Life Review: Wasted potential | SWITCH.




By Brent Davidson
23rd March 2017

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - is it just me, or does anyone else feel like when they see a movie about aliens or the discovery of life beyond earth we are being prepared for the inevitable truth?

Sorry, I’m getting some interference through my tin foil hat.

Set aboard the International Space Station, 'Life' is about the long-awaited return of a rover capsule from Mars. No spoilers here, but guess what it contains? This life, however, does what all life strives to do – survive by any means necessary. Cue the “We can’t escape because its space but we can’t stay here cause of the monster!” story arc.

So this film has some pretty big names in it. Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds are two very hot names in Hollywood, and you would be forgiven in thinking that with such star power would come a film to equal it. It’s unfortunate that ‘Life’ reaches for the moon and ends up falling among the endless dark void of space. It’s not too much of a spoiler, but I got the impression Reynolds was the most expensive cast member and well... let's call it the smallest part.


The premise of ‘Life’ is tried and tested and it’s one of those things that, if kept extremely simple, could have been a really gripping space horror. The trouble with this sort of modern-gothic trope is that once you see the monster, it becomes incredibly less scary. The monster in 'Life' starts off as this super-adorable floppy sort of starfish and then turns into a murderous killer. I found myself wanting one to start off with. By the end, I was sort of giggling at what the starfish had become. There are also moments of psychedelic “Martian-vision” - and boy, do they destroy the tension.

Everything has such potential, but just doesn’t live up to it. All of the characters basically mess up catastrophically, they all get a turn at ruining everything and they sure do it well. The pacing, while dynamic at first, falls flat around the midpoint and by then you’re really just waiting on a loud noise to return us to the “terror.” The soundtrack is melodramatic at best and the cinematography has taken a leaf out of ‘Star Trek’s' book by putting in buckets of lens flares – for that authentic CGI touch.

The premise of ‘Life’ is tried and tested and, if kept extremely simple, could have been a really gripping space horror.

It’s hard for a film like 'Life'; in a cinematic universe of infinitely better films, it’s somewhere in between ‘Alien’ and ‘Gravity’, but nowhere near as good as either, In the world of science fiction where we should be presented with a new idea or concept about space or life or even ourselves, ‘Life’ doesn’t give us anything new. Which is probably a horrible metaphor for all of our lives. Either way, if ‘Life’ is preparing us for something, I’d probably prefer to let it happen than have to sit through the film again.

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