Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A group of crew members are trapped in space while an extraterrestrial lifeform picks them off one by … oh, so then you have seen a science-fiction movie in the past 30 years.
So “Life” isn’t winning any points for originality. It’s also not winning any points for being thrilling, compelling, or even remotely thought-provoking.
In a plot that is dependent on everything that could possibly go wrong doing just that, the whole thing plays out with the grim, joyless inevitability of watching a drunken acrobat juggle chainsaws. I take that back, drunk chainsaw juggling would probably break the Internet and somehow still feel smarter than this movie.
“Life” is set on the International Space Station, where our crew of nearly indistinguishable astronauts are played by Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ariyon Bakare, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Olga Dihovichnaya.
Before I rip on this movie too much, I have to give it credit for having a cast that is fully committed to all this ridiculousness and having high-quality special effects. The opening tracking shot of the interior of the space station was especially well done.
The mission of the crew is to retrieve core samples from Mars that contain a single-cell lifeform. When reawakened, these cells start to rapidly reproduce and evolve into what for most of the movie looks like a large, nimble, agitated starfish. Terrifying, I know.
Even though said starfish develops a taste for human flesh and thwarts the crew’s every attempt to dispose of it, “Life” never gives us much more to chew on than survive and advance.
When science fiction is at its best, not only is it wondrous, exciting, or disturbing, but it also has some interesting things to say about human nature and our place in the universe.
Even something like “Alien” managed to squeeze in a little commentary on corporate ruthlessness among all the white-knuckle thrills.
“Life” isn’t interested in doing anything other than dumbly thumping from action set piece to action set piece, which probably explains why the smartest thing in the movie is the inexplicably indestructible, cunning, and vicious space-starfish.
Director Daniel Espinosa shows he has some talent and he is capable of delivering a much, much better movie than this one.
“Life” is disappointing by virtually every metric you can throw at it and is best if avoided all together. Because in space, no one can hear you ask for your money back at the box office.
“Life” is rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror.