sample canisters, and advances on the crew. Some time later they wake, seemingly unaware that anything is amiss. When they return to Earth the astronauts are treated like heroes, but they soon develop an insatiable desire to mate…

Doctor Baker (Marg Helgenberger) and Eve (Natasha Henstridge).Meanwhile, in a secret US government laboratory, Doctor Laura Baker (Helgenberger) has developed another alien hybrid embryo, Eve (Henstridge), who looks identical to Sil, but has not been exposed to any male influences. The aggressive instincts which drove Sil to escape and kill are being successfully suppressed in Eve. The military are testing Eve’s vulnerability, but they are being thwarted by the alien creature's ability to adapt to new threats. If they are to face the alien menace again, they want to be better prepared…

Is it possible that Species II is actually a better film that Species? It exhibits many of the same flaws as the first movie. It has a derivative plot, stealing huge chunks of Heinlein’s influential 1950 novel The Puppet Masters, (the 1994 film version of which is a much better film, incidentally). The special effects are again of hugely variable quality. There are some nice animatronic creature effects, (the original film relied almost entirely on CGI), but equally there are some sequences that are so ineptly executed that the viewer can only gawp in astonishment.

Sil - alien designed by H.R.Giger, made by Steve Johnson's effects untiThe script, written by one-time X-Files scribe Chris Brancato, is an improvement on last time. It doesn’t contain anywhere near as much unintentionally guffaw-inducing dialogue as the 1995 movie, (mainly because the Forest Whitaker character is absent this time), although as the plot gets more and more preposterous it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a straight face. The story is an awkward patchwork affair which barely hangs together, but it's an improvement on the original, which was basically one long cat-and-mouse chase sequence.

Henstridge’s role in the new film is diminished, and she is kept separate from the main thrust of the action, which is carried by newcomer Lazard. There’s an empathic telepathic link between Eve and Ross, (much as there was between Dan and Sil in Species), which million-dollar bounty hunter Preston “Press” Lennox (Madsen) exploits to keep tabs on the rogue astronaut. Madsen has more to do this time, and has plenty of pithy and sardonic lines to deliver.

Colonel Carter Burgess Jr (George Dzundza)Pepping up the film are a few notable character actors, including Star Trek: First Contact’s James Cromwell, as Patrick Ross’ Senator father, and Basic Instinct’s George Dzundza as battle-scarred, no-nonsense army Colonel Carter Burgess Jr. Forrest Gump’s Mykelti Williamson plays one of the other astronauts, and brings some tangible humanity to a film bristling with ciphers. Young Frankenstein's Peter Boyle appears briefly as a doom-mongering asylum inmate.

Veteran Hungarian director Medak handles Species II’s action sequences with clockwork precision, but seems to have little idea how to cope with the demanding special effects scenes. There’s plenty of gore, for those that want it, but anyone looking for innovation will be disappointed.

Despite the flaws Species II is a more satisfying film than its predecessor. It doesn't look quite so good, (the original movie boasted some excellent anamorphic cinematography), but the script is better, the acting is of a more consistent standard, and the story is marginally more interesting. If only all the elements combined to create something of genuine quality…

Related links:


Species II: Evolution of the Species - article

Species II - DVD review


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