They really should’ve thought of a more intriguing title because Life could mean anything. In this context it refers to the discovery of the first extraterrestrial biological entity, and its needs are more basic than phoning home. I just realized another admirable thing about E.T.—the filmmakers weren’t interested in turning it into a franchise. Life can’t be turned into a franchise because one already exists. It’s called Alien by Ridley Scott, and its next iteration opens this year.
Faster and less queasy-claustrophobic than Alien, and minus a ginger cat named Jonesy, Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds as three of six crew on the International Space Station. You know the ISS—it’s the one that was destroyed in a meteor shower in Gravity, stranding Sandra Bullock in space. The players are all stock characters, with the exception of Jake’s Dr. Jordan (Green Lantern joke?), who doesn’t want to go back to earth, which makes us curious about his history. The most interesting thing about the monster is its name, Calvin. Ryan Reynolds makes wiseass comments (the script is by the Deadpool guys). There are grisly deaths and foiled plans.
We’ve all seen this stuff before, and director Daniel Espinosa knows we’ve all seen it before so he doesn’t pummel the audience into submission. We get 100 minutes of entirely predictable but still effective thrills, just enough to make us wonder what might’ve happened if the filmmakers had more ambition. It does bring up an interesting question: What are the NASA protocols for this scenario? I hope they have protocols, because if they’re as unprepared as the crew in the movie, our species is screwed.
If you have 100 minutes to kill and you want to get out of the blistering heat, watch it.