Life, or Did They Mean Death?

Life

 

What is life?  That is a question that so many researchers have tried to answer over the centuries.  And what better way to try and answer that question than with a Hollywood movie production starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal.  My last review this weekend is on the movie called Life, a science fiction/horror film hoping to provide the scares of the March season. But will contact with this film give you the chills, or send you running to the ills…with disappointment. Robbie K here with another review. Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

  • True Science Fiction
  • Evolution of the creature
  • Creepy and horrifying
  • Good characters

 

Summary:  We know most science fiction movies fall short of the genre, focusing more on the fantasy element and special effects (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.)  Life though hits the genre right on the mark, dropping us amidst an international space station where research about Mars is underway.  As the chaos unfolds, the crew has to use their training, knowledge, and science (and not gigantic guns) to try to outwit the beast before it gets them.

And speaking of the creature, “Calvin” as it is called has an interesting design at the start looking like a fungus.  Yet the spores quickly evolve into a deflated looking star fish, and from there began to evolved into a truly destructive creature.  Calvin’s metamorphosis is perhaps the creepiest aspect of this film, as his search for the crucial ingredients (food, water, and oxygen) drives it to savagery (it will make you look at star fish in a whole new way).

Outside of that though, some other factors that brought the thrills and chills start with the realistic setting.  There rendition of the international space station looks pretty close to our own world’s, minimizing the fantasy component to keep one ground in the horror the team tries to present, establishing a feeling that this could happen.  To go alongside this, the other factor is how alone one feels on the station. Much like the first Alien movie (to which this pays homage to), you feel the isolation of the station as if you are the prey Calvin seeks.  This added edge truly brings the horror aspect full circle

Finally, the characters also help amplify the horror component of this film.  It is nice to see the human cast not be a bunch of idiotic, shallow teens for once, but instead educated scientists fighting for survival (while also not being the single-minded buffoons that often take these roles). The cast was dynamic, each specialized but capable of covering their team members should something happen.  Such development led to characters you actually rooted for, instead of against them as we often see in horror films.  And the actors all played their roles fantastically, from Ryan Reynolds sarcasm, to Jake Gyllenhaal’s scary accuracy in someone with social anxiety.

DISLIKES:

  • Unneeded dramatic opening
  • More evolution of the creature
  • Predictable ending (though nice twist)
  • Savagery of kills

 

Summary:  A minor dislike I know, but Life’s dramatic capturing of the capsule in the first twelve minutes was really unnecessary.  All I gleamed from this opening was technical displays and a little excitement to get the mood going.  There are probably a few other scenes that could have been left out as well, but these were minor compared to the big stink they made with this opening sequence.

Unnecessary scenes aside, the other thing I would have liked was more development into the creatureDon’t get me wrong, the final form was creepy, but after all the changes happening in the beginning (which were a stretch mind you), the team suddenly brought it to a halt.  Yes, they tried to explain it via “science”, but this abrupt halt just broke pace/balance the movie was establishing, which felt a little off for me, right down to the end.

Speaking of ending, Life’s trailers hint at what the conclusion is, and based on my observations I had a good idea where it would go.  I wanted things to be different, but sadly the ending can be predicted within 30 minutes of the show time (assuming again you haven’t watched the trailers).  Albeit there was a nice twist to try and throw you off, Life’s directors didn’t go the full distance to prove my observations wrong.

Yet the biggest beef I have with this movie is the dark, disturbing, savageness the directors instilled. If you’re a fan of watching gore filled deaths, suffering, and depressing looks this movie will send “out of orbit”.  For me though, these moments only take away from a movie if done too much or in the wrong manner.  My biggest strike comes from the graphic death of a lab mouse (which broke my heart as most animal cruelty does).  That’s only the start of Life’s grotesque hunt as Calvin finds disturbing ways to attack the band of researchers in immense detail. Why the directors felt the need to focus on such disturbances…I don’t know, but in this case less would have been more, as the first Alien flick did long ago.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Overall, Life is one of the better science fiction, horror films I’ve seen in years.  It drops the grandiose serial killers and idiotic victims, and upgrades to an adapting monster hunting intelligent people. This realism crafts a more suspenseful tale that kept me engaged, while crafting that horrifying atmosphere I love.  While most of my dislikes are small, the mutilation involved, alongside some scientific imbalances, really didn’t impress me in this movie and the predictable ending didn’t necessary wow me as well.  Is this worth a trip to theater?  If you are looking for a good horror film, then by all means hit the theater for it.  As for weak constitutions, skip this one and save some time.

 

My scores:

Horror/Sci-Fi/Thriller: 8.0

Movie Overall:  7.0

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