Movies like Life frustrate me. It has the pedigree ensemble of some of the most notable character actors in Hollywood, writer Rhett Reese of Deadpool AND Zombieland, plus a half-decent premise of extra-terrestrial life terrorising the crew of an international space station. We should be getting some high thrills and plot twists of tectonic proportions, but what we end up with plays out like a late night creature feature where the characters die in gruesome albeit ridiculous ways.
The plot is pretty much a rehash of everything that you’ve seen since Sir Ridley Scott’s Alien to the ultra trashy Deep Star Six. Where Life fails is that it does not add anything new to the genre but instead retreads every single science fiction trope you can think of into one movie. You have your ‘brilliant’ scientists who behave less than brilliantly. These are supposed to be the best that Earth has to offer but for some odd reason, they cannot come up with a logical thought to save their lives.
Then there’s the brash hotshot space jock whose only job is to pilot the space station and break protocol, but inadvertently ends up as the alien’s first full meal. I would go on, but I think you get the point.
The actors are probably the film’s only saving grace. Putting Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Hiroyuki Sanada into a confined space with a deadly alien hunting them down should yield at least some genuine tension. But what we get is more akin to a flaccid rubber band. They try their best but it is traumatising to see them trying to make the best of a subpar script.
The pacing is far from rigorous and the plot ‘twists’ are more like gentle meanders around a tributary. There will always be an element of suspension of disbelief when it comes to science fiction, but it is really a travesty when a filmmaker takes the time to build a world for the characters to inhabit, and then violates those rules for the sake of an easy plot fix.
**Spoiler alert** One of the characters on the space station determines that the alien organism needs oxygen to survive. A few scenes later, we can see the alien traipsing around in the vacuum of SPACE.
Life is the second science fiction movie of late to disappoint despite a big budget and a promising premise, after Passengers (see our review), which had the star power of Chris Pratt and JLaw. The special effects look great, but what these movies really need is scriptwriters who are a) paying attention and b) able to come up with original ideas.
The Hollywood remake of Ghost In The Shell with Scarlett Johansson is up next, and it looks great but sounds like it stole the plot of Robocop. I hope to be proved wrong but I’m not holding out much hope.
Life is playing in Singapore now. Tell us what you think of the movie!