Category Archives: Spoiler Alert
The recently released and lengthily named Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the most disappointing conclusion to a 20+ hour, 10 year, 8 film series I’ve ever seen. The fanboys can’t curse me for saying so anymore. There’s no magic left here.
We begin right where the previous film (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, in case you couldn’t guess) left off. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) has just buried Dobby, an annoyingly disgusting little Vladimir Putin elf I was supposed to care about but never did. With his pals Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), Harry has kidnapped a Goblin to help them break into a magical bank.
You see, in the Harry Potter world, the bank only hires goblins.
It’s not racial profiling. They’re just better with money.
And the bank is magical because DUH why wouldn’t it be?
Sounds cool, right? The gang’s going to break into a magical bank! There will probably be a big wizard fight and giant snakes and dragons and guard dogs with 13 heads and 14 tails. That would be awesome!
But first, an aside.
Harry has a few new wands and he has to ask the wand maker about them.
Why? Because how else is the viewer supposed to know wands abide by contrived rules of allegiance?
It’s really not important now, and it hasn’t been important enough to bring it up in any of the previous six books or seven films, but trust me, it’s going to come up a little later.
After Harry finishes interrogating the old man, the gang makes their way to the bank. They’re breaking in to find and destroy one of the horcruxes, the last book’s magical MacGuffins. This they pull off entirely without a hitch. A firespewing guard dragon offers nearly 12 seconds exciting of peril before the kids hop on its back and effortlessly ride it to safety.
Harry then has a vision which reveals to him the locations of the rest of the horcruxes. I consider this a lucky break for two reasons.
- Now Harry, Ron, and Hermione don’t have to use any of the clever antics that got them through seven other movies to figure out where the final horcruxes are. The answers have been dropped right into their laps for no reason better than “This series is already long enough, and besides, the whole last movie was these guys finding horcruxes.”
- Now I don’t have to sit though another two hours of the boring blahblahblah another horcrux hunt would be.
So the trio teleports to very near Hogwarts, the location of the next horcrux.
Q: But if they can just teleport, why didn’t they ______ so they wouldn’t have to _____?
A: Because magic.
Then alarms go off. We get 9 more seconds of near danger before the gang is scooped into a safe house kept by none other than the brother of the recently-deceased most powerful good guy wizard. We know they didn’t know he was there because Harry is inexplicably pissed at the old guy for saving his life. Don’t worry though, this movie isn’t about to get dramatic or anything silly like that. Harry immediately decides he isn’t pissed anymore. No arguing or fighting or emotion. I guess their teleporting to his front door was a coincidence.
So they sneak into Hogwarts and… I’m bored just thinking about it. The Big Bad Voldemort shows up and initiates the Final Battle for Hogwarts. It’s all the good guys vs. all the bad guys in the fight the whole series has been building to.
Cut to Harry talking to a whiny ghost. Cut to Harry taking a sparkly princess tiara from the whiny Draco Malfoy. Cut to Harry whining about how all his friends are fighting for him.
Oh right, they’re fighting! I wanna see the battle I wanna see the battle!
Cut to the battlefield, where no you do not get to see any sweet magic action. Voldemort’s called a cease fire and a few main characters are dead so their corpses get 2 seconds of screen time each. Everyone’s making whimpering sounds.
By now I’m thinking this movie is trying to keep the children in the audience from caring too much about its characters. Even Snape, who has been a massively important antagonist throughout the series, gets only a 2-minute flashback after his death to explain how he’s been a good guy all along. The best guy, really. And he’s in love with Harry’s mother.
This flashback comes to you via a magic birdbath Harry dips his head into after filling with Snape’s dying tears.
Remember all that wand nonsense the wand maker brought up earlier? In the final battle, Harry defeats Voldemort not with superior tactics, not by having the heart of a Good Guy, not by surviving the Avada Kedavra death curse twice, and not with the help of his friends. No, in the end, Harry beats Voldemort because Voldemort, the most powerful and evil wizard to ever life, forgot to read the fine print in his contract with the Elder Wand.
Flash forward 19 years. Radcliffe, Watson, and Grint’s heads hilariously superimposed on middle-aged bodies. He’s wearing a business suit, he must be 40 years old.
This isn’t very well organized, I know. It’s a rant. Maybe I’ll do a real review later.
“It’s perfect,” scientist Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) says after cutting the umbilical cord of a genetically engineered flesh slug named Ginger. “Just perfect.” With his partner, Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley), Nicoli created the blobby organism by splicing the DNA of different animals together. Their goal: to harvest unique proteins that could revolutionize livestock medicine.
But the ambitious biochemists aren’t satisfied with curing cow diseases. If they use human DNA in their next creation, they may be able to find cures for everything from the common cold to cancer. Their bosses don’t want to deal with the moral implications of engineering partially human animals, though, and demand results from Ginger, first.
Nicoli and Kast don’t wait for permission. The creature they create is born looking like a legless facehugger and, growing at an accelerated rate, turns into something a little too human. They name her Dren (nerd backwards). Then Ginger’s violent debut at a shareholder’s meeting threatens to ruin the entire project.
Ginger’s story says more about Splice than it’s intended to. Writer/director Vincenzo Natali must have been as ambitious as his protagonists to tackle a tale that depends so heavily on believable creature effects, and apart from the film’s final few minutes, he succeeds (especially in the creature effects department, where it never hurts having Guillermo Del Toro on as a producer).
Splice gets a lot right on the way to its ruinous plot twist. Modern sci-fi tends to favor aliens over science, and it’s refreshing to see something that doesn’t rely on spaceship battles to hook an audience. What really caught my attention, though, (and what I hope to illustrate here) is the film’s novel use of sexuality to ease its audience into a state of perverted discomfort.
It begins and ends with Dren, who looks at first like a bald chicken with a misshapen human head and stubby little arms. She could hardly be less threatening:
But Dren doesn’t stay that way for long. Bit by bit, she loses her animal features. Soon she looks and acts like a human child, albeit one with big eyes and a tail. Kast’s maternal instinct kicks in and she starts coddling her and dressing her like a toddler:
She keeps growing. Kast shows her how to put on makeup. Nicoli teaches her to dance. She starts to look not just like a human female, but like a real, attractive woman. Since her tail sticks out and her long legs have two joints, she never wears pants. From the waist down, she’s naked and alien, but from the waist up, she’s almost indistinguishably human:
Her sexuality is revealed so slowly and subtly, you don’t realize you’re attracted to a biological experiment until it’s too late. It hits at a single moment about three quarters into the film. With Dren tied to a table for a medical procedure, Kast cuts off her shirt:
The perversion of the situation hits Nicoli in an over-the-shoulder shot:
He is never a more sympathetic character than in this shot, where he recognizes, like we did just moments before, the full extent of the moral problem he’s helped create. We know exactly how he feels here, because we feel the same way:
And now that we empathize with Nicoli, all it takes to throw us into a state of cognitive dissonance is a scene like this:
This is how Splice disturbs its audience, through attraction rather than revulsion. Lesser films use gore effects or dark background music to creep viewers out. The Human Centipede is a recent example of a movie that grosses its audience out to make them feel uneasy. That Splice uses beauty and sexual attraction to similar effect is absolutely remarkable (and worth another blog post).
Though it was generally well-received, Splice never quite got the recognition it deserves for its achievement, and that’s largely due to it having a plot twist seemingly contrived just so it could end with a big fight. Dren’s accelerated aging and limited cognitive capabilities invite an exploration of death and what it means to be human. Instead, we get a few dead bodies and a rape.
Despite its finale, Splice is worth watching, even if I’ve spoiled much of the plot. The story isn’t really what’s important here, anyways.
PostScript: I’d love to get a female perspective on the above analysis. Maybe for a lady, the gender-bending ending is a way to turn this post on its head. This blog allows comments, you know. They’re on the left.