On the 99¢ rack in iTunes this week we have the March 2017 movie called Life. When I saw the trailers this spring I just knew it would be bad. Rotten Tomatoes™ amazingly gave it a 67% fresh rating. That gave me a little hope that they might be some redeeming quality to this Alien rip off. When I saw it in the rental bargain bin, I decided to give it a try. Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds lead a cast of 6 astronauts on board the International Space Station. The plot revolves around the first return sample from the surface of Mars. With a little bit of gloucose and a jolt of electricity, they wake the facehugger up. They then name it Calvin. Calvin then spends the rest of the movie killing off the cast, I mean crew.
The director, Daniel Espinosa, had worked with Reynolds before on Safe House. I have not see that one nor Child 44. This film seems like quite a departure from those films. It suffers from the Hollywood tripe of having things go terribly wrong on the space station right from the beginning of the film that have nothing to do with the alien. Despite this and the laws of physics, the crew manages to catch the returning capsule and bring the sample on board. Somehow in the melee, the only antenna pointing at earth is broken. Apparently no one thinks to fire up the short wave or even check a radio in one of the lifeboats. After moving past that necessary plot device, we have a pivot moment in the story where a character breaks quarantine. One of the crew has self identified as the quarantine officer. That is her only job apparently. Spoiler alert — she fails.
There are a couple interesting ideas in the movie. One of the astronauts played by Ariyon Bakare is a paraplegic biologist. We are introduced to this fact with a causal reference to his atrophied legs. In the weightlessness of space, his lack of leg function should be less of a handicap. The story still has him performing physical therapy presumably for the circulation. Another interesting thing happens when one of the crew has a coolant leak inside her EVA suit and ends up drowning. Yeah. That’s pretty horrifying. It’s like this whole suffocation thing is just not scary enough — let’s fill the helmet with fluid to really mess with her.
The xenomorph moves and behaves like a squid. Early on we see the creature able to change its shape with hair-thin tendrils. We learn that every cell in its body is both muscle and brain. But once it gets to the size of a 2 kilo octopus it looses that ability and generalized design. We are supposed to believe that this create destroyed Mars and survived millenia as a single cell but we get no hint at its reproductive life cycle. We see it consume a rat entirely but when it comes to eating Ryan Reynolds, it seems to settle of his intestines before seeking other prey. If it’s motivation is food then it should stop and consume all that is consumable before seeking out new prey.
So in summary this is a pretty bad film. The trailers give away what little plot there is. We get some time with each character before they are killed trying to make you connect with them. If you find this movie for less than a buck, enjoy.