After the first installment of Species and its sequel Species 2, the new Species 3 marks a welcome change in the evolution of the series. If the previous two installments were horror movies, the new episode is more science-fiction. The original was out to create anxiety, whereas Species 3 actually generates some interesting character development, with the first suggestion that scientists dabbling with alien DNA aren't complete idiots after all.
In the first film, a distant planet sent a genetic sequence to Earth, which proved a luring recipe for disaster for a team of scientists who followed the instructions and wound up creating Syl (Natasha Henstridge). In no time at all, Syl grew into a creature who looks much of the time like an incredibly beautiful woman, driven to reproduce with - and kill - any human males she deems appropriate. In Species 2, a clone of the original Syl mated with an astronaut. Species 3 starts with a dying Syl giving birth to a child, who is swiftly appropriated and hidden away by Dr. Abbott (Robert Knepper), a university professor who is avidly curious and singularly nonjudgmental. With the self-named Sarah growing as an adult (Sunny Mabrey) in a couple of days, Dr. Abbott needs a bit of help and hires student Dean (Robin Dunne) to help him come up with a set of eggs. It seems that Syl left behind a legacy of decaying half-breeds who want Sarah to mate with them and continue their line. Meanwhile, the half-breeds aren't above some turmoil, and since Sarah comes from a lethal line herself ...
Ben Ripley's script goes in various unexpected directions, so that Sarah's conduct is truly unpredictable - we really don't know if she will be good or vicious in any given circumstances. This in turn makes Abbott and Dean seem more like authentic scientists rather than stereotypical horror movie enablers. The sequences with the naked Sarah and an aggressive half-breed called Amelia is really enticing (yeah, we know, they're aliens, they may sprout tentacles and kill somebody, but still ...), and they are undeniably scenic. The intrigue mechanics are definitely interesting. The characters are likeably original, with a nicely dry turn from Knepper and a credible performance as a dangerous above suspicion from the dazzling Mabrey.
IThe movie has a thoroughly filmlike appearance, with vivid colors and great definition in dark scenes. There are some nice, subtle effects of background machinery in Chapter 6 and a successful startling blast of music at the party in Chapter 13.
The audio commentary with director Turner, writer Ripley and actor Dunne is pleasant and instructive. There are four making-of segments - Evolution on casting and pre-production, Species DNA on production design, with designer Cameron Birnie illuminating on the wish to make the environments uncomfortable to look at - Alien Technology, which contrasts shots before and after the addition of CGI, and Intelligent Lifeforms, a decent segment on the creature design. A photo gallery is also included.
Species 3 does have the impact of the original, in an innovative way, it feels more consistent - the characters are certainly more appealing. It emerges as a more than agreeable and sexy SF diversion.