Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A small group of people—oh, let’s say six or seven of them—are floating around somewhere up in space, when they learn they’re sharing their cramped quarters with a nasty, seemingly invulnerable alien that decides to take them out one by one.
Life cribs hard from the Alien playbook, so much so that I genuinely don’t know why they bothered making it. The alien in Life is a single-cell organism that astronauts find in a soil sample from Mars—but as it amasses nutrients, it grows into a cute little Swiffer type thing before swelling into a human-sized jellyfish/starfish squish-machine made of Purell.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds are among the astronauts trapped aboard with the alien, which they’ve named Calvin, and I don’t even think that’s a reference—although speaking of references, Life’s events take place aboard the boring old International Space Station and not a galaxy-hopping spaceship slyly named something like, say, the Nostromo.
In addition to its stunning lack of originality, Life’s story is hobbled by foolish characters making bad decisions. I groaned multiple times after watching one of them do something dumb, only to get space-murdered moments later by Calvin. Another thing that seems weird is that the International Space Station only has, like, four seconds of rocket fuel? That doesn’t sound right.
But the biggest problem is that the alien doesn’t scare or even make any sense—Calvin just floats around squishing people and, like, absorbing their essence. There are some cool zero-gravity special effects and a halfway interesting idea with a character played by Ariyon Bakare, who’s crippled on Earth but has full mobility in outer space. But Life is utterly predictable when it’s not being outright nonsensical. I think it’s striving for a realistic, close-to-home take on sci-fi horror by setting it on the ISS, within Earth’s own orbit. But these astronauts and scientists all seem way too stupid to have made it to outer space. Haven’t any of them ever seen Alien?