Review – Life (2017)

by Nile Fortner

Is This Sci-fi Film Recycling Other Sci-fi Films?

Life’ is science fiction thriller, starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler, Southpaw), Ryan Reynolds (Safe House, Deadpool), and Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Girl on the Train). No, this movie isn’t a remake or re-imagining of the 1999 Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence movie of the same name. So don’t expect to see Murphy fighting over some cornbread in space or anything like that.But you can expect to see six astronauts that aboard a space station, and they discover something we’ve all been wondering since the dawn of human history. They discover new life, they discover life in a galaxy far far away, they discover extraterrestrial life on Mars.

These members of the space station name this new life force, Calvin. As these astronauts conduct research on Calvin, gather data, and all that science mumbo jumbo. They realize Calvin is evolving rapidly, gaining strength, and learning at a very alarming rate. It turns out Calvin’s life may be more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have ever imagined.  If this movie feels familiar, it just might be. Many people saw this trailer, and said to themselves, “Why are you reenacting the script of ‘Aliens’?” While watching this movie, just from the trailer alone, you feel a vibe of other science fiction films you’ve seen before.

Did We See This Movie Before?

While watching this, I constantly kept saying to myself all of the movies that are like this. It reminded me of Alien, Splice, Gravity, Cloverfield, The Fly, Ex Machina, Apollo 18, Predator, and The ThingThere are a lot of films that have this blueprint, a lot of films that follow this formula. In my opinion, even Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus) is starting to reenact his own movies. Even the movie Alien isn’t the first movie of its kind. The whole finding new life or a new whatever and it turns out to be dangerous has roots that go way way back in movies. This film has been advertising itself like it is a science fiction and a thriller movie. However, it is more than that. It is a creature feature, a thriller, science fiction, a B- Movie, and a horror.

Now when Calvin is a baby, the scientist/astronauts attach themselves to it. As a baby, Calvin is really small, looks like a little flower, and looks like a little chia pet. With most of these types of films, you see the scientist playing with intimidating looking things, and you tell yourself, “They should know better.” But with Calvin, it seems harmless. In addition, the astronauts/scientist are working through glass, have goggles, have gloves, and more for a little something that starts out looking like a little sperm in a ashtray. You have this one character named Hugh Derry, played by Ariyon Bakare (The Dark Knight, Jupiter Ascending) who studies Calvin, but also bonds with it. He seems like he truly is in love with Calvin. Hugh keeps mentioning how Calvin keeps growing and gaining muscle. But that bonding time comes to a stop when baby Calvin breaks Hugh’s hand. When his hand becomes broken, it is nasty to see. You hear bones crackle, fingers pop, and it sounds like someone jumped on a bag of potato chips. It’s almost like arm wrestling with a fish stick and losing. From that point, the science fiction movie transitions into a horror and creature feature movie.

I know most movies like this do not have the best character development. However, this movie could have used just a little bit more character development. We learn little details about our characters through little lines of dialogue. For instance, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character seems like a loner. He says in the movie how he never belonged on Earth, and he likes the hum of space more than the noise of Earth. Ryan Reynolds character is the one character I didn’t feel a connection to. The only thing we really know about his character is he wants to kill Calvin, and he is an astronaut plumber. Meaning, when the astronauts use the bathroom, and all that feces, all that stool is floating around on the ship, Reynolds character fixes the toilet, and disposes the waste. Speaking of Ryan Reynolds, this movie is from the same director as Safe House, which also starred Reynolds. I didn’t like the movie Safe House. But I’m glad the director worked with Reynolds again, because I thought Reynolds was very good in Safe House.

“In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.”

Accordingly, even though the alien Calvin is our biggest threat in the movie, there is another threat that is just as scary. The threat being the elements of space. This movie, much like Gravity, shows the audience how horrifying outer space can really be. Gravity plays a horror role as well. Calvin grows up to be like a very large stingray that can easily glide through space. While the astronauts have difficulty moving around, getting where they need to go in a quick manner, and adapting to their surroundings. Also, Calvin was made for this environment, unlike humans. Once our resources run out in space, we might as well consider ourselves dead. We have a lack of oxygen, limited oxygen, it’s cold, and there is even a scene where someone drowns in their suit because their helmet floods with harmful liquid.

About 95 percent of the movie takes place inside the space station. This creates a claustrophobic environment as well. So overall, these characters have more than just Calvin to deal with. This is just a small nitpick, not with this movie, but with all movies that do this. I am talking about CGI blood. I have not seen one film that has convincing CGI blood. I am a strong believer of blood needs to be practical. I understand that this movie is in space, and blood needs to float around. Nevertheless, the blood didn’t look all that convincing. 

Even though this film could have been more original, it is very effective and holds your attention. I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it. It is suspenseful and the surprise ending caught me off guard. My biggest problem with the movie is it could have been more original. It takes the best parts out of the movies I mentioned earlier like Splice, Gravity and The Thing, and they make that their movie.

I really want to give this movie a perfect rating. I had fun, it was entertaining, and I personally had a blast. On the other hand, in order for me to give it a perfect rating, it would have had to be just a little bit more original. All that being said, I believe the 2017 movie ‘Life’ earns…

4.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!



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