The only reason we saw this is that we just bought a rather unlikely DVD, a double feature with this and Alien. I guess the pairing makes sense in a way—they both involve scary aliens, and both aliens were designed by that seriously sick man, H.R. Giger. In fact, the two aliens look a lot alike, which shouldn’t surprise me, as Giger only has the one alien to sell. You notice how if you’ve seen one Giger painting, you’ve seen them all? But one was a groundbreaking classic of horror, and the other was just another Alien rip-off. In fact, I scrutinized the box carefully to make sure there wasn’t some other movie called Alien, a trick we’ve seen with any number of blockbusters capitalizing on people too stupid to know they weren’t getting the original. But there it was, starring Sigourney Weaver, directed by Ridley Scott. Even some DVD extras. The price was right, and I didn’t have a copy of Alien, so I bought it …
… with very few expectations as to the quality of the second feature. The reviews weren’t great, from critics or viewers. And there were two sequels, both of them rating around 4.0 at the IMDb. (Well, Alien had no less than five sequels, if you count the execrable Alien vs. Predator franchise, and the second one was pretty good, and all the others sucked.) Anyway, I’m happy to say that we were pleasantly surprised. It’s not bad at all.
The idea is that we sent out a signal via the SETI program some years ago, including a lot of code for our DNA. A signal came back that showed us how to combine our DNA with something else. (This idea is not new. A similar idea was proposed in Fred Hoyle’s A For Andromeda back in 1961.) A team led by Ben Kingsley gets it started, and it rapidly—just a few weeks—grows into a young girl. The nucleotides hit the fan when they get scared and decide to kill this hybrid organism. She breaks out, and rapidly grows into a 20-something blonde knockout, incredibly powerful, without remorse, a killing machine when she is threatened. This part is nicely played by blonde knockout Natasha Henstridge, as a wide-eyed, sometimes rather sweet, stranger in a strange land. (She is naked a lot, which doesn’t hurt her performance, from my point of view.) In fact, one of the things that makes this so unusual is that I actually felt a lot of sympathy for her. True, she was a manufactured organism, and her purpose was to take over the Earth for her distant species, but she was also human, with bad dreams and a desire to live. Her purpose was to mate with a human male and thus produce a son capable of fertilizing an unlimited number of human females. Her methods were rather direct and drastic, no question, and some of that is pretty funny, but still, I found myself rooting for her.
A team is assembled: Michael Madsen as a black ops killer, Marg Helgenberger and Alfred Molina as scientists (to explain the DNA bullshit to the audience), and Forest Whitaker as an “empath,” which means he has some spooky talent whereby he knows where the alien girl is much of the time. They track her all over Los Angeles, and later, she tracks them. There is lots of bloody mayhem but not an inordinate amount; this is not a gorefest. All in all, a whole lot better than I expected.