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Splice

It's no wonder the general public doesn’t trust science as an institution. If we pursue nuclear power we end up with Godzilla or Them!. Space exploration or SETI and we face Independence Day or Xtro. Genetics or anatomy and we end up with The Fly, Frankenstein and now... Splice (and no, if you're Australian, it's got nothing to do with a lime green-coloured ice block).

Every time we push the boundaries of science on screen it's not radar, plane flight, advanced medicine or the Internet we end up with – its grotesque creatures running amok to kill us or enslavement by robots or computers. The truth about scientific advancement (men and women with no fashion sense going to conferences with names you can't even pronounce) just isn't very cinematic.

Though the effects are good, this film is really just another Frankenstein remake reflecting the deep-seated fear we have of the Promethean chimera. Dedicated scientists Clive (Brody, whose shaggy hair, slacker dress sense and sad eyes look far more at home here than running around the jungle of the Predators planet trying to look tough) and Elsa (Polley) are trying to find a super-protein for a pharmaceutical company when they decide to combine human and animal DNA in secret just to see what happens.

Being a Hollywood movie you know two things. First, the resulting organism is going to show rapidly accelerated growth so the heroes don't end up pensioners with quilts over their laps by the time it turns dangerous. Second, it's going to turn dangerous.

At first, the increasingly human-looking Dren (as they christen the creature), becomes the daughter they never had, the backstory of Elsa'a deprived childhood providing a fairly hammy reason why she adopts Dren as her own.

Natali's script uses the midsection to ask a lot of worthy modern questions about the morals and legalities, and it's there the value of the movie lies. When the third act turn comes and the creature turns bad, it devolves (see what we did there?) into a generic escape-the-monster thriller.

I won't talk about the event that generates the third act turn, but it generated a lot of unintentional laughter in the screening I attended, and the audience never really recovered.

I'll gladly see any film that convinces Sarah Polley to make one of her rare forays into the mainstream – her choice of projects has always been a faithful guide of quality. But in this case it just proves how little control the actors have over the whole process. Natali had some great ideas, he just didn't know how to put them in a story we hadn't seen before.

The Dren effects were also mostly good, with some startling scenes that combine CGI and an in-camera actress. But the effects crew fail as often as they win. Dren's early iteration – the tadpole-shaped pod she emerges from – looks like a badly articulated rubber toy covered in tomato sauce.

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