Revisiting Species: Species II

Our continuing look at the unloved Species franchise finds the first sequel amping up the shocks but ruining all else...

Lovely but deadly - Sil 2 in Species 2

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!

Last time I began revisiting the Species franchise with the first film, which was a success and a brilliant way to kick off a new franchise. This time we revisit the second in the franchise: Species II, a financial and critical failure on release.

When I first saw this movie, I instantly loved it. It had action, humour and what appeared to be a relatively decent plot, I would even have gone as far as to describe it as my favourite in the series. After further inspection, however, I have noticed some massive problems which need serious addressing.

The film opens with three astronauts travelling through space as part of the first manned mission to Mars. After only a few minutes in I found myself instantly asking the television: “but what about the mutating rat at the end of the first one!?”. Sadly, the rat is nowhere to be found here, a massive mistake in my opinion.

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Anyway, back to the film.

The three astronauts (Anne, Dennis and Patrick) manage to make their way to Mars, and eventually land. Upon leaving the shuttle, Patrick wastes no time in sticking up an American flag and gathering some samples for research. Their trip is quickly interrupted after they load the samples, as a strange black substance (much like “The Black Oil Virus” from The X-Files), begins oozing from the container in which the samples are held and slithers along the floor, before jumping at the crew. Now this was a moment which, even after my seventh or eighth viewing, made me jump. Things were looking promising.

I was quickly thrown back into confusion though, as we cut to the highly underrated Peter Boyle in what appears to be a mental home chanting “I told them not to go!” after viewing the landing on a television. At first I assumed this would come into the story later, but over an hour later he had made only a couple of brief appearances. Why exactly he thought they shouldn’t go was never fully explained. I suspect some large amounts of editing were made to this section of the film, and it really could have done with fleshing the character out a little more. Or at least explaining what the hell he was on about.

After the confusion the Peter Boyle scene had created, I was brought back to more familiar ground, as we are introduced to Eve, a biological clone of Sil from the original film, who is being held captive in a laboratory for more brainless experiments. And who do you think is running the facility? None other than Marg Helgenberger. Why someone would resurrect a creature which tried to kill them is a mystery to me, but obviously she deemed it necessary for some reason…

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The astronauts return to earth and are told that they are not allowed to have sex for ten days in order for some scientists to check they haven’t got any infections or such like. Something which I instantly knew really wasn’t going to happen. It took only minutes before I was proved right, when Patrick has sex with a woman and her sister after a conference.

This is where things really start to pick up for me, as Patrick impregnates them in no time. Then, minutes later the women give birth in a rather grisly manner, as a child bursts from each woman’s stomach, killing them in the process. Patrick quickly hides the bodies and takes the children to a small shed where they remain until a later date in the film. It is also revealed for the first time during this scene that Eve has some sort of psychic connection with Patrick, when she becomes excited while he has sex with the two women. This was the first thing I had seen in the film I truly believed was a clever idea.

But as soon as Species II was beginning to come together, yet another confusing scene cropped up, when a scientist discovers Patrick’s blood is infected. The scientist is killed by Patrick moments later; it would appear Patrick had been hiding behind a wall in his alien form for some reason…? Don’t ask me what it is, though. Also, how he broke into a laboratory full of armed guards is another piece of information which is never given by what is, at this point, proving to be an overly complicated film.

It’s not long before Helgenberger and Michael Madsen are reunited to track down the astronauts and find out what has happened to them. I was surprised that these two were the only original cast members other than Natasha Henstridge to return. The film could really have done with a cameo or something from Forrest Whitaker, the so-called “Psychic”. I missed him.

The first astronaut at the top of their list is Dennis, a character whose part was clearly written for an actor like Will Smith. This character, though, begins to grate quickly, constantly joking about women and making sexual puns which really aren’t all that amusing.

After some more overly complicated chats, it is revealed that Dennis is not infected by the virus. Instead, he is immune for some reason, which is a shame since I was really looking forward to his head exploding. Humbug. After this, Helgenberger and Madsen (also accompanied by the annoying Dennis) make their way to Anne’s house in time for a pretty cool special effect in which a large tentacle bursts from Anne’s stomach and suffocates her husband. It was pretty predictable that this character wasn’t going to last very long, as she hadn’t even been mentioned between the opening of the film and her death. That’s the equivalent of a Star Trek extra pulling on a red shirt and asking if they could come along on the next trip, too.

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Madsen and Helgenberger perform an autopsy on Anne’s body shortly after. This was a moment where once again I jumped out of my seat, when a set of tentacles burst through her head. One thing which this film had definitely improved upon since the first was making sure the fear-factor was spot on, providing for a number of genuinely frightening moments.

What happens over the next section of the film will be nothing new to any fans of the series, as Patrick goes around impregnating woman after woman, even his wife. Dennis shortly arrives to try and “talk to him”, though how he expects to talk an alien intent on impregnating every woman on the planet out of having sex raises even more questions. Nonetheless I managed to resist switching the film off…

The scene ends with Patrick shooting himself in the head due to his guilt over killing his wife. However, considering these aliens are able to regenerate, its not long before his head grows back and his body is completely under the control of the alien virus inhabiting it.

From this point on there is a large build up to what I was expecting to be a spectacular finale featuring a large battle between Eve (who we had sadly seen very little of so far) and Patrick.

Eve is used by Helgenberger to track down Patrick using her “psychic connection”. What happens next is one of my favourite moments in the film, as Madsen and Dennis track Patrick down to a supermarket where they believe he is hiding out in the cereal aisle. Madsen ends up holding a gun to an employee’s face demanding “where’s the god damn cereal?”, a laugh-out-loud moment, and a phrase I’m always keen to use when at the supermarket. Obviously, without the gun.

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By this point I was beginning to become concerned about the grand finale. We were over an hour in, and Eve and Patrick had yet to meet. But finally Patrick is brought back to the labs by Madsen and Dennis, who are unaware. He purely went with them after he became aware Eve was there. Eventually Eve breaks free and she and Patrick make off to his top secret base where his children are being held. I’m joking, it’s not really a secret base – it’s a shed.

The trio back at the labs create some sort of fire extinguisher which can kill the aliens (I won’t even attempt to explain how they made it, or what it’s even made of – the explanation was far too long-winded, and even If I could repeat it I wouldn’t understand it).

The highly anticipated finale sadly proved to be a major letdown: Helgenberger convinces Eve to help them stop Patrick, which she tries to do, only to have some sort of extremely long penis jammed down her throat by Patrick, which kills her. Then, In a last attempt to kill Patrick, Madsen uses a sample of Dennis’s blood to do the job. How on earth this “Species Science” works, I have no idea, but it’s downright daft. It looks like Dennis had a purpose after all, eh?.

The final scene sees Eve being carried off by an ambulance, accompanied by the only surviving child of Patrick and…a cat? Don’t ask me what a cat was doing there, I was still reeling from the disappointing finale. As the credits roll, a sickening explosion is heard as if Eve has given birth. And that is where the film was left.

Although Species II provides much amusement, quite honestly it’s downright silly. I have seen worse, that’s for sure, but few films have disappointed me like this. The over-complicated explanations really spoiled the narrative. At the end of the day, it’s about an alien who has sex, so how complicated can things be? The scare factor was a definite improvement from the first, but it really didn’t seem to improve on anything else. The sad truth is, this film is “a bit of fun” and nothing more. There were good ideas in Species II, but their delivery was poor, and it proved to be no-where near as engaging as the first film.

Was there a chance the franchise could pull itself out of what seemed like a very deep hole for a second sequel? We will find out next time, when I revisit Species III, a film which appeared to kill any chance of the franchise continuing.

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