Saturday, June 24, 2017
IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU YAWN: a review of "Life"
Screenplay Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
* (one star)
Early on during the blatantly derivative would be science fiction/horror hybrid know as "Life," when the ravenous alien life form has only just begun to wreak havoc, one of the characters looks in terror filled amazement and utters, "How smart is this thing?" Apparently, smarter than all of you humans put together.
Dear readers, we have reached an other film where I have to announce to you that I see these things just so you do not have to and "Life," from Director Daniel Espinosa is precisely one of those very films. As I have previously stated, the film is derivative to the point of plagiarism yet the filmmakers never even bothered to steal the good stuff. It is indeed that bad. A joyless, often incoherent, journey into the darkness of space that we have all seen before and much better and is unfortunately a complete waste of the talents of the game cast, and aspects of the technical side of this very good looking but entirely empty headed and cold hearted production. See this at your own risk.
Such as it is with movies of this nature, "Life" is set upon an International Space Station withth epre-requisite skeleton crew of six members. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Senior Medical Officer, Dr. David Jordan, the war veteran whose distaste of human atrocities on Earth has led him to remain in space upon this very station for long over a year. Joining him in the station's multi-cultural crew are quarantine officer Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), pilot and new Father Shu Murakami (Hiroyuki Sananda), biologist Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), space station commander Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) and the wisecracking system engineer Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds who clearly does not yet have Deadpool out of his system).
OK...after the space station captures a probe containing a soil sample that might contain proof positive evidence of life on Mars and further, Dr. Hugh Derry revives a dormant cell which rapidly grows into a multi-celled organism, which is soon dubbed with the name "Calvin." And much like the iconic comic strip character at his most devious, Calvin begins to grow in intelligence even more rapidly and in hostility even faster as it attacks Hugh before embarking upon its space station rampage, growing larger in size and ever shifting shapes and forms (Honestly, it is like a jellyfish? Or an octopus? Audrey II from "Little Shop Of Horrors"?) as it engulfs the crew one-by-one and they not only try to survive but to stop it from reaching Earth.
You get the picture...
Daniel Espinosa "Life" is truly a pathetic title for a film that clearly carries no appreciation for its subject. For as good looking of a film as it is, and for that matter, one that is also as well acted as this one, it is also a painfully bland one, which carries absolutely no original ideas whatsoever but does house an international space station's worth of cliches and greatest hits from other better movies yet without any of the inventiveness, finesse, artistry and imagination that made those other films so memorable. Truth be told, if Ridley Scott and Alfonso Cuaron decided to file a joint plagiarism suit against the filmmakers and the studio, they would more than have a case.
Yes, "Life" is essentially a hybrid of Scott's "Alien" (1979) and Cuaron's "Gravity" (2013) with perhaps a taste of Barry Levinson's "Sphere" (1998) thrown into the mix but entirely without the creative brains to make it stand on its own two cinematic feet. It is yet another carnage filled space thriller in which scientists intelligent enough to work on a space station but stupid enough to open doors allowing murderous space creatures to roam free to devour them alive are rampant to the point of distressing unbelievability.
In some respects, "Life" felt to be like a less bloated but equally awful "Jurassic World" (2015), a film that exists to solely have stupid people do stupid things just to find themselves dismembered, thus blowing a conceptual hole into anything resembling true terror, awe, fright, or even a fight for survival. The fate is sealed once Dr. Hugh begins to become attached to little Calvin as a petri dish organism. You know from the jump that he'll be the first to find himself attacked (Yes, Dr. Hugh Derry is a Black man--and as Black people in horror films go, this man really takes a beating), and you know someone will try to save him, thus endangering the crew instantly and so on and so on and so on...
What is this eternally boring concept of every potential extraterrestrial organism existing for the purpose of annihilating humans? I mean--just as a genre unto itself, it can work and has worked many times before, sometimes as a brilliantly conceived and executed thriller like Scott's "Alien" or as a cultural critique/allegory like either of the versions of Directors Don Seigel or Philip Kaufman's "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" (1956 and 1978 respectively) or even Steven Spielberg's truly outstanding and horrifying remake of "War Of The Worlds" (2005).
But even as Ridley Scott continues to extend his "Alien" universe with some pretty strong prequels, even he understands that monstrous creatures destroying humans in and of itself is not enough. So wisely, he has decided to instill larger concepts about humanity, creation, existence, religion, faith, the dangers of artificial intelligence and the primal nature of survival to brutally nihilistic degrees. Yet, with "Life," Espinosa just wants to seemingly create a series of incoherently staged traps of no real excitement or consequence--especially with its bait and switch climactic sequence, which is just so poorly staged and only exists to twist the knife, so to speak. .
And what is it with the cinematography anyway? I have no problems with Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey's elegant, gliding camera work or even the beautifully displayed zero gravity special effects, which are as smooth as anything we have seen before, The issue is that, like the so-called thrills and action, the visual twists and turns through the space station are of no consequence or purpose, completely unlike what we experienced in Cuaron's "Gravity," which truly immersed you in space, giving you the awesome and terrifying feeling that you are right there alongside Sandra Bullock as she spirals through the endlessness of space. Nope, Espinosa simply plays all of the notes without understanding the music, making him look like a show-off but even so, it is still incomprehensible why we would be looking at two characters upside down when there is really no discernible need.
Look...what more is there to say for a movie that is the equivalent of a White Castle slider. It's in. It's out. That's all. Daniel Espinosa's "Life" is a waste of talent, time and energy as it possesses a complete lack of anything resembling a desire to make a movie. In fact, this is the kind of film that hungry filmmakers should stone the screen as for all of the films that could have been make, this one was and for the love of Pete, why?
In space, no one may be able to hear you scream but here on Earth, you can certainly hear the yawns that are bound the exuded in the theaters and homes of those unfortunate enough to view this space junk.
Daniel Espinosa's "Life" is one of 2017's very worst films.