Life begins as a space drama reminiscent of The Martian or Gravity and morphs into a horror movie that’s more like Alien. It’s a mash-up that didn’t really work for me, so I left the theater disappointed, grossed out, and less than enthusiastic about the prospect of a sequel. Yes, Life leaves the capsule door open for a Life 2, just in case the sci-fi thriller finds itself an audience. I put Life on par with recent (weak) space fare, including The Space Between Us and Passengers, and a few notches below Arrival, which features a similar alien blob that is more visceral than literal in its threat to humanity. The alien creature that co-stars in Life is a flesh-hungry critter that picks off its cast-mates one by one. So don’t get too invested.
Here’s the gist: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, Hirokuku Sanada and Ariyon Bakare play a team of researchers aboard the International Space Station who are over the moon (pun intented) when a probe returns from Mars with a soil sample that can be tested for proof of life. The lead scientist (Bakare) pokes and prods the seemingly harmless sample, and feeds it a bit of sugar water, and oops – danger, danger! A single-cell organism that the good people of Earth have dubbed “Calvin” starts replicating, fast. Calvin grows into a murderous blob with tentacles that gets smarter and hungrier with each passing hour. Calvin proceeds to feed on whomever he can latch onto or get into. And that’s just about everyone. The last astronauts standing (or floating, as the case may be) must stop Calvin from getting to Earth — or die trying. I saw this film on a giant IMAX screen at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, so from a purely immersive and visual perspective, it was cool — like watching events unfold on the NASA Channel, if NASA showed horror movies. In retrospect, I would have liked this movie a lot more if the writers (best known for the far more entertaining Deadpool and Zombieland) had found a way to inject more wit into the drama, and more sympathy for the characters. Not to mention more Ryan Reynolds. Oh well. Such is Life.
For more on Life, tune in to this edition of the Cinema Clash: The POWER RANGERS get a reboot; there’s no dipping into CHIPS; LIFE takes a horrific turn aboard the International Space Station; SONG TO SONG goes from bad to worse; WILSON personifies indie quirk; RAW delivers the ‘meat’; and Charlie supplies the wine.