SPECIES II - Evolution of
This article originally appeared in Shivers magazine, issue
on the image to order a copy from the publisher.
success of MGM’s 1995 movie Species,
which took over sixty million dollars at the box office in the US, and
almost half that again when it was released there on video, meant that a
sequel was inevitable.
the original film mankind had transmitted a short introductory message
into space through the radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and had
been rewarded with two replies. The first was a formula for a very
efficient fuel, to demonstrate the goodwill of the creatures sending it.
The second was a DNA sequence, and suggestions as to how it could be
bonded with human tissue. The result was Sil (Natasha Henstridge), an
alien hybrid in human form. When Sil escaped from the government
laboratory, her strong survival instincts instinctively instilled in her
the desire to breed. Pitted against Sil’s superhuman strength and
aggression were a group of oddly-matched specialists, led by molecular
biologist, (and Sil’s erstwhile ‘mother’), Doctor Laura Baker (CSI:
Crime Scene Investigation’s Marg Helgenberger) and former marine,
and ex-assassin Preston Lennox (Reservoir
Dogs’ Michael Madsen).
II takes place some
considerable time after the events in the first movie. A team of
astronauts has landed on Mars, and pick up an alien organism with their
soil samples. They are infected by the alien parasite before they even
return to Earth, as heroes.
Doctor Baker has developed another alien embryo, Eve, but this time the
creature has not come into contact with any males, and her naturally
aggressive behaviour has been suppressed. When the astronauts begin a
killing spree, Lennox is recruited to hunt them down, and for that he
needs Eve’s help.
sequel is directed by Hungarian-born Peter Medak, whose previous movies
include The Krays, Let Him Have It and Romeo is
Bleeding. He also directed a 1997 adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, for TNT, starring Mandy Patinkin,
Richard Harris and Selma Hayek, and was second assistant director on
Hammer’s version of The Phantom
of the Opera, in 1962.
the sequel was the responsibility of Frank Mancuso, Jr, and Executive
Producer Dennis Feldman, who were the producers of the original film.
Mancuso’s career at Universal began in the early 80s, when he took over
the Friday the 13th franchise; associate producing Part
II, producing the third and fourth films, and executive producing the
subsequent installments, as well as the short-lived spin-off TV series.
Feldman wrote and co-produced the original film.
II was written by
Chris Brancato, who began his career as a P.A. on the Tales From the Darkside TV series. In 1997 he wrote the crime drama Hoodlum,
which was produced by Frank Mancuso Jr. He’s also written several
episodes of The Outer Limits, (Resurrection,
Beyond The Veil, and In
Another Life), co-wrote an episode of The
X-Files with Kenneth Biller, a story about genetically-engineered
clones… called Eve, and has
contributed to the Rashomon-like cop series Boomtown.
over as Director of Photography is Matthew F. Leonetti, who shot Fled
for Frank Mancuso Jr, as well as Strange
Days, Star Trek: Generations and Mortal
Kombat 2: Annihilation.
Giger, the Oscar winning Swiss artist who created Sil for the 1995 film,
returned with a male version of the creature that was markedly different
from the elegant curves of the female of the species. For Species II Giger contributed designs showing how the alien parasite
attacks and consumes it’s human prey, and greatly elaborated on the
creature’s reproductive processes.
Johnson’s XFX, Inc were the effects team charged with bringing the new
creature to the screen. The movie made extensive use of animatronics,
rather than again heavily relying on CGI effects. As well as the fully
developed male creature, Johnson’s team created several gory sequences
where the alien beings leave their human hosts, and a spectacular scene
where a child is turned into a chrysalis.
bulk of the Species II script
concentrated on the hunt for charismatic young astronaut, Joseph Ross
(Justin Lazard). Frank Mancuso offered an interesting analogy: “For me
the reference was the Wolfman. I always thought he was the most
sympathetic of all the monsters. Here’s a guy minding his own business,
and while walking through the woods one night he’s bitten. At first he
seems okay, but when the full moon comes up, he does these horrible
things. His acts are not concious, he doesn’t plan to kill anyone, its
just a biological reaction to a condition. The Wolfman became a working
metaphor for the movie.”
Lazard was a relative unknown who made his film debut in Paul
Morrissey’s 1988 movie Spike of
Bensonhurst. His previous roles include a young stockbroker in the CBS
series Central Park West,
and modeling assignments for companies including Calvin Klein.
While making Species II Lazard
was also developing his own movie project, an independently- produced thriller
called Dark Harbor which
starred Alan Rickman and Polly Walker. In 2000 he produced and starred in
the critically-acclaimed drama Stanley’s Gig.
Three key members of the cast
reprise their roles from the original film: Michael Madsen, Marg
Helgenberger and Natasha Henstridge. For Henstridge the sequel was an
opportunity to bring new dimensions to her performance: “Eve is much
more human that Sil was. She has two personalities. One is very human and
somewhat childlike, but pretty smart. She is a little disturbed about
having to be in this environment where she sees these things happening
around her, but is not allowed to be a part of it. The other being is
alien, but she is more naïve about that side of herself, until those
genes click into action”.
began on June 23rd, 1997 on locations in Baltimore, Laurel and
Columbia in Maryland.
Several scenes were shot in Washington DC, to
reflect that Patrick’s father, (played by Star
Trek: First Contact’s James Cromwell), is a Senator.
II opened in the US in
April 1998, to disappointing box-office figures. When the film left
theatres two months later it had grossed less than twenty million dollars.
II - Film Review
II - DVD review