You would have thought that the creators of this star-studded sci-fi thriller, ambiguously titled ‘Life’ would have had so many better naming opportunities. Here’s some which I thought of at the top of my head while watching the film – Direct-to-DVD Alien, A Long Alien Invasion Prologue and Ryan Reynolds Staying in Character. I will even throw in Venom for the heck of it (yes, Spiderman’s nemesis). Everything sounds lame I know, but so is this movie. On the bright side, those names sure hit home as to what to expect coming into Life.
A team of astronauts and scientists are on board the ISS (International Space Station) where they receive an extraordinary specimen of extra-terrestrial life from Mars. As the crew starts to conduct their research and experiments on it, the life form starts to grow uncontrollably. The group must now outsmart the ultra-intelligent alien before it gets to Earth to wipe out the entire planet.
It is hard to not notice Daniel Espinosa’s Life bearing a heavy influence from other movies with Gravity and Alien being the first two which come to mind instantly. But Life doesn’t possess the qualities which made those films so great. The weird thing about this movie is that although the scenes with the alien are executed quite well; filled with stretches of claustrophobic tension and gut-punching deaths, it is lacking dearly in character development, acting and storyline. Not to mention also hampered by lazy writing, glaring plot holes and ultimately an unnecessary set up for a sequel in the near future. And for all those reasons, it is a miracle how Life managed to dodge the bullet from the direct-to-DVD bargain bin.
When the mysterious alien specimen from Mars halts its attack to look for alternative routes for its assault, the group suddenly stops whatever they were doing to try to prevent the alien’s relentless massacre just to engage in thoughtful human conversation – which is most of the time all the time corny, fake and flat. The shoehorned interactions between the team members in those scenes gets so artificial to the point where it adds nothing to the already one-dimensional characters. The set-pieces when these interactions happen are also so poorly executed that you can almost always predict when these ‘bonding sessions’ are coming so you could plan to catch your forty winks.
Life’s unknown special effects alien antagonist, personified through its generic name of Calvin proves that you don’t need star power to create a great sci-fi horror thriller. But in the tragic case of Life, it solely relies on its A star cast as the pull for its audiences and they will be for the most part, hugely disappointed to find out that this is nothing short of an Alien rip-off and despite the tension-filled alien scenes catapulting the movie to become the least bit exhilarating, it is still a complete waste of time and money.
Should you spend money on it? No
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Anyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya
Running time: 103 minutes
Genre: Science fiction/Thriller