SPECIES II - Evolution of the Species

NB: This article originally appeared in Shivers magazine, issue 57. 

Click on the image to order a copy from the publisher.

The 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.

Eve (Natasha Henstridge).In 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).

Species 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

The 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.

Doctor Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger).Producing 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.

Species 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.

Taking 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-esque alien creature.H.R. 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. Steve 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.

Space flake: astronaut Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard).The 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.”

Justin 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”.

Doctor Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger).Shooting 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.

Species 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. 


Related links:


Species II - Film Review

Species II - DVD review


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