Awww, what a cute little alien life form! I think I’ll just reach in there and … AAAAHHHH!
First rule of space movies: Do not, we repeat, do not touch the alien life form.
Do that, and bad things happen.
Somebody does in “Life.” And bad things happen.
You can guess what those are, can you not? Of course you can. You, after all, have seen “Alien.” Everybody has. Certainly everybody who might be inclined to see “Life.” Now, say hello to “Alien-lite.”
Instead of the Stygian vastness of the space freighter Nostromo, this one takes place in the relatively cramped confines of the International Space Station, whose interior is as atmospheric as the inside of a toaster.
As for the crew, in place of “Alien’s” spiky, distinctive personalities, “Life’s” spacefarers are a carefully calibrated mix of genders, ethnicities and nationalities — male, female, black, white, American, Russian, Japanese, Brits. In aggregate, they’re a pretty dullish bunch despite the presence of such usually interesting actors as Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds. The pending paternity of one of these crew members and the heavily Slavic-accented speech of another are what pass for memorable defining characteristics. When they depart the scene, one by one, their exits induce a big fat “meh” in the viewer.
As to the creature, brought to the station from Mars via a remote-controlled capsule, it starts as a collection of itty-bitty tendrils squirming in a petri dish and grows quickly into a kind of translucent octosquid skittering speedily through corridors and ductwork, its tentacles lashing and grasping.
Tentacles! Why is it always tentacles in these movies?
Nothing much new on that front, and nothing much new either in terms of other elements. Director Daniel Espinosa and his creative collaborators apparently expended a lot of time and effort to create zero-gravity blood effects — blobs and sprays of zero-G red stuff float and glisten in vast quantities — and drowning one of the characters inside a spacesuit breaks some kind of new ground. Combine that with ever so many shots of the crew peering through windows at the awful goings-on with anxious-transitioning-to-horrified expressions on their faces, and that’s pretty much all there is to “Life.”
In space, everyone can hear you yawn.
☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya.
Director: Daniel Espinosa.
Running time: 1:43.
Rated: R, for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror.