Interesting that they chose to call the film Life (106 minutes), considering the complete lack of vitality displayed onscreen. After about 30 minutes, all I could think was: In space, no one can hear you yawn. Little wonder the studio moved the release date from the weekend that Alien: Covenant was scheduled to open … it’s one thing to release a low-rent Alien knockoff. It’s entirely another to release it the same weekend that Ridley Scott is set to revive the franchise.
The plot revolves around the trapped-in-space chestnut, with six characters on the International Space Station desperately trying to ignite a plot spark. The film begins with the capture of a space probe carrying a soil sample from Mars. Over time, British biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) is able to extract a cell and grow extraterrestrial life with the power of his full pouting lips and come hither eyes. At this point, the alien life could have evolved into a sexy space lady, like Species. That was a good movie. Would anyone disagree that every bad science fiction movie could be saved with a sexy space lady?
Center for Disease Control representative Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) flips through the script for Alien and determines the creature they are nurturing is a perfect killing machine. It does not have acid for blood, though. The crew allows the children of Earth to name the creature, probably because, like Earth children sent to daycare, it is extra-aggressive. I would have picked Elder Thing because nobody beats Lovecraft for names. They go with Calvin.
Calvin is surprisingly sensitive to changes in the environment, and a whoopsie with the atmosphere causes it to go dormant. Hugh repeatedly pokes it with an electric prod. To the surprise of no one, Calvin takes this personal, wraps around Hugh’s hand and crushes it to powder. Hugh passes out from the pain, which I can’t imagine Ripley doing, but I can’t imagine Ripley being as dumb as these scientists either. When Calvin escapes its containment cube, I expected an immediate resolution. What space scientists would be so stupid to begin growing a possibly hostile alien life form, but not have a protocol for flushing the oxygen from the room in case it escapes? Or dropping the temperature? Or rapidly changing the atmospheric pressure? Or jettisoning the entire compartment into space? Idiots.
At this point, the slow slide into unwise behavior accelerates. An engineer named Rory (Ryan Reynolds) opens the door to rescue Hugh, irresponsibly exposing the entire crew to further risk from the patently homicidal new life form. After floating Hugh out of the room, he flips through the Aliens script and finds out that Ripley went after a bunch of Xenomorphs with flamethrowers, so he tries that.
Spoiler alert: this fails.
Calvin continues to mow through the crew as they frantically flip through rejected plot points for Alien 3 to get ideas on what to do next. Since Alien 3 was terrible, they get nothing. The Japanese pilot Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) has some brief moments of not being too foolish to live, but his flash of brilliance isn’t enough to resolve anything plot-related.
Overall, I was bored. The various characters were fine individuals, but as a collective I wanted Calvin to eat them all, except Sho Murakami. The ending somewhat redeemed the previous hour and forty minutes, and I sort of wish for a sequel that picks up on Earth. Sort of.
Now playing at Patriot 14 + IMAX.