Then with Vincent Natali directing Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, the film gained itself a place on my most anticipated of the year, okay it was a big list, but this film was still looking really interesting.
Their first creations are a triumph, a male and female creature who manage to mate in a beautiful display, and when the proteins are recovered the company are delighted.
Eager to reap the rewards they hold a press conference, however during the show something goes wrong, the creatures attack each other, and in a horrifying display, they kill each other right on front of the cameras.
The company is devastated. The project is halted and the scientists are ordered to recover the proteins from the remains of the creatures.
The scientists though are adamant. If they can move onto the next stage they can succeed, and that means using human DNA, something the company is just not prepared to do.
So, like any good film scientists, they decide to go it alone and move forward with the idea, but they have more invested in this than developing the proteins, they want to create a new form of life.
Splice starts out well, even if the pace feels a little fast. It gives the feel of a strong science fiction film that doesn't take the mad scientist idea too far, in fact it makes the scientists seem very real. It also makes you believe in the characters and the story, never making you think that the science is out of reach, like a good science fiction film it makes you feel like it could be tomorrow.
When we finally see the creature, the effects look really good. There's an understanding that this is not real, and yet the CG, puppetry, and the real actor are seamlessly pulled together to make a creature that does behave very realistically. The movements, mannerisms and interactions with the environment have been carefully designed and created, and as a result the creature appears real through its actions, and once the human element comes in to play you are totally on board with the reality.
This first half of the film builds the characters and relationships well, setting up the story for the events to come. We are fed little hints and moments that will reveal themselves later in the film, and all in all it's feeling really good.
Adrien Brody reigns in his performance and he recovers well from some of his previous film choices. Sarah Polley meanwhile is very strong and actually gives the better performance. Her bonding with the creature, obviously after some form of mother-daughter relationship is well written and played out and builds surprisingly subtlety.
So far it's all good, but then something happens, about halfway through the film a comedy element starts appearing, and it gives the audience a few chuckles, all in keeping with the characters, but then it all goes wrong.
The story descends into comedy and bad writing, and it slides on a slippery descent into a mockery of what it was and what it could have been.
My only thought was that an editor was far too eager with the film and removed sections that covered a great deal of explanatory story, but then that wouldn't explain the bad dialogue, and at times during the second half of the film the dialogue was bad. In fact to demonstrate, the second half received more laughter at seemingly dramatic moments than The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (Filmstalker review), and believe me that's saying something.
It was about halfway through the film that things started turning bad, and if I remember rightly it was marked by one key moment where I knew the film was slipping away from me.
Up until this point there had been some laughs and odd moments which I thought were pretty acceptable, but the film did begin to turn when the couple have a rather odd exchange. The wife turns to the husband and says "We'll take her to my farmhouse" and the husband responds "I never knew you had a farmhouse", and that's where the first half of the film officially lost me.
Now I can appreciate what the film was trying to do and it alludes to it in another scene later on when we see the bedroom that the wife used to stay in as a child. It's a mattress with a bowl on the floor and the husband says something like "I thought you said it was exactly the way you left it", she agrees and walks on. That's it. For that entire storyline just disappears.
You can assume that her treatment of the creature comes from the terrible way she was brought up, but there's no more explanation or exploration of it, and the surprised husband just carries on. You can see why there's a feeling of some hefty cuts.
The moments that brought laughter to the audience continue with such lines as "what's wrong with her?" "I don't know...she's..." and says what's wrong with her, and the great moment where he's just held the creature underwater seemingly to drown it and is explaining why to his distraught wife. Ridiculous and very funny.
Another big moment that hits the film, and the audience, hard is the total reversal in the intentions of the wife towards the creature. For the entire film she's been treating the creature as a substitute child, something that is apparent from the beginning, but in one scene she changes her intent in a second.
Suddenly she's back to treating the creature as a lab subject, tying her down, cutting off parts of her without care to her feelings, and dictating her distanced observations into the voice recorder. It seems very at odds with the way she was just a minute or two before.
What's even stranger is that she switches back to the way she was, and it leaves you confused and detached from the film as she was detached from the creature.
These strange events escalate, or rather the film's handling of them is strange, and come the actual ending of the film you feel that you are watching something very different to the film you began watching.
Saying that there is an interesting twist and turn to the ending, although it isn't exactly handled well, it does try and bring the film back on track and it almost does it. I did feel that I was being taken back on board by the story at this point, but I do just wish that they hadn't lost me in the first place.
Adrien Brody does a good job, as does Sarah Polley, for the most part, actually I can't fault their performances because in the confines of the script and those bizarre changes of direction and comedy moments, they still play their roles well.
The first half of the film is very promising, looking like it could be a strong science based thriller with characters and relationships over CG and an interesting focus on making the science very close to believable. At this stage I really liked the film and thought there was a lot of promise.
Then the second half came and the comedy rose, taking it beyond the point of light relief and having the crowd laughing out loud at the characters and story changes. It wasn't just the comedy though, the strange way that the female lead had her character leap about and a seemingly untold story teased to us and then never returned to, all contributed to bringing the film down.
There are some surprises and clichés alike, but the film never stays true to that first half and it loses a lot of what it had promised, if not all.
My hope is that the recently announced edit for general release is going to fix a lot of that, in reality though I suspect they really will go with the story as is and the cuts will be cosmetic.