Monday, April 3, 2017
I won't spend too much time talking about the actual movie "Alien" here in this review, mainly because "Alien: Covenant" is coming out in May and that'll be my opportunity to talk about that franchise, but it's worth noting that "Alien" is a movie that is fairly simple, yet extremely effective at what it sets out to do. It relies on a great cast that you're able to get behind right from the beginning who bring this strange alien onto their ship that transforms into the classic Xenomorph that is both extremely terrifying, yet one of the best creature designs in the history of alien/monster movies. The Xenomorph spends the movie quietly lurking around the ship taking people down one by one, which makes for quite the terrifying, intense film. "Alien" was a revolutionary film that was replicated in one way or another time and time again in cinema. The fact that we still have movies in 2017 like "Life" that are again replicating the formula should be telling about how influential that movie was. Plus we still have "Alien" movies coming out, as I previously mentioned with "Alien: Covenant" next month. As far as the movie "Life" goes, I do think it does a good job at taking this formula and turning it into a thrilling little space movie that is worth your time if you are a fan of the genre.
Approaching this review is a bit tricky, though. This is yet another one of those movies where the experience is enhanced if you go in knowing close to nothing, so the more detail I dive into, the more it will take away from the experience. I won't reveal any spoilers here, in fact I will do my best to be extremely vague with things, but if you want to just close this review right here and go see the movie, I would be totally fine with that. Just know that while this movie is nothing terrific or revolutionary like the movie it's trying to replicate, it's an enjoyable little film if you enjoy thrillers. There you go. There's your quick review. If you want a little more detail than that or if you've seen the movie and want to compare notes, then continue reading. But still no spoilers. Just slightly more depth than what I've already given. What I like about "Life" is how simple it is. They don't spend a ton of time diving into the backstory of each character or setting up this journey. We don't spend half the movie travelling to Mars to get our soil sample. We jump right into the thick of things without wasting any time. We have a crew of six astronauts on this spaceship. They've already traveled to Mars and grabbed their sample and are now testing it in the lab. Then we go from there.
So yeah, this is kinda hard to judge as it's almost a lose-lose situation for the makers of this movie. Regardless of which direction they took, there's things to complain about, thus you can say the real problem here is the idea itself and the timing of this movie. With how many big budget space movies that have been released recently, you can say the market for this is a bit over-saturated as this doesn't do anything memorable. With the comparison to "Alien," if you have a movie in 1979 that's revolutionary enough to spark so many different replicas, then a movie like "Life" 38 years later that tries to do the same thing later won't have the same effect. The novelty has worn off and you walk out feeling like you've seen this before a hundred times. So if you want to take this formula and try it again, you have to bring something new and unique to the table and "Life" decides to instead play things super safe. Thus you can say that once the decisions were made with the screenplay to go in the direction that they did, they were doomed from the start to be a forgettable movie. There wasn't much that the director or the cast of the movie could do make this stand out, even though it's evident that they all try their best. There's no bad performances. It's the idea that was the problem.
With all that said, I'm not going to destroy this movie and tell you to skip it. If you're not a movie junkie like me and you're selective with the movies you see for whatever reason, this is not a movie I say is necessary for you to rush out and see. You can let it pass by and you won't be missing anything. However, if you do like heading to the movies quite often and you need to get your movie fix in, this is a good option, especially since our selection of movies to pick from in April is looking like it will be rather lacking in quality. If you especially like the horror and/or thriller genres, this will be an especially good fix. I don't want to dive into the specifics as to why because that will spoil the experience, but this is a decently intense thriller. I don't think it's really super scary and I'm not quite sure if I would classify it as horror like I would with "Alien," but if you think of "Alien" and the specifics of what made that movie work so well, those are your specifics for "Life." Although in every category that "Alien" gets a 9 or a 10 in for me, "Life" would get a 7 or 8. So not absolutely phenomenal, but decent enough to get a pass. In a month or two I might forget that I even saw this movie, but in the moment I enjoyed it enough to give it a pass. Thus my grade for "Life" will be a 7/10.