In many ways, Life could be considered as a re-imagination of Alien. One in which Mankind is far less able to defend himself.
The world is thrilled by the discovery of extraterrestrial celluar life in a Martian soil sample, which schoolchildren name as Calvin. On board the International Space Station, Calvin quickly develops into a multi-celled organism, and begins attacking the crew after escaping containment. It then becomes a desperate game of survival as the crew struggles to destroy Calvin, before it uncovers a way to descend to Earth.
It’s hard not to be reminded of classic space/sci-fi horror movies when watching Life. Several key scenes are downright homages. Be it Calvin’s first rampage and the resulting pandemonium, which mirror the dinner scene in Alien. Or Ariyon Bakare’s defibrillator scene, which would have you clutching your seat if you remember what happened in The Thing. Even if you’re not a space horror fan, these scenes would most likely still delight and thrill, on top of compensating for Life’s main shortcoming. This shortcoming is the fact that the story is entirely without surprise. To put it in another way, it becomes easy to ignore the weak story. You would enjoy Life simply by regarding it as a movie about a nasty alien with ever nastier ways to kill hapless humans.
By the way, when I wrote “no surprises,” I exclude the ending. In my opinion, the ending is the finest accomplishment of the show. The horror aside, it reiterates the underlying statement of the movie in the most emphatic way. This being the fact that Man is hardly ready for contact with extraterrestrial species, whether mentally or technologically. When confronted by aggression, we attack and we hate. In the face of an equally belligerent species, how well is that going to turn out to be? For some viewers, this statement might feel to be overly preachy for an action movie. Let’s just focus on the killing and shooting, shall we? But with the realistic premise of the story, some food for thought is offered. We are also encouraged to re-evaluate current space-exploration efforts, and to consider just how ready we are for interplanetary discoveries.
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