L I F E9,556 Views81 RepliesAdd A Reply
While watching LIFE, I was reminded again and again of Journey to the Center of the Earth. There was a similar sense of wonder and peril, and the score was similarly diabolical and foreboding.
Jon Ekstrand's score for LIFE is practically a character in itself, a huge, pulsing vortex of cosmic doom, a caricature of science fiction scores from a bygone era, applied with startling effect. The very first sequence, simple as it is, portends the End of Times, in no small part thanks to the music that attends it. And the nauseating throb of the final scenes is pure horror gold.
This film very much feels like one of those big effects pictures from the late 50's / early 60's. Everything is hyper real, bigger than life, and utterly doomed. Our film makers understand that the harp of your soul need only be played on a few strings. There's even optimism, at the start, but it's quickly dispensed with and never seen again. LIFE made no attempt to soothe me, it took me exactly where I wanted to go, deep in the dark with a thing I can't comprehend, and kept me there, mercilessly, to the very last frame. That is fearless film making.
The antagonist in LIFE is life itself, the protection of it as much as protection from it. The second things go spectacularly south, our astronauts are thrust into a whole new reality, having to master their panic as things devolve into surreal menace, and the sense of being left to fate with no escape is strong and consistent from then on. Like life itself can be. The calamities that befall our crew are at once logical and incomprehensible, and humanity's lack of readiness is as much a villain as the creature itself.
The creature is unnerving even as a cell. At the size of a hand it's not just incredibly dangerous but primally sadistic and full of surprises, brimming with personality. It's method of digestion is alarming in that nightmare way you always wish someone would depict on screen, but can never quite describe. I am sick to death of bad monsters and this thing, even as a toddler, is what I've been waiting for, well, since Alien. In fact, it has one up on the dreaded MORB, this beast is brand new, with the potential of being almost impossible to anticipate and the next level sample of what cgi can provide.
The comparisons being made are both easy and inevitable. Gravity captured weightlessness and orbital disaster with unheard of clarity and style, but at the end of the day there are only so many ways to depict such a thing with realism. But Gravity was a serious film, not a monster movie looking suspiciously like Alien, except that save for the unsentimental setting and the stakes it's not really like Alien, either. It has a monster on a spaceship. Oh snap, I hoped to never see that again! Oh wait...
I do wish some things had been done differently, but I believe this is a matter of taste, and not worth arguing here. We can save that for after EVERYONE HAS SEEN IT. LOL. Joking aside (I am not joking. Buy a ticket. I'm watching you), I do believe if you want well made R rated material, and specifically imaginative space horror, you must vote with your dollars. I mean it when I say we're very lucky LIFE exists. Like Peter Weyland, I want more.
I think this movie suffers for being released in close proximity to a venerable chapter in the saga that gave this stuff a chance to breathe in the first place. I'm in hog heaven for that, but would hate to see the Giger Alien aesthetic dominate to the expense all other ideas. I like astronauts trapped with monsters. I hope something comes along to out-do LIFE. There's more that could be done, but I can't quite describe what it is.
A small creature!? Named Calvin!!? Pffhrm....HAHAHAHA.
Aorta....I'm gonna need a few more pages of convincing to overlook this lol
Nah joke aside I'm gonna see it ;) not sure about dinner afterwards though as it seems like a bad idea...
Just seeing pictures and clips of the little bigger has me steering clear of gelatinous substances...better safe than sorry XD
Neo- there is something about this creature, even in its early stages when it looks an overgrown germ, that is relatable. It's like this antic little murder machine that does not stop erasing life, it's industrious and even jolly, all with the net result of you're gonna DIE. Naming it was a good idea, I think. They have to call it something, and 'Calvin' quickly loses its appeal and starts to sound more like 'Ebola'.
Truly excellent movie however aghhh…one scene is really bugging me…SPOILER ALERT… when Rory is trying to kill Calvin in the lab with the flamethrower… Rory shots the flamethrower in every direction all around the room - in extended bursts of fire, until it basically runs out. Not one of the labs automatic fire sprinkler systems goes off …that is until … after Rory becomes "incapacitated", and his almost empty flamethrower (which now has a flame the size of a match) is now floating in the zero gravity comes within range and ignites the automatic sprinkler system! Surely the flame thrower's fountain of flames, the smoke and all the small fires surely would have activated this from the start!
At the start of the movie Calvin does not display anything but simple curiosity to me especially when interacting/dancing with the fingers of the glove. I really wonder if Calvin could have evolved differently had he not been forced into hibernation (due to a malfunction in the lab) and then being electrocuted into consciousness again. Not only that...but did you notice how gently and inquisitively Calvin interacts and caresses the lab rat until, that is the rat bites Calvin and then Calvin decides to then turn nasty on the rat.
Maybe these events “forced a behaviour change” in Calvin and because of Calvin’s ability to grow very quickly, these mimicked hurting behaviours (from Hugh, rat, then Rory) also grew in its level of violence. Basically each time Calvin fed/grew - it was the direct result of people trying to hurt or kill him...Then maybe Calvin gets the idea that out of his 3 interactions - all have hurt him so therefore he understands that he needs to kill/hurt or be killed/hurt. Probably not explaining this in the best way…sounds much clearer/better in my head…
Spoilers! Thanks for the courtesy- OUT!
Little Newt – if I remember correctly, the sprinklers were down the center of the room, and Rory uses the flamethrower on the perimeter, where Calvin is dashing about like a squishy spider.
Not to say that there aren't numerous gaps in logic, but overall I love that sequence, it's original and truly scary and most unexpected in a number of ways. Fantastic tension and dread. I'm sorry, but that scene alone handed Skull Island it's ass!
THANK YOU Aorta - yes you're right about the sprinklers location - they were down the centre! Totally awesome scene and I loved how Rory's determination was captured especially against the pleas of the others to stop - as he was running out of fuel and then da da da daaa...he's out of fuel....opens hatch nothing....opens other hatch.... FANTASTIC scene!!!!
Aorta...do you think Calvin could have evolved differently had he not been exposed to pain from Hugh, the rat and then Rory...
I love how even though Calvin is basically a large booger with an attitude, you know Rory, with a flame thrower, is out classed. He's trapped, defenseless, with a thing that's gonna take him down in some random, sadistic way. Just a really well imagined, well written scene, so much storytelling with so few words.
Calvin is one of those curiosities that makes you wonder what its natural environment must be like. Sort of like the MORB, you can almost reach the conclusion that Calvin was designed rather than evolved. It's strength and apparent indestructibility seem very suited to a creature that would prey on things much larger than itself. I know Daniel Espinosa has a more philosophical angle on the a creature but, to me, Calvin is naturally hostile.
Just got back from watching Life. Here's my review:
Starting with the monster as that was my first question here; "Calvin" was not ridiculous at all, it was absolutely terrifying, especially in combination with the zero G setting that added to the sheer horror factor of the film in a similar way to how sharks chase humans underwater.
The icing on the cake that instantly added more depth to Calvin and the whole movie in the same process was the simple yet extremely valuable line that "it's just trying to survive" (words of gold. Thank you for that line.)
This may be the case in many other films, but as the majority of film monsters aren't explained in this scientific manner, they're thereby rendered "evil one-dimensional killing machines" instead of something more. That's not necessarily a bad thing and it could all depend on how a monster is created to fit the particular story that surrounds it, but Calvin is as interesting as it is intimidating.
As for the creature shape and aesthetic, it looks elegant rather than designed merely to look scary. Sure it's sadistic (oh boy) but it always felt like there was a reason for the brutal attacks, whether it is by absorbing intestines or attaching itself to body parts to suck the blood of the victim like a parasite, all to survive.
The way it attached itself to the torches to keep warm was another great touch that added even more depth to its character and survival instincts.
The only thing that sort of decreased its terror factor was the last time we see it and it turns out that it didn't kill Gyllenhaal's character like you'd expect. Considering how vicious and sadistic it was up to this point, I'd expect some consistency in terms of the brutal attack pattern.
As for the story, it was good overall (way better than Prometheus) apart from a few dumb moments like when Ferguson and Gyllenhaal's characters left safety and risked both of their lives to save Sanada's character who was being pulled by this insanely powerful creature while the whole tunnel is about to get ripped open. It should be obvious by now that they wouldn't stand a chance so why hold onto him for what seemed like an eternity? Let go!
This leads me to my next minor criticism that is the stupid character behaviour that seems to be standard in sci-fi films set in space nowadays. I'm mostly referring to the impulsive character played by Reynolds but also the idiocy of wasting precious station thruster fuel to kill Calvin. Yeah it was cleverly set up that it could enter through the thruster exhaust vents but it was also very important to make sure that the organism would not reach earth as they hit the thrusters without thinking, almost sending the station into atmospheric entry.
Sure it's a film and sure they probably behaved irrational due to the extreme stress levels but for instance; how on earth did Reynold's character managed to become an astronaut? His temper is a security problem and his dialogue was silly, I couldn't take him serious among the rest of the crew who were convincing overall.
The acting was good in general, especially from Sanada, Bakare and Dihovichnaya who were 100% convincing. Ferguson and Gyllenhaal did great too mostly.
Ekstrand did a great job with the soundtrack, not much to say about that other than it was powerful without being overly exaggerated.
To conclude, Life was a good sci-fi horror film, much thanks to to a fascinating beast of a "villain", good tension buildup, tense moments (although the attempt to torch Calvin with the exterior steering thrusters could easily be parodised "whack-a-mole style" with some goofy music)
Is it a masterpiece? No
One of the best sci-fi films ever made? No
Is it good? Yes, in fact, very good.
Does it ripoff parts of Alien? Yes but as we say; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and this is one of the better copies, with some original aspects.
The Verdict: 7.8
Aorta really, really appreciate you continuing to share your thoughts…I still cannot quite see Calvin acting in a “sadistic” way just yet - although I agree that Calvin’s strength, apparent indestructability and also his adaptability would tick an awful lot of boxes as to what its personality or predisposition he would have - even as a little blip of a thing, when comparing it to lifeforms here on Earth.
Yep…poor Rory – well and truly out-classed!!! And yes… so much shown with the minimum of words. Gosh I loved this movie!!!
I have no plans to watch it. It looks rather well made and intriguing. However, irrespective of how good it is, creative, dramatic etc. I refuse to pay money that I earned to see Jake Gyllenhall (not sure if that is the exact spelling, sorry) in a movie. There are some "actors" and "actresses" I cant stand to watch. Julianne Moore is another hack. Apologies to anyone if these are their favorite actor and actress but it's just one man's opinion.
Today I have been dedicated to post on as many topics as possible until I pass out from drinking too many beers.
S P O I L E R S
Neo- thanks for this great review, glad you liked it!
I'm the guy in the theatre that welcomes stupid behavior because that's what opens doors, and in its defense I'd say it also communicates things like control being lost, and the panic that follows. And it provides us with scenes like Reynolds trying to kill a malevolent rubber glove with a flame thrower, and failing.
The way Calvin snatches the oxygen lamp from Gyllenhall's hand, the selfish violence of it, and then it curls around it, you do get the impression it's just naturally violent, like it just doesn't know how to play nice. Nor does it want to. Calvin is pretty complex for a thing from space, like a bully who over reacts to everything.
The thruster thing was to me much like the sprinkler thing, I understood that they were weaknesses in the armor, but I failed to understand how getting in them would be to Calvins advantage. I did enjoy that being in an active thruster neither killed nor even injured it, but I would have liked to see the thruster fire up close, and then Calvin emerge from it with some of that great 'Oh No It's CALVIN' music!
What it becomes at the end excited me because it was completely changed, but into what? Gyllenhall is still alive, but clearly begging them not to open the capsule. It looked like that stuff was growing through him. But just like in the movies of yore, that scene is a surreal setup for your imagination to run wild on. God only knows what happens next, but the music assures you it's gonna be BAD.
Thank you for talking with me about this.
Parrot- I know how you feel. I personally can't stand Colin Farrell. I'm sorry Jake is in this movie, but he does do a fair bit of suffering, if that moves you.
Aorta: "The way Calvin snatches the oxygen lamp from Gyllenhall's hand, the selfish violence of it, and then it curls around it, you do get the impression it's just naturally violent, like it just doesn't know how to play nice".
Hmmm …while I agree that Calvin definitely appears to snatch it and completely envelopes his entire body around it, I was under the impression that it was because of the below freezing temperatures at the time and poor little Calvin was simply using it as a heat source to get warm!!! :D
Thank you Aorta, you sure piqued my interest in the first place.
I can't wait to see this movie!! It'll give me something to gnaw on while waiting for A:C. I am VERY curious about Calvin!!
As for all the starry-eyed and wistful-wisher astronomers who think finding extraterrestrial life is going to be automatically a good thing, I wrote them off as hopeless idiots years ago. They always assume that a species more advanced than us technologically will be more peaceful...and that might be true, among THEMSELVES, and there is NO way to predict how some other species will view us.
IN SPACE THERE IS NO WARNING
S P O I L E R S
Newt- Lone pointed out that I don't do a lot of threads, which is true, and for the same reason I don't throw a lot of parties: It's a lot of work! Happy work, of course, but I feel I need to try to interact with everyone who posts.
I really only participate in one other forum, and there I mostly just read because it, like many (or most) other forums, is a really negative, hostile place. Pointlessly so. This one is unique and totally to my taste so I view a thread as a party and want to be a good host!
As for Calvin: what blew me away when it escapes the containment chamber was the ingenuity of it, it was at once humorous and terrifying, you just don't see it coming and you understand in that moment that there is real intent in its actions, not just instinct. That made (to me) what happened to Hugh read as torture. I'm liking that perspective because it really made my blood run cold.
The fate of the rat was similarly blood curdling, I mean yes that's just the way it eats but still..Jesus. And you needed that information to truly appreciate what it did to Rory. From that point forward it seemed a lot like a cat, taking its time and toying with its victims. Anyway that's where the sadism impression comes from.
My impression was that it wanted to build up oxygen, which was why it was following the lamps? Remember, it was out in space on the hull of the ISS without ill effect, and they commented that it was storing oxygen in its issue.
Blackwinter- all we can hope is that these same scientists are the ones who discover their mistake first, heh heh. Oh wait, that would make them stupid scientists!
Aorta – I completely understand and appreciate your position! I too choose my forums with great care since I cannot abide profanity, wanton behaviour & trolling. Although a newbee, I adore this site not only for the wonderful scholarly topics posted, but also because of the courteous, thoughtful behaviour when members debate and express different opinions and lines of thought. Members here genuinely care how their responses will be read by others, and are quick to apologise should they inadvertently or “perceive” to offend another. This is truly rare!!!
Opps I digress…Calvin…I am beginning to catch a glimpse of where you are coming from with Calvin’s “intent” being so malicious. I honestly could not see it before from that angle. Thank you for elaborating on it further to help me understand your perspective more. All I saw was a simple petal like creature, inquisitively responding to Hugh – even changing its form to a starfish to mirror Hugh’s 5 fingered glove – its “friend”. Then it gets knocked unconscious & then electrocuted awake by this “friend” so it was frightened and consequently attacks with all its might. I saw absolutely no intent, just a reaction. I saw “intent” only when it realised that it was no longer “safe” in that box and therefore had to escape and problem-solve to the best of its ability using the tool to pierce the glove. When Calvin interacted with the rat, to me it was exactly the same way it initially interacted with Hugh’s hand – dancing, caressing, curious…another maybe “friend” that is... until the rat bit him.
Hmmm…so Calvin can play “nice” only while you play “nice” but try to attempt anything different, then except Calvin to over-react instantly and kill you in the most painful way possible. Hmmm… anger and revenge so sadistic because Calvin is deriving some pleasure from inflicting this pain back 1000000 fold. And after two attempts at trying to make friends, well that's enough for him...period! Am I on the right track?
Hmmmm... wondering just how long my innocent little Calvin actually would have "played nice" for - if he had not been inadvertently hurt by Hugh, rat and Rory...hmmmm
I do hope I'm not perceived as too sadistic here, but I would absolutely love to find out exactly what Calvin did to Rory’s insides lol!!! So much is left to the imagination and Rory acted this scene just perfectly!!!! :D
Ahhh…”it wanted to build up oxygen” the penny had dropped! I completely forgot about that comment about him storing the oxygen in his tissues – THANK YOU!!!
Aorta - just want to say you are indeed a most delightful and brilliant host, and I really do hope you can throw some more parties on here when you are able!!!
Like you, due to same experiences, I also am VERY picky about forums, and I love this place!!
You're also more than welcome on any of my threads that you choose to visit! :)
IN SPACE THERE IS NO WARNING
Newt- this conversation is a great example of how people see what they want to see! Where you saw an innocent flower, I saw a giant space germ. Probably both interpretations are valid. Again, whoever conceived this creature created one of the great monsters, I think.
When Calvin entered the rats cage, I was pre disposed to see it as hostile, given what it had just done. It's possible I was holding on to that for the rush of fear it provided, honestly I hadn't felt that unnerved in the theatre since Alien, I was enjoying it.
So when Calvin then sort of sniffed the rat, all I saw was sinister intent, and the music certainly supported that. And you know what happened next. Sinister stuff.
Perhaps another way to perceive the creature is that it doesn't know it's own strength, and is prone to tantrums. It does seem rather impulsive. Maybe more is being said about how we perceive things than I realized?
I'm going to see it again with a friend on Wednesday, it'll be interesting to see what she thinks. Ha ha this thread just won't die!
Blackwinter- thank you, you are very kind.
Aorta – I too plan to see it again this week, and am super glad this thread has no intentions of dying!!!
I’m really kinda obsessed with trying to understand Calvin more! I do remember the music leaving a positive impression the last time I left the cinema, however I shall pay much more attention to it this time around - especially in regards to Calvin.
I love how we have both come away with entirely different interpretations/opinions of Calvin – almost polar opposites lol!!!! I am thoroughly enjoying our discussions, as I’m not that astute and often need others to highlight things that I missed. Again THANK YOU Aorta!!!
Newt- you seem pretty sharp to me, don't sell yourself short.
I love how this simple little horror movie is revealing more and more depth, not Prometheus depth, but so much more than you'd expect. Thank you for exposing that!
I gotta say, I saw this on Saturday....it was just eh. I think I might have been in the wrong mood for that movie at the time...I wasn't in the mood to see a helpless weak mankind flick...
Great review Aorta.
I enjoyed Life, but I did feel that it was too similar to Alien/John Carpenter's The Thing.
I am an advocate for this movie from the start as i watched in on Thursday early screenings the week of its release....Aorta was one of the first on team Life, promoting it and suggesting to everyone as i have been to go and see it as its a great movie.
One of the knocks is it is copying other movies, where i dont see it as copying. There are only so many avenues a story of any can take, its the little details and the quality of your story that matter and Life is done with great detail and skill.Everything is similar to something else if you look hard enough. Let me give an example of things to do in space or with space:
A. Deal with an Alien Invasion---it would automatically be compared to War of the Worlds or Independence Day, etc
B. Have the movie's protagonists deal with mechanical failures in space---it would be automatically compared to Space Cowboys, Apollo 13, and Gravity
C. Have it deal with other dimensions it would be compared to Event Horizon etc
D. Having it deal with friendly Aliens, humanoid or otherwise it would be compared to ET, Echo, Starman, etc
E. Have a movie deal with a dangerous or malevolent creature it would be compared to The Thing, or Alien
F. Have a movie deal with humans first encounters with an alien lifeform (of course many would qualify) but it would be automatically compared to Contact, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Close Encounters
So there is no such thing as a movie that is totally new and fresh and there is only so many things to do when dealing with space of alien life forms, everything uses certain elements repeatedly, elements that many of these movies ALL share., are they bad for using these elements, hell no, its how they use them that matters....its too easy to label a movie a copycat because no matter how original a general idea is, trust me that idea has been done before....so by all means go see Life its a great movie
When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was a 1969 Japanese science-fiction flick called Green Slime. In it, astronauts bring a green substance aboard a space station and, when it comes in contact with electricity, it grows into these sort of giant one eyed pickles with tentacles that roam the space station murdering astronauts.
10 years later Alien came out, and I was reminded very much of Green Slime. Dan O'bannon and Ron Schusett openly admitted that they stole from 'everybody' when writing Alien. Artists do this, it's a fine line between plagiarism and homage but Alien was homage and I think LIFE is, too.
The Beatles and the Stones were quite derivative of the artists they admired. Where would they have been without Chuck Berry, Little Richard or the Everly Brothers? We wouldn't have rock n roll without the blues. Everything comes from something.
I forgive LIFE it's trespasses because it isn't trespassing, it's honoring a classic scenario with its own very imaginative and well executed take. I love monsters in space, but the majority of them suck. All of them, really, except the MORB and it's kin, and The Thing. Actually I also like The Blob (the original, 1958). For me, Calvin can take it's place alongside these iconic creatures.
Steve- I'm sorry you were disappointed, but I'm glad you went to see it. We need more film makers making these relatively small space horror movies and we can ensure that by spending our money!
I really love creatures attacking human movies, especially in space. I also feel given time Life will be honored as one of the best. While it's not as good as The Thing, or Alien/Aliens it better than any other space creature movies and I'm saying I found it better than A3 and definitely superior to Resurrection, although topping AR isn't hard as my morning dump is better quality than that trash.
But I do think Life is a great movie. I love the mistakes the smart astronauts made, they had precautions in place, scientifically thought out precautions but what Calvin submitted them to made their firewalls irrelevant. They were stressed and panicked as they didn't know what to do.
i also don't knock the film for having the two try to save the one character when they probably knew it was futile. They did this because they chose life. Also the character David in this film hated humanity and being among them on the planet thus his long space tenure... But when **** hit the fan he was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve life. Lastly Calvin shown over and over again it was willing to do and could do many things to prolong life, it's own with horrific results. One cool thing about the movie is the humans and the antagonist were all choosing life throughout this film. When Rebecca Ferguson narrates about the core behavior of any species is to survive, I know she was talking about Calvin as they were trying to understand his actions, and intentions... But if you think about it ,she was talking about her and her crew as well, as they are choosing life just like Calvin, they make grasps, take chances, plan and plot and hide all to preserve life. The funny thing is that them and Calvin were both trying to do the same thing, preserve life. but were in direct conflict with each other and ultimately the reason both sides were struggling to fight for life. I know it's deep but it's a cool concept when u think of it
Grinning- and then they think Earth has sent a rescue but no, it's a capsule that slams into them and starts pushing them into deep space which is EARTH trying to preserve life. It's a steroidal metaphor of what we face daily, and just one more chilling moment from a movie dripping with them.
I thought Life was a good movie, but will it end up being a cult classic?
Also, did the movie offer anything new to the genre? I personally felt that it didn't.