Species II stiffed at the box office and this killed its momentum as a potential theatrical franchise. However, both Species films must have done well on home video because Species III emerged in 2004 as a direct-to-video release from MGM. As usual when a franchise goes in this direction, there was a drastic reduction in both budget and starpower. However, the results are also weirdly ambitious and epic, even if they aren’t particularly good.
Species III picks up right where the last film left off, with the dying body of Eve (Natasha Henstridge) being carted away. However, she produces a child before giving out and that child is stolen away by Frankenstein-esque scientist Dr. Abbot (Robert Knepper). In a matter of days, she grows into Sara (Sunny Mabrey), who is as deadly as her mother. Abbot uses her alien DNA to fuel his work and enlists the help of disenfranchised grad student Dean (Robin Dunne). Unfortunately for them, here are also other alien DNA clones out to mate with or kill Sara – and she is becoming dangerously self-aware.
In terms of quality, Species III is about what you would expect from a late-in-the-game sequel made for home video: Brad Turner’s direction is competent but reflects his episodic t.v. roots instead of creating something that feels like a movie, familiar concepts are repeated but in a less impressive way befitting the low budget and the cast is populated by bland, lesser-known actors. The script by future Source Code writer Ben Ripley is plagued by plot holes and has a “make it up as you go along” feel as it fulfills its studio-mandated commercial obligations.
However, Species III also has a few surprises. It’s surprisingly length – at nearly two hours, it’s the longest film in the series – though unfortunately that is due to some laborious pacing and dull stretches of plot. Ripley’s script also yields the occasional unique idea, like the surprising malady that afflicts the alien clones with purer DNA and the way one of the alien clones headhunts for someone to solve her problems. There’s also an odd, jokey coda that befits the often loopy plot of this film.
Thus, Species III is best left to the diehard fans of this series. They’ll get the occasional eyebrow-raising moment but others are likely to find it a slog to get through.
Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory has released Species III as part of a double blu-ray pack with Species: The Awakening, the fourth film in the series. The transfer does a good job with the early digital photography and the 5.1 stereo mix is given a good lossless rendering that takes advantage of its busy mix.
It terms of extras, this carries over the extras from the film’s DVD incarnation. There is a commentary track with Turner, Ripley and Dunne that offers a good on-the-ground account of the film’s production, with plentiful anecdotes.
There are also a quintet of EPK-style featurettes that cover specific topics: an overview of the production, the production design, the digital FX, the changes to the creature design for this film and a kind of general-purpose promo piece. The production piece is interesting as the people involved are frank about their cost-oriented alterations to the series to make it work for home video.