Species - The Awakening

Director: Nick Lyon   
Ben Cross, Helena Mattsson, Dominic Keating

When I was young, I was fascinated by the idea that certain fantastic ideas and theories had the possibility of actually being true. It seemed to me that if any of these things could be true, then just about anything could be possible. It's years later and I am now grown up, but there is still a part of me that occasionally thinks about many of the fantastic ideas and theories that went through my head as a child, even if my present opinion of any of them does not match what I thought about them as a child. Take Sasquatch, for example (I refuse to use the term "Bigfoot" when referring to him - I think it makes him appear as a doofus.) When I was young, I really wanted to believe that such a creature actually existed; the thought of something that could be animal yet had many human characteristics was exciting. But today as an adult, I must reluctantly admit that I don't think Sasquatch exists. The North American population has been pushing more and more into the wilderness over the years, the remaining wilderness has been greatly explored, so I think that if Sasquatch actually existed at any point of time, we would have found some kind of evidence to support this theory by now. But while I don't think Sasquatch exists, there are other fantastic things that I still believe in. Since I did my fourth grade book report on The World's Most Famous Ghosts (by the extremely prolific children's book writer Daniel Cohen), I have believed that there is some kind of afterlife that includes the existence of ghosts. I can't imagine myself dead and not existing in some form afterwards. Think about it.

Then there is the theory that there is life out there outside of this world that we live in. I believed this when I was young, and I still believe it today. I think that if you were to get into an argument with a cynic about this topic, there's a strong possibility that you could get them to admit there is the possibility of lower forms of life out there - I'm talking about life like bacteria. But what about the possibility of intelligent life from other planets? Well, I am a firm believer that there has to be such life out there. Think about the universe. It is very, very, very big; it seems ludicrous to think that there could only be life in the one very, very, very tiny pocket of the universe where we live. Then there is all the evidence that has presented itself through the ages, mostly in the last hundred years or so. We've had numerous sightings of strange lights in the sky moving like nothing else we have seen. We have had a number of strange incidents with possible U.F.O.s where the government has been mysteriously tight-lipped about what information about these incidents they may have. We have had a number of reports from people who have claimed to have been abducted by aliens. All this evidence, in my opinion, adds up to one unshakable conclusion. My firm conviction with this topic has made me seek out and watch a number of movies about space aliens over the years, including the Species series. I remember watching the first Species movie when I was in Korea, though even with my alien hunger I remember being somewhat let down by it. It didn't help that the movie had been obviously censored by Korean censors, leading to some jumpy moments. (Don't watch movies if you go to Korea.)

Despite my great interest in anything alien-related, I didn't have that much enthusiasm to see Species II when it was first released. Sequels almost never match up to the original, and as I said, I didn't think too much of the original. (It didn't help that all the reviews of this sequel I read were all pretty damning.) Years later, one day at the video store, I found myself desperate to find something on DVD that I hadn't seen before and had an exploitive attitude. I reluctantly picked up Species II. I was expecting something bad, but I was really surprised by what I watched. This movie was insane. It reminded me of one of those exploitive category III Hong Kong movies like Robotrix, but with a much bigger budget. After seeing it, you can bet I was pumped up to see Species III. But while I thought its production values were acceptable for a straight-to-video movie, and that it had a number of gory and naked women moments, I thought it was somewhat talky, somewhat slow, and overlong (it ran close to two hours!) I didn't have much interest to see the next entry, Species - The Awakening when it was first released, but I ultimately decided to watch it recently when I was completing five movies for a video store's "5 movies for 5 dollars" deal. The fourth entry in this series at its beginning introduces us to Miranda Hollander (Mattsson) a professor who works at the same university as her uncle Tom (Cross, First Knight) After some bizarre occurrences which result in her seeming to be responsible for the death of some people, her uncle tells her the truth: she is a product of long ago when he mixed human and alien DNA with his former scientist partner Forbes (Keating, Beowulf). Tom flees with her to Mexico to find Forbes, hoping that when they find him he can treat Miranda and silence the deadly alien side in her. They find Forbes, but can he help? And what has he been doing all this time?

Species - The Awakening is one of the ugliest movies I have seen in a long time. I don't mean that it is ugly in its attitude, such as how it depicts women (though I am sure there will be one or two feminists out there who will damn the movie for how it does depicts women, even though all the women central to this movie have a mix of deadly alien DNA within them.) I mean that the movie is ugly visually. While the movie does gives us one or two nice quick looks at the Mexican desert in the daytime when Tom and Miranda reach that country, the rest of the movie is hideous to look at. The early scenes that take place in the United States set the tone; the outdoor scenes not only look like they have been photographed during times of overcast skies, but also seem to have been photographed with some kind of filter to make these sequences look even darker than how they would have normally appeared. The indoor sequences look just as bad in their own ways. Even in interiors where you would expect the lighting to be bright (such as the hospital sequences), the lighting has been toned down. Blacks dominate the picture, enough so that it is often hard to make out all the details on both people and other objects. The movie continues to look repulsive to the eye once the action moves to Mexico. Indoor sequences there not only look murky and dark, they are often lit in an especially hideous shade of green (except for one scene taking place in a nightclub, where it is lit in an especially hideous shade of orange.)

Not only that, the entire movie has a "soft" look to it, as if it had all been photographed slightly out of focus. (I suppose this particular point could have been a result of a mistake during the movie's transfer to DVD, but given that the rest of the movie's bad decisions in its lighting and photography, I have my doubts.) I have no idea what director Nick Lyon was thinking when he made the decision to make this movie look so unattractive (nor do I understand why MGM would give this franchise's reins to someone who hadn't done that much in directing before making this movie, and also with Lyon done even less with previous efforts with the fantastic.) Perhaps one of the reasons he chose to darken and obscure the scenes was as an attempt to mask the movie's poor special effects. Not all the effects in the movie are bad; there's one scene where a human/alien hybrid leaps several stories high into the air that I thought was pretty impressive (one reason it works is that it takes place in one of the movie's few moments of bright sunshine.) But just about all of the rest of the effects are sub-par. The first three instalments of this series (even the direct-to-video Species III) used a combination of CGI, puppetry, rubber suits, and make-up in their effects. Here, there's no puppetry, the use of make-up and rubber suits is limited, and the rest is second-rate CGI. When long alien tongues come out of the human/alien hybrids, they don't look they belong there, they look like they have obviously been constructed and pasted in from another source.

There is also some CGI gore that flies during the course of the movie, and it is equally unconvincing. Oh, there is some "real" blood used, but even when you pair that up with the CGI blood, the movie still seems missing a lot of the red stuff that made the previous instalments of this series popular. As for adding to all the sex and nudity that the previous instalments brought forth, the movie fails on that level as well. Although the cover of the DVD box proclaims that this movie is "UNRATED", director Lyon seems determined to not exploit that fact. There's none of that especially naughty lower frontal nudity on display here, and just about all the various butt and breast shots that happen during the course of the movie are obscured in some way (such as darkness) so viewers won't be able to fully appreciate them. The movie also teases us by promising to show us a couple of kinky things like lesbian alien sex (woo-hoo!), but never gets around to actually showing it (d'oh!). Is there anything in the movie that is entertaining? Well, in movies like these there are bound to be some unintended laughs, and this movie has some, such as the fact that one guy is revealed to have had sex while wearing his boxer shorts not just once, but twice. But that's just a small part of the running time; I predict that viewers will be bored and frustrated. The performances are forgettable (I'm writing this a few hours after watching the movie, and I can't remember a thing about them), the script has a ton of unanswered questions (even more if you haven't seen any of the previous Species movies), but most of all, this is one ugly movie. I don't think any viewer will welcome the idea of a Species V afterwards.

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See also: Invader, Laserhawk, Lifeform