Monday, April 3. 2017
“Life, don’t talk to me about Life” in the words of Marvin, one of the creations of the late, great Douglas Adams. Unfortunately that would make for a very short review, but it really does sum it up.
Some more detail is called for though. Some of the science is hand-wave stuff, because they’re looking at an alien life form, and that’s ok (very unlikely, but ok). But there are some fundamental flaws which are just terrible and set my teeth on edge. They’re not there as changes for the sake of the drama (although there are some of those too, like the oxygen candles, which are suddenly tiny and conveniently hand-held, but ok) but just basic science that make the characters look bad.
Then there are the characters. It’s always a struggle to make characters where we, the audience, are counting down the time until they get killed horribly interesting and much more than two dimensional. In fairness, this part of the script was in some respects pretty decent - they tried to make them interesting and give them interactions and live and more than two dimensions. For some of them they succeeded, for others not so much, and although they did try it doesn’t reflect that well that they only succeeded for some of the men and none of the women in my opinion.
Then there are the actual deaths. Life is a Sci-Fi/Horror cross-over, with six characters. Without revealing how many of them die, for each death there is the potential to do something new. It’s getting harder, I appreciate that, but perhaps if there isn’t a new story, a new way to kill them, at least some of them, you shouldn’t make the film? Life fails to find a new way to kill its victims with every single one of them. It even repeats its own deaths in fact. There are a couple of fake-outs and one where I wanted a different death scene - if you’re going to have a throw-back to Alien in there, you ought to do the chest-burster really. That added to my disappointment I’m sure.
So, what was good? They managed to build tension nicely and mostly didn’t rely on jump shots. A lot of the shots of the space station were pretty. I didn’t notice any shots where I thought they messed up the zero-g - I’m not saying they didn’t, but there were no glaring ones.
However, one shot that I won’t detail because of spoilers left two of us really confused because we couldn’t see what was going on and it meant a big chunk of that part of the story just didn’t make sense to us. Not good guys.
But despite those good parts, this is a turkey, and it’s not even in the category of “so bad it’s good.”
Bechdel test: There are two named women. I don’t think they have a conversation, there are rather few two way conversations in the movie in fact, although they do talk as part of the ensemble. So no.
Russo test: There is only one character where we know for his most likely sexuality: as part of the “character building” he is in space while his wife gives birth. There is a likely romance between two others, but it’s heterosexual and implicit rather than overt. Anyone who has ever followed a lesbian subtext relationship would have them married with what we see though. The other three we don’t know. But it’s a fail.
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