Offering a depressingly literalized take on the sexual subtext of the Alien films, Species emerges as a particularly shallow attempt to wed cheesecake nudity, a titillating premise, and big-name special effects into a sci-fi-action blockbuster. Swiss artist H.R. Giger's designs tread familiar biomechanoid territory, but the film's Los Angeles setting can't exactly match a spaceship or an overrun planet for claustrophobic intensity. Most every glimpse we get of Sil's fully alien incarnation is framed as an unsatisfyingly fragmentary montage of her home planet. Not even Amanda Mackey Johnson and Cathy Sandrich's unusual casting choices can disguise the film's straightforward, by-the-books proficiency. Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker, and Marg Helgenberger do what they can with roles whose weaknesses range from gender and occupational stereotypes to sci-fi clichés; poor Alfred Molina picks the short straw and gets stuck in a particularly nasty caricature of British sexual repression. All five have to mouth dialogue so inane and pseudo-scientific that plausibility is a distant ideal and wit an absolute no-show. Model Natasha Henstridge, in a breast-baring debut as the creature whose claws are even sharper than her cheekbones, strikes just the right note of bland sensuality as she stalks L.A.'s singles bars, looking for a babydaddy. Her performance is either a knowing parody or still more proof that Lauren Hutton and Jessica Lange are the exception to the model-turned-actress rule.