Pick-it or Flick-it: Life, This Year’s Best Alien Flick?

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Life (2017) movie poster - Skydance Media

Pablo Picasso once said, “good artists copy, great artists steal.” The director of Life, Daniel Espinosa, must be a true fan of Picasso, because this film is almost a step for step variant of Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Alien.

Life follows six scientists, played by Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, and Ariyon Bakare, on a mission to collect samples from Mars and study the alien creature aboard the International Space Station. The crew quickly learns that the creature poses a threat to all life on earth.

Although the film is dangerously similar to Alien in its plot, it’s still worth noting that Life has a very fun story of survival that managed to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout its nearly two-hour runtime. Critics have also been attacking the film for its third act and ending. Without getting into any spoilers, I think the film’s final act was lacking when compared to the rest of the film, but I loved the ending. The film ends in a way that’s become a bit of a cliche within the genre, but I think it’s executed better than most similar films today.

Life is getting some bad press for its use of violence. But I think the violence adds a new level of fear for the audience. Since Ridley Scott’s Alien, I’ve never been as frightened of an alien as I was during Life. Yes, this movie is extremely brutal and not for the faint of heart, but so was the xenomorph creature from Alien. In the end, I think the violence isn’t a pointless attempt to create cheap scares, but instead serves the film well.

But this all leads to Life’s biggest problem, it’s too similar to so many other sci-fi and horror films. The execution of all the film’s ideas is great, but none of the ideas belong to the film itself. To continue the comparison with Ridley Scott’s Alien, Life takes all the ideas of Scott’s plot and execution, but lacks the same heart and originality of his sci-fi classic. Even the movie’s fantastic-but-dizzying zero gravity cinematography feels like it was ripped right out of 2013’s sci-fi hit Gravity.

One thing the film does best, though, is its use of the six scientists. Most films have a clear protagonist, or sometimes two, but Life doesn’t make anyone a protagonist. Every character feels equal, which adds another level of uncertainty once the alien starts claiming its victims. Life is a film where no single character feels untouchable for the sake of the plot. Even though I enjoyed this uncertainty, it will create a certain disconnect for many viewers who want to feel a deeper connection with a protagonist.

In the end, Life is an easy pick-it. I thoroughly enjoyed Life, it’s a fun and thrilling sci-fi film that I hope more people learn to love. I highly recommend to anyone who’s a fan of horror films or science-fiction stories in general to catch this film while it’s still in theaters.