Splice, which was made in Canada, takes a page from the book of "biology gone
mad" sci-fi formerly mastered by that country's own
mad genius, David Cronenberg. It's about the perils that might be faced
if DNA experimentation were to be taken to a level beyond that which would be
permitted by our current ethical standards. A husband/wife pair of scientists
sees the potential in using hybrid DNA to combat many of mankind's most
formidable challenges, including hereditary disorders, degenerative diseases,
genetic mutations, etc. As their progress sputters, they become aware that they
cannot succeed without adding some human DNA to the recipe.
This may sound implausible to you, but it is not. The science is already
within our grasp, but we are held back by ethical constraints. The vast majority
of people today do not believe that human fetuses should be bred for their value
as replacement parts, nor do they believe that human/animal hybrids should be
produced. But we may change our minds, as many of us have over the past decade
or so regarding stem cell research. The "X" factor here is cultural, not
scientific. Science is constant. We may not yet understand all the rules of the
universe, but the only thing that changes over time is our understanding of
those rules, not the rules themselves. On the other hand, our ethical rules are
not constant. They differ from culture to culture and evolve within cultures. At
some time in the future, humans may reason that the virtual eradication of human
suffering or famine might be enough justification to sanction certain means
which we reject today on ethical or religious grounds.
The scientists in this movie apply that sort of logic to their
experimentation. In the process, they create a female creature which seems very
human in some ways, although it has a tail and lacks vocal chords. The creature
isn't an object to them, but is somewhere between a beloved family pet and a
daughter. Or more.
Of course, this is a genre movie and not a scientific hypothesis, so the
script starts to stray from the dry argumentation of scientific ethics, and
wanders into the realm of the sensational. What if the female scientist were to
use her own DNA in the splicing process?
Would the wife's tendency to be attracted to her husband also be passed on the
the female creature? How would he react to that?
What if her family had its own history of psychological disorders? What if those
disorders were transmitted to the new species? What if that species also had
some super-human capabilities which enabled it to go beyond its status as a
subservient child to assume dominance over its surrogate parents?
I think you can guess where this is going.
There is a high level of tension and some visual imagination in scene after
scene, so it's a shame that the intriguing premise led eventually to another
routine gore-fest followed by the usual open-ended wrap-up (the end????) that
seems to be the official cliché required by this genre. With a solid cast
including Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley, the film is intriguing when it remains
90% cerebral, 10% visceral, and I was still holding out hope for an interesting
resolution when the film started getting twisted and the husband was having sex
with his wife's winged, amphibious half-clone. But once the blood started
flowing and the film just became yet another updated version of the hackneyed
Frankenstein parable, I lost interest in the film's ideas and started yawning.