Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Original Year of Release: 2017
Run Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
When the trailer for LIFE arrived in the earlier part of the year, I was intrigued by it. For all of about one minute. Then I witnessed what we always see in this type of movie, “we discovered something unknown, let’s poke it with a stick, what’s the worst that could happen?”. Just once, I wish someone would make a serious Sci-Fi film where we discover life in the universe that does not originate on Earth and examine the repercussions that it would have on society. Imagine what they would mean to the cultures and religions of the world. Now imagine the scenario of who has control of this new life and what experiments, if any, would transpire. I did not see LIFE in the theater. After hearing a few friends liked it, I thought maybe there would be something different in a genre that is plagued with this type of story. Sadly, LIFE is just more of the same.
LIFE does have an interesting start. The space station, ISS, is intercepting a Mars probe as it returns to Earth. Aboard the probe are samples that may or may not contain life. Our first step towards the colonization of Mars will begin here. After an all too brief introduction to the characters, life on the station, and the immediate problem of securing said probe, our band of scientists have the samples and begin their experiments.
The biggest problem with LIFE is that we know from the trailer, that everything goes to hell after the scientists starting poking at the sample. What amazed me was how they go about it. Initially, the sample is inactive. They change its atmosphere and temperature until they get the right combination. Later, the lead scientist literally pokes the alien life form with a stick that has an electric charge. Now I know these are supposed to be the smartest people on the planet, but did they not see what happened to Dr. Frankenstein’s creation after he ran an electric current through it? I make that joke because Ryan Reynolds’ character, ISS’ Engineer Rory Adams, makes a Re-Animator joke while all this is happening. Yes, the same Re-Animator that features Jeffery Combs as a mad scientist and is directed by Stuart Gordon. After the cute phase of the experiment is over, we just sit there screaming at the characters on the screen that they are all going to die. This is the main problem with the film. We are smarter than a bunch of fictional astronauts on a space station.
During the initial “oh my god, isn’t it cute” phase of the experiment, Reynolds’ character is the only one saying this thing isn’t cute, but dangerous because we don’t know what we are dealing with. However, after one of the scientists is brutally beaten by the creature, Reynolds in the first one through the door to break quarantine. I get the morality of saving your fellow crew mate and no one should have to die in the name of science, but it seemed like Reynolds himself rushed in into the room so he could get out of this movie quicker.
What transpires next is a series of containment dilemmas and scenarios that were far more entertaining when we first saw them in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). There are multiple leaps in logic and then even a few back peddles that make you wonder just how smart the smartest people NASA picked to examine this new life form are. More often than not, I found myself screaming at the screen, “You deserve to die” or “Sacrifice yourself for the greater good”. However, these moronic scientists never did that. Perhaps if I cared more about the characters, I could have endured the film, but writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick only gave one character really anything to fight for. Sadly, the writers follow the horror movie convention of minorities always die and the white people continue to live on, so mix that with actually having something to fight for and I knew this particular character was dead from the start.
There are horrible leaps in logic in this film. Making matters worse, certain characters even reveal that certain plans were set up to contain the new life form if such an event happened. It makes me wonder this in closing: do NASA and all other space-faring organizations run through all these scenarios? If so, have any actually occurred and are now classified? In the world where the film LIFE takes place, they knew of the film called Re-Animator. Perhaps in that universe, the film Alien was never made. That could be their excuse as to why they were a horrible group of scientists who doomed the world instead of saving it.
PS. If that was a twist ending, perhaps it should not have been so obvious. To Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, please see any (and I mean any) of M. Night Shyamalan’s films for a better example.
PSS. Why the two-star rating? One star is for the music by Jon Ekstrand and the other is for the special effects.
Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, DVD & Digital Bonus Materials Include:
- Deleted Scenes
- Three Featurettes:
- “Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space”
- “Life: In Zero G”
- “Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin”
- “Astronaut Diaries”