Life

Well, they’re still making Alien rip-offs, and I’m still going to see them. I was rather unduly excited about this one, although it ostensibly had little to recommend it and looked completely average from its generic title on down. And then there’s those mediocre reviews. But sometimes when something is an entry in a very tired, crowded genre it’s because they’ve got an interesting twist on the trope, and in this case it’s having a very smart creature, and having a lot of visual panache, resulting in a totally enjoyable movie. It could be this, or it could be Last Days on Mars, you know?

So we’re on the International Space Station, where there is no gravity, except when sometimes it seems like there is. They get some soil samples back from Mars, find a life form, bring it to life, it grows and kills them all one by one. What’s different is that the creature is like a translucent starfish, is not at all stupid, and is quite sensitive to efforts to kill it. The other thing is that the movie has style, both visually, where Earth and the space station look amazing and are showcased in long, atmospheric shots, and in nicely-building suspense scenes and action sequences. It may have all been done before, but it’s done well here.

When it’s over, there is plenty to criticize. The creature is essentially unkillable, which reduces tension, as it’s running rings around the humans and they have very few means of getting rid of it. And looking back, there are story wrinkles that turn out to be diversions [what’s the whole point of it going dormant for a while?] and the whole thing is not exactly elegantly told, with scenes that seem clumsy and repetitive by the end [way too many shots of the creature hitting a hatch a split-second after it has been closed].

But still, it’s fun and scary, has style and is a good time at the movies. It’s characters aren’t dumb, but they do make dumb decisions. The creature is cool, eventually looking like a giant exotic fish, swimming through the zero gravity… and I don’t know, it’s very much an Alien rip-off, it’s just offering variations on a theme, but they’re good variations, it’s enjoyable and I had an entirely good time. And it has a little wicked trick up its sleeve for the ending.

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3 thoughts on “Life

  1. I can’t seem to stay away from any monster movie, but the great risk of doing something that evokes a masterpiece is that there is a much greater chance of showing how inferior the ripoff is. As skillful as movies like this are, they just dwindle so much compared with their great predecessor, Alien. And the Alien itself is so awesomely terrifying — the greatest movie monster ever invented — that it makes this thing look a lot like a jumpy banana peel. Before “Life” came on, I was surprised that they didn’t show the trailer for the upcoming Alien movie, and wondered if that would have reminded the audience too much of what had gone before. But I do admire the uncompromising ending.

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    • I’m like that with pretty much any sci-fi movie… I will see it, no matter how bad it is. I too was wondering if we’d see the trailer for the new Alien here. It IS odd to make a movie that is SO tied into another, that can ONLY ever be viewed as a variation on a theme. I’m also astounded that we still have Alien rip-offs 40 years later. But yeah, as Alien rip-offs go, it was not so bad.

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      • The absence of the trailer was especially odd because I saw it a week or so ago at the Kong movie. From that trailer, it looks as if it’s back to basics. And I’ll be there, no matter how redundant it is.

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