Vault Movie Review: “Life”
A group of astronauts and scientists aboard the international space station have made a ground breaking discovery. In a sample from Mars, they have discovered life. The life form is small, and has been in hibernation on Mars’ surface, but it has awakened while aboard the space station, Overwhelmed with excitement over their discovery, and overwhelmed with curiosity of the small life form, the team does not consider the possibility that the life form is dangerous.
However, it turns out that this little alien is very dangerous and absolutely should not be underestimated. It seems that the organism, and other organisms of its species, may have been responsible for a mass extinction on Mars, and now it is alive and well with the crew of the space station. The organism is gaining intelligence rapidly, and is growing more and more dangerous. Trapped with this monster, the crew must find a way to contain or eliminate the organism before it gets to Earth.
The Pros & Cons
The Premise (+4pts)
The Alien (-4pts)
The Cast (+4pts)
The Characters (-6pts)
The Horror & The Intensity (+5pts)
Bad Decisions (-4pts)
Pro: The Premise (+4pts)
This movie’s premise was simple, and it was one of the best things going for this movie. A killer alien is let loose on a space station where there is really no escape. We have seen this premise before with Alien, but unlike Alien, Life is not an action movie. This movie focuses almost entirely on the horror aspect of this premise.
Yes there was plenty of horror in Alien, but it really played as an action movie. I will get into what I liked about the horror in Life, but that was definitely the filmmaker’s focus here. The premise was simple. It was a horror, monster movie, but by being set on a spaceship, there is no escape for the protagonists. This concept works so well because, they can hide for as long as they want, but they eventually need to confront what is hunting them. It is a simple idea, and one that has been done before, but it is effective.
Con: The Alien (-4pts)
The alien itself was a bit too ridiculous for me. It was like this little, killer-goo thing, that was extremely strong, and was virtually invincible. This did not work for me for a few different reasons. The first was its size, appearance, and strength. It felt like there was a disconnect between its strength, versus its size and appearance. The thing was visually non-threatening, but it was strong enough to throw crew members around and absolutely dominate them. This disconnect made its interactions with humans feel more silly than scary.
The next issue I had was that the alien was essentially invincible. The writers, or filmmakers in general, made the alien impervious to everything. This was clearly meant to make the thing feel dangerous, and it did, but it was overkill to the point where it felt like the characters in the movie had absolutely no chance of survival. Part of the thrill in a horror movie comes from the hope that the characters might survive. If there is no chance of escape, and the monster is unkillable, that hope is gone. That was the case in this movie, and it took away a lot of the thrill. I was literally watching the movie, wondering why I should care about the characters or this story, because the characters were all clearly doomed.
Pro: The Cast (+4pts)
The cast in Life (aren’t we all the cast in life? ... stupid joke) made this movie a lot better for a couple reasons. The first reason being the actors’ talent, and the second reason being their fame. Their talent helped because, while the story was supposed to be intense, the intensity would not have worked if the actors did not deliver. They had to act alongside a little, CGI glob, and act as if the thing was terrifying and capable of slaughtering them. The actors delivered the intensity, and made the premise feel believable enough to keep me watching.
The next thing that the cast brought to the movie was their fame. Their fame helped the movie in a couple ways. First, their fame got me to watch the movie and made it feel more like a real, Hollywood movie (as opposed to the kind of movie that would have gone straight to the Syfy channel). The fame also helped keep me watching. It was an entertaining cast, and I really had not seen any of them in a movie like this before. I kept watching, mostly out of curiosity, to see what they could bring to their characters and how they would do in a horror movie like this. They all did a good job with the movie's tone, but unfortunately, their characters got almost no development. This meant that there was really no material for the actors to flesh out on screen, but my issues with the character development deserved its own section in this review.
Con: The Characters (-6pts)
To put it simply, the characters of this story had little to no character development. I felt like the actors tried to give their characters as much personality as they could, but the characters ultimately suffered from bad writing. In a horror movie, or really any movie, you are supposed to have some connection with the characters. For horror movies, you are supposed to care about whose lives are at stake. However, when the writers spend no time developing their characters, there is nothing for the audience to connect with. It was unfortunate, but despite having well-known, talented actors in the roles, I did not care about a single character in this movie. They were just nameless, random bodies for the alien to hunt.
Pro: The Horror & The Intensity (+5pts)
This movie had some decent horror and it was certainly intense. Will it leave you scared after the movie is over? No, but it was decent enough to keep me watching. The majority of the movie consists of an incredibly dangerous and powerful alien that is hunting a bunch of scientists in a mostly poorly lit space station. The movie had plenty of horror and intense moments and, while it was not the scariest or most intense horror movie that you will see, it was enough to satisfy my horror craving.
Con: Bad Decisions (-4pts)
This was one of those movies in which the entire plot relied heavily on its characters making bad decisions. I cannot stand when filmmakers do this, and more often than not, the excuse is that the character is either dumb or not great under pressure. That is usually a stretch, but whatever. This movie was very different.
These characters are supposed to be scientists and astronauts. They are characters that would have gone through extensive evaluation to prove their mental stability, and they would have been among the best in their respective areas of expertise, if they were chosen to go to space. However, with all of that being said, these characters repeatedly made bad decisions and there was no reason for it (other than the laziness of the writers). Using characters’ bad decision making as a plot device always bothers me, but it was exceptional in this movie. It contradicted who the characters were, as well as how they got to where they are.
Grade: C- (74pts)
Life did not have a unique or original premise, but it was an effective one. We have seen this premise before with Alien and the movies in that franchise, but while those movies were action-horror, this movie leaned more toward the horror. The cast was filled with talented, well-known actors, who were unusual choices for a movie like this, and they were able to maintain my interest. The cast, through decent performances, did a good job of making the movie feel very intense and believable (despite how ridiculous the monster was). Unfortunately, the movie had its share of issues.
The alien was a bit too ridiculous, as its size and appearance were almost as ridiculous as the fact that the filmmakers made the thing virtually indestructible. This made it hard for me to care about the characters, because I felt like they were doomed. Giving the characters a fighting chance would have gone a long way in making me care about the characters, as I could have held on to some hope, but the characters were also just written really poorly. They got little to no development, so I was not invested in any of them, and the filmmakers resorted to using their poor decision making as a lazy way to keep the plot moving (even though these were scientists and astronauts who should have known better). This was a simple premise, with a surprisingly talented cast, but the filmmakers dropped the ball with the writing. Fortunately, there was enough intensity and horror to keep me watching.