Cliché is the word of the day
Splice is a prime example of a writer’s ability to drink himself stupid by story’s end. That is, of course, assuming the writer’s any good in the first place, and I’m not sure Vincenzo Natali is, considering he wrote and directed Splice and his best-known film, Cube, came out more than two decades ago.
Natali’s latest effort starts out promising, with two eager doctors on the verge of a scientific breakthrough. By the midway point, however, any misguided hopes that the film will end well by either A) challenging ethical codes or B) surprising with breathtaking special effects are dashed, left in the rubble of a science experiment gone awry.
We enter the film in a disorienting sequence filmed all from the first-person perspective of an overgrown slug. That should have been a tip-off that worse things were yet to come, but the main characters seem capable enough to pull off something just short of amazing.
Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are the couple who can’t get enough of each other—they live together, work together, and make strange, interspecies love children together. Their latest breakthrough is the birth of Fred, the aforementioned overgrown slug (actually a number of different animal species combined into one), who could hold genetic secrets that can stave off disease in livestock.
As titillating as that sounds, Elsa is yet unimpressed and convinces Clive to work double shifts trying to crack the code to splicing together cells from animals and humans to create a creature capable of curing the likes of Alzheimer’s or cancer.
The possibilities are endless, even if we know from the previews that their experiment will go horribly wrong. That’s why we’re in the theater, right? To watch a genetic mutant wreak havoc on its ethically challenged creators?
This is precisely the moment at which the film could go down two drastically different paths. Unfortunately it takes the one riddled with clichés, including (but not limited to) mommy issues, a chick with a tail, ugly-duckling syndrome, a (meaningless) time limit, an abandoned barn, forbidden love, etc., etc.
The human-animal hybrid—named Dren (Delphine Chenéac)—is pretty cool to watch, with her chicken legs and venomous tail. But it’s all novelty, as the science behind Dren’s creation is seemingly forgotten altogether by the plot, in favor of turning Clive and Elsa into dysfunctional parents rather than edgy scientists.
What makes even less sense than the plot is why an actor of Adrien Brody’s caliber (he won an Oscar, for Pete’s sake!) would read this script and say, “Yes. I think I should be in this film.” The only thing I can figure is he lost a bet and this was his punishment. As for Polley, she appears to be trying to conjure the chops of her fellow redhead, Julianne Moore. It doesn’t work.
But neither does anything else.