DVD Rating: **1/2

Reviewed by: Martin Gray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Species

Ever get the feeling that extras are included for the sake of including extras?

The shorts are interesting enough, but oh so repetitive. The same folk show up again and again, the same bits of film reappear and some were so obviously made at the same time you wonder why they bothered splitting them up rather than giving us a meatier-seeming documentary.

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The Concept gives background to the movie, so writer Dennis Feldman, director Roger Donaldson and producer Frank Mancuso Jr trace the idea for Species (alien DNA sent to earth in radio signal and grafted to human DNA, or something) while actors Forest Whitaker and Ben Kingsley talk up the movie and eventual Dawson's Creek star Michelle Williams, aka young Syl, tells us her mother wouldn't let her watch the whole movie (for fear of boring her to death?).

This short is pitched at the level of an article for one of the duller SF magazines (so that's Starburst rather than SFX), cheery chat with no amazing revelations. And far more amazing than any of the Much-Vaunted (copyright Marvel Comics 1864-92) Henstridge transformations is the Donaldson's change from bearded heavy in 1995 to shaven silver fox circa 2003, and star Michael Madsen from young screen stud to craggy cinema god. Writer Feldman stays pretty much the same - nice but dull and desperate to convince us that Species is a work of genius . . .an idea that's less Species than specious.

The Origin sees Feldman back, telling us that his dad produced The Wild Bunch. Wheeee! Oh, and he wrote the script on spec and there was an auction for it, which was exciting for him. By the time it was produced, relationships between the core characters had changed, but I won't spoil that, as this qualifies as almost Interesting.

The Discovery has production designer John Muto telling us that he's always wanted to do a movie such as Species, which is lucky, really. Donaldson tells us he did a good job. Muto took it because he liked the way Donaldson moved the camera (go make tea, I'll yell if this gets exciting). Henstridge looks better than she did 10 years ago. Madsen is in here somewhere, but follows the apparent orders to say nothing of note.

Designing A Hybrid has effects wallah Richard Edlund, animatronics fella Steve Johnson and the nigh-inevitable Mancuso tell us how fun and challenging it was to work to designs by H R Giger, the man who came up with THE Alien in Ridley Scott's semolina (is that the word?) movie. If you're into effects you may find the talk of pioneering CGI and motion capture effects ear popping. If not for Species, there may have been no Gollum. If only...

H R Giger At Work is archive film of him designing creatures - right down to the skeletons, which is impressive - and a spooky monster train for the movie. He works hard and has a team of people helping him. Like most men of genius, he dresses in black. Or at least he did in 1994, the colour's probably a bit washed out by now. Henstridge went to Switzerland, but seems not to have gotten a lousy tee shirt. She did get a face mould made for the Sil creature. Donaldson and Feldman were there, too (two sugars please).

Alternate Ending: a bit of a pleasant coda that never made the final cut - watch and see why.

Species 3 Set Invasion is an ad for the latest entry in the series.

The commentary by Donaldson, Henstridge and Madsen is the best thing on these two discs. Not for the pleasant reminiscences by Donaldson, many of which you'll have heard on the shorts. Not for the gratitude of Henstridge, who tells us again and again that this was her first part and paved the way for, er, well, nothing of note, but she works regularly in movies and TV and seems very happy, so good for her. No, this is a worthwhile commentary for the comments about Sir (that's very important) Ben Kingsley - apparently more than a tad pompous on set. (Madsen on a driving scene: "This is the day I argued with Ben about who was going to sit in the front seat"). This, of course, led to a bit of piss taking, and it's worth listening to the commentary to hear how it went down.

Oh, hang on! I do Henstridge a disservice - she does provide nice gossip about how many men she dated while making the film (two, both actors, find out for yourself!). And she got an award from MTV for best kiss in the scene in which she shows that tongue isn't always a good thing.

Commentary by Donaldson, Mancuso, Edlund and Johnson: Repeat after me: "Genuine radio receiving station. We did nice work there. Great creature. Natasha's screen debut. Wotta transformation. Giger is an artist's artist. Puppets. Early motion capture. Smelly tunnels"

There, I've just saved nearly two hours of your life.

Reviewed on: 18 Dec 2004
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A test-tube sci-fi girl grows up into a man-eating centrefold nymphomaniac.
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Product Code: 10001233

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35 Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Five short documentaries: The Concept, The Origin, The Discovery, Designing a Hybrid and HR Giger at Work; Species Set Invasion; Alternate Ending; Commentary by director Roger Donaldson and actors Natasha Henstridge and Michael Madsen; Commentary by Donaldson, producer Frank Mancuso Jr, special effects supervisor Richard Edlund, Sil creature creator Steve Johnson

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