Friday Movie Blog: Where’s My Summer Blockbuster?

It isn't Splice, that's for darn sure

Perhaps I’m too optimistic. I keep getting excited by previews, and then am completely underwhelmed by the actual movie (Robin Hood). I see the potential for unique awesomeness, only to find trite and trivial stories (Clash of the Titans). Yet no matter how many times Movies of 2010 have let me down, I still think the next one will be different. This next one will not only have a great preview, but it will be a great movie and completely restore my faith in moviemakers. So, I just knew that Splice (R) would be the one. Nerdy science fiction + Sarah Polley + Adrien Brody + suspenseful horror = Aaron Fun Time. I mean, come on! The preview shows a scene of Sarah Polley locked inside of a lab waiting for something to attack—just like Ripley in Alien! How could this movie not be legendary? Surely if a movie could stem the bland-tide of summer movies, this would surely be it. I was wrong … very wrong.[SIGNUP]

Splice tells the story of married, rock-star scientists (Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley)—or “Splicemasters,” as they ridiculously like to call themselves—who venture too far into genetic engineering. To pursue “science,” or rather their own egotistical scientific prowess, they combine human and animal DNA to disastrous effects. It’s a promising premise, but the movie quickly becomes tedious and, at times, completely devoid of reality. Many scenes involve Brody and Polley sitting around a computer, tapping on the screen (tedious). Or have characters named Dren, nerd spelled backwards (really tedious). Other scenes show them walking around the laboratory in pleathery-cool clothing and on the cover of Wired (devoid of reality). Still, I was willing to go along with the story and ignore these few trivialities. That all changed very quickly.

During one preposterously horrific scene … well, I’m not going to tell you. Let’s just say it involves the action of one of the main characters (ahem, Adrien Brody). It left me sitting with my mouth open, eyes attempting to look away from the screen, and me writing in my notepad “Is this really happening?” It felt so completely fake and inauthentic; it felt like it was in the script simply to shock the audience. To make matters worse, no repercussions occurred. As horrible as it may have been, Polley and Brody quickly talk it out in the next scene and then poof—it’s like it never happened. This was the point that I gave up on this movie. To believe the actions of characters, no matter how awful, they must, themselves, at least be presented as humans with some human reactions. The scenes must also feel connected, so that previous occurrences feel like they actually have an effect on consequential proceedings. Instead, these characters exist in an artificial world without cause and effect. Well, unless you consider a Hollywoodized ultimate fight/chase scene as being an effect.

Brody and Polley are two terrifically talented actors, frequently elevating lesser works that they have been a part of. Yet in this moralistic, B-movie, sci-fi, chamber piece, they are hindered by unlikable characters. Putting some bad lines aside (“We’re biochemists, we can handle this”), how is an audience supposed to feel any sympathy for people who act without consequence?

Despite some pretty phenomenal lighting, cinematography and special effects (the young Dren is a horrifyingly beautiful creation), Splice disappointed me more than many other movies. Maybe it’s just me—perhaps my optimism finally cracked.

What did you think?

(In theaters.) My Grade: D+