Review: 'Life' hits Sci-Fi sweet spots but lacks originality

'Life' world premiere at SXSW

After finding extraterrestrial life -- what comes next?

"Life",  directed by Daniel Espinosa ("Child 44", "Safe House") and written by Rhett Rheese and Paul Wernick ("Deadpool"), takes place in the near future and follows six astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Dr. Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) works alongside Dr. Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), Dr. Roy Adams (Ryan Reynolds), Dr.  David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), and Dr. Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada). All is well on the mission once the crew successfully retrieves the single-celled specimen from Mars. The news reaches Earth, where an elementary school student names the creature "Calvin" after her campus, Calvin Coolidge Elementary.  The world, along with the crew, is in awe at the breakthrough of Calvin's discovery. Hugh soon develops a close attachment to Calvin as he studies it, learning the living circumstances where Calvin thrives.

But once Hugh stimulates Calvin with electricity,  everything changes. Calvin quickly grabs hold of his hand, forcing Hugh's face to the glass wall between them, and sending a wave of panic among the other astronauts. Not only does its mind develop at a rapid rate, it also grows bigger physically.  The threat Calvin poses even turns deadly at one point. The crew is then faced with the ultimate task -- to make sure Calvin doesn't ever get to Earth. But, as you can imagine, it's not exactly easy.

"Life" stays the course to a film formula we all know too well. I immediately thought of the smash sci-fi hit, "Alien" once the plot really hit its stride. (Ironically, "Alien: Covenant" is expected to be in theaters in May.)  That's not to say that it wasn't at all entertaining, though -- I found myself wondering how the crew was going to approach this new creature.

There are brief, intimate moments in the midst of all the chaos. One highlight, in particular, is shared by Ferguson and Gyllenhaal's characters as the temperature plummets on the ISS. This scenario is part of a plan they develop to contain Calvin and destroy him. I enjoyed the fact that scenes like this one touched base the intensity with which fear can cripple us. And, it never tries to force a romantic arc between the two characters either,  which I really appreciated.

The plot lacks a bit of originality. I think we can learn from previous sci-fi horror films that the worst of the worst is expected when exploring the great frontier. As I mentioned, there are inevitable ties to "Alien" with the similar suspense in "Gravity".  Another note, it's definitely not one to watch if you have a weak stomach. You also can't help but wonder if there will be another installment based off of the ending too. But aside from all of that, the film is pretty entertaining, and I enjoyed it nonetheless. I believe fans of the genre (and those outside of it) will too.

"Life" hits theaters March 24.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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