Splice takes a deeply debated subject and treats it with the utmost seriousness for the first half hour, then slowly digresses into an often uncomfortably bizarre monster movie. The alternating bouts of heavy sci-fi and samplings of creature horror feel unbalanced and so do the film’s messages. It attempts to surface the moral dilemmas of gene splicing and human cloning but quickly gives way to the ludicrous notions of sex with kangaroo women. It may sound weird in print, but it’s even stranger on the screen.
Bio-engineers Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrian Brody) are on the brink of a complete scientific breakthrough with their latest experiment of molecule creation from a new animal life form. Their bosses see only dollar signs, however, and demand that the two scientists forge ahead with protein synthesis rather than taking the next steps into human gene splicing. Angered by their employers’ lack of foresight, Elsa and Clive secretly conduct their own experiment and create Dren, a half-human, half-animal hybrid with untold scientific value – and unimaginable danger.
Splice begins by presenting the scientific aspects of bio-engineering with an emphasis on believability, but then skips several steps in trying to keep the audience’s suspension of disbelief intact. Veiny, gelatinous “new life forms” are the first giant leap into fiction. Where were the simpler splices of two similar animals to create a hybrid – such as something imaginable, like a fish with a duck? Once Dren makes an appearance, it would appear that our two scientists mixed genes by picking unmarked test tubes out of a hat without knowing what they might be getting. She’s half human and half animal, but how did traits of frogs, kangaroos, birds, and scorpions get in there? An experiment this uncontrolled seems less likely to even be considered, let alone come to fruition. Perhaps satyrs and centaurs are too boring these days.
Cloning and DNA splicing has always been a subject for debate. The moral implications, religious outrages, pharmaceutical company profit motivations, and potentially beneficial medical research have all been weighed against one another in an attempt to determine whether or not this level of science is something to pursue. The question has always been to clone or not to clone; Splice brings up another question: should we have sex with the clones? If this sounds absolutely ridiculous, it’s because it is. No scrutinized reasoning exists behind the actions taken in this film, chiefly in regards to the human/alien hybrid, but also to the utter lack of security in the facility (they load up an enormous box into a van, move Dren from room to room, and use all of the expensive equipment after hours, all without any supervision, questioning or interference).
The first, largest misstep, presented to us in the opening scene, is the two lumpy, slimy brain-like creatures used later for a King Kong freakshow demonstration for their protein producing abilities. While it provides humor, it removes us almost immediately from the realm of science-fact. From here, even the once serious classic science-fiction themes are abandoned for cheap monster movie gimmicks. Scientists may push boundaries, but outside of the disturbing sensuality that bulldozes every other relevant moral dilemma, this film is very much a splice between Species and Mimic and Alien (what sci-fi horror film doesn’t steal a bit from Alien, here nothing more than cliché?) that scores no points for originality. It’s actually more laughable than it is frightening or thought-provoking.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)