Seen March 31st
So… Aliens is a good movie. Hell, it’s a bonafide classic. I mean come on “Stay away from her you bitch”, the iconic table scene, Sigourney Weaver exists. It’s just a fantastic movie that’s an absolute horror staple for a reason. Life would love to be known as “Aliens 6” if it could.
It feels like a cheap cop out to say that Life is basically a Aliens ripoff but considering the plot can be boiled down to “Astronauts find Alien. Alien wants to kill all of the things”, it’s hard not to make the comparison. There are some very big differences though. This is Aliens in a post-Gravity world, we’ve worked out how to make it look like people are floating for the entire movie. This movie really does make you feel lost in space with a creature that you can’t see half the time, the camera floats about for most of the movie like it was also being affected by gravity. The opening scene was a gorgeous long take that lasted several minutes just floating through the ship, it sets the scene and shows how claustrophobic it is in the space station. There’s barely enough room in there for the astronauts and as they float around you can tell they’re pros at getting around. Visually the movie really does create a great sense of space and disorientation which it uses to pretty great effect.
The monster design is certainly influenced by Alien. While the monster is more like a giant mass of cells than a giant HR Geiger penis monster, it has a similar speed and fluid motion, on top of being pretty intimidating. Scenes where you see the face of the creature feel similar to seeing the face of the mother alien and the way that this alien uses it’s limbs is so close to the way the tail was used in the original Alien movies. Is it as iconic as that original character? Fuck no, but it’s effective.
Oh, the monster also has Predator vision, while we’re lifting from older classic movies we may as well go for all of them.
The cast is honestly really good, though you can tell they spent most of their money getting Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal in the cast since no one else is that big of a name in Hollywood, though they should be. It’s a ensemble cast of 6 people who have to carry a space monster movie and they do it incredibly well. It takes about 5 minutes to care about every single one of them so you want them to make it which is always more terrifying when shit goes down. There isn’t one cast member where you actively root for them to die, everyone is someone you want to survive and as the film goes on you hope they can somehow make it out alive.
The writing… well, sometimes it borders on annoying. I am all for quiet moments where the cast can reflect on what’s happening but at the same time, I’m here for a killer space beast and not here for Gyllenhaal to deliver some bullshit speech about how he wants to stay in space. There are ways to explain what a character wants or needs, shoving all of it into a monologue that comes out of nowhere is possibly the laziest way to do so. Also the killer alien is named “Calvin” because school children named it which means any time they talk about how to stop it they have to say the sentence “We have to kill Calvin” which sounds exactly as not-threatening as you think. Also the scene where the kid names the alien has them showing the people on the space ship on the screens in time square with audio from the ship coming from the giant screens. I’ve never been to New York, I can’t imagine that’s actually a thing that can happen. Just picturing the sound setup to pull that off, just not something I believe… I buy the terrifying alien creature, I don’t buy crystal clear sound in the middle of Time Square.
In general this movie is just a very by the numbers Aliens ripoff. It’s not that bad but it’s not great, we’ve seen this movie before a solid half dozen times before and at least 2 of those are absolute classics. The only real thing that redeems the movie for me and puts it into really good territory is the ending. The ending is so unexpected that it will destroy you in the best way, I genuinely was giddy because they did the thing. The ending really does justify the movie and it’s one to go see, maybe when it’s movie of the week or on Netflix, but it’s a good bit of fun