There are some sci-fi movies that become pillars of the genre due to their uniqueness and quality. These are films like Alien that manage to both amaze you and scare the hell out of you in the same breath. When I first saw the trailer for Life, I was immediately struck with the idea that this would be one of those movies. Having seen it and had time to process it, Life wasn’t exactly the Alien of 2017. (That’s next month…)
At first glance, this movie really does give the impression that it is trying to be a space horror movie. A group of astronauts on the I.S.S. are studying Mars when they accidentally discover a small organism that seems relatively harmless. Because finding new life in outer space never seems to work out well in sci-fi movies, things start to go bad very quickly. Although the premise was essentially the same as Alien, I wasn’t as freaked out by idea because of used to it I was going in. The actual alien itself was very unique which was refreshing. There is a neat twist ending that I personally didn’t see coming until right before it happened. If the movie didn’t end the way it did, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did.
The cast of an alien horror movie is very important. Life had a mix of big actors and new actors, which I felt was very balanced. Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson all gave pretty decent performances. I was conflicted about Ryan Reynolds in this movie at first. He was obviously playing the comic relief from what the trailers showed, and I personally love him in comedic roles. His role in the movie was mainly centered in the first act, which made me miss him by the end. Gyllenhaal was kind of the main character and played his usual military quiet guy who ends up being in the middle of something awful.
As far as visual effects go, Life had some very convincing CGI. Under normal circumstances I would be all for this because I’m a sucker for good visuals. One of the many things that made Alien so terrifying was the high use of practical effects. Having said that, the reason why Life didn’t fully strike me as a fantastic sci-fi movie was the high use of visual effects instead of practical. I found myself so distracted by how gorgeous everything looked that I forgot to be scared. When your goal is to scare your audience, making your movie look like next year’s best video game doesn’t help.
Life is by no means one of the pillars of sci-fi that we spoke of earlier. It would be more appropriate to say that those pillars of sci-fi inspired this movie. With a well-balanced cast and a decent story, this movie was still a fun experience. If you’re going into this expecting to be genuinely frightened, you may be disappointed. If you’re expecting a cool sci-fi space movie with a twist and two of the biggest heartthrob actors in Hollywood today, you’re going to love it. And no matter how much it pains me to say this, no this movie is not a prequel to the recently announced Venom movie.
Life is now playing in theaters.