Monday, 14 January 2013

Splice - Movie Review

Splice is a 2009 science fiction film directed by Vincenzo Natali (all the pertinent info can be found on wikipedia). Given it's about biologists creating an artificial chimeric life-form I thought it would be worth a look.
To my relief the film isn't actually a horror film despite the trailer being edited to make us think that.

The film in reality has far more in common with the "Frankenstein" template of humans messing with nature and creating a creature that is scared, confused and ultimately a product of the way others treat it. The film is at its best when concentrating on the chimera "Dren" and the twists and turns in the relationships between her and her scientist "parents". Unfortunately the film does revert to horror at the end and there is some slightly dubious/disturbing sexual content that I'll discuss in spoilers later on. The good thing is that Dren remains sympathetic throughout and it's the scientists who are the most morally dubious. It's not quite GATACCA in terms of social relevance but it's a pretty good attempt at a sci-fi film being more than just action.

How about the science though? Well splicing is possible as is the manufacture of chimeras but maybe not in the way the film presents. Being a film everything is conveniently done on a computer with 3D chromosomes "levelling up" in a flashing light when you've got the splice mixture correct as opposed to actually doing experiments. The only drawback with these supercomputers is that they make pointlessly noisy sounds so that you know they are working -I'd mute the thing and then it would be perfect.
The film also invents a bit of technology for their plot that is actually a really cool invention in itself. They essentially have an artificial womb in which they can grow all of their splice experiments. The company spends a huge chunk of the film trying to find ways to commercially exploit the splice technology while completely ignoring the fact they have an artificial womb they could patent with obvious practical uses. There's even a scene in the film where the scientists argue over a baby and the woman says they can have a baby when he can carry it. YOU HAVE AN ARTIFICIAL WOMB IN YOUR LAB!!!

No wonder the company is having financial difficulties.

Speaking of which the funding company is yet again painted as evil for trying to make money and recoup the millions it has invested in the project. Not sure why that's so outrageous - companies invest to generate a profit and I found their stance understandable.

The other age old science film trope is that scientists will always risk their careers and lives by going ahead with a dangerous and illegal experiment because their curiosity is driving them. That said they do briefly discuss whether they should go ahead with it and this generates my favourite science quote in the film

"What's the point if you can't publish!?"

Probably the most scientifically accurate thing in the film, sadly.

Other dubious science is the use of the word "evolve" when they actually mean "develop". Dren grows up and is therefore developing, not evolving - that's something that species do over generations.

There's also a fun line towards the end;

"Was it ever about the science?" which is another salient point :)

I thought the Dren designs for various stages in her life were well done - especially in the early stages where she was like some kind of kangaroo-rabbit-person. They definitely did a good job with mixing known animal features into one unique design.

As for the last bit it's about the dubious sexual content and contains plot spoilers and is a little "not safe for work" so skip if you don't want the film spoiled or are prone to blushing.

So part of the film is the growing attraction between Dren and the male scientist which is kind of weird. Well it's even weirder when he decides to have sex with her. You have to remember what she actually looks like and the guy is either kinky or Dren has some pretty good pheromones kicking around. Anyway we get the classic "caught in the act" moment when the female scientist walks in on them. She's naturally disgusted but the guy somehow manages to have a go at her for being morally dubious by mutilating Dren. Sorry, dude, your moral high ground was washed away when you decided to have sex with your model organism. When I start being attracted to my flies I know it's time to get a proper job.
The weird sex thing doesn't stop there though and the end of the film seems to side-track into some kind of Japanese tentacle-rape homage. You see, Dren turns into a guy and that tail she has turns out to be a dick (so I guess this means Dren was a hermaphrodite and her mutilation was quite severe). So Dren decides to even things out she'll rape the female scientist with her "tail". Worse still is the fact that Dren is kind of genetically the female scientist's child (she used her DNA for the splicing) so it's also a kind of incest/bestiality two-for-one.

So apart from the disturbing ending there's enough in the film to make it worth a look.

I'd give the film 3 out of 5 (with a viewing number of n =1)


  1. No wonder the company is having financial difficulties.

    That reminds me of Spider-Man 2. Harry Osbourne was getting excited over the possibilities of using the fusion reactor to get rich, when he should have gotten excited over the fact that the chief scientist on the project, on his own, created a set of incredibly capable robotic limbs that he can control with his nervous system.

    If he was smart, he would have had Dr. Ock authorize the use of the robot arm related patents in exchange for giving him some seed money for his fusion project.

    1. Exactly. The world of science entertainment highlights the need for translational scientist with basic business sense positions.

      I guess this is what happens when you let evil scientists loose with their tunnel vision.