lifeColumbia Pictures

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station are on the cutting edge of one of the most important discoveries in human history: the first evidence of extraterrestrial life on Mars. As members of the crew conduct their research, the rapidly evolving life-form proves far more intelligent and terrifying than anyone could have imagined.

I grew up being a space science nerd at a very young age. I remember being fascinated with space and space travel since before Kindergarten. My parents maintained an ongoing subscription to Discover magazine for several years for me (it had the most pictures and stuff), as well as encouraged me to learn more about this area of study as much as they could. Of course, this just fed into my growing love of the science fiction genre, especially with movies. Which is to say, sooner or later it was inevitable that I would get around to watching the latest Alien rip-off, Life.

Okay okay okay, maybe “rip-off” is the wrong word to use, here. I mean, on the surface, the premise of Life (which, sadly, does not involve shots of the nummy cereal food) seems pretty similar, with some modifications: a bunch of scientists on the International Space Station discovers microscopic life within a soil sample taken from a Mars expedition, they manage to revive said life and watch in fascination as the space amoeba grows from microscopic to a CGI blob-ish thing. Eventually, one of the scientists decides to zap the alien blob because science, which annoys the blob–which was named Calvin by the scientists, by the way, like how you name a goldfish–leading to it somehow kicking the butt of the scientist and escaping its enclosure, and managing to kill a couple other scientists before getting out of the lab. Also, whenever Calvin eats something, it (he?) gets bigger. Naturally. Soon, the surviving scientists find themselves trying their darndest to survive and not get eaten, while the damage to the space station mounts along with the body count. Soon, it’s down to two remaining scientists, who hatch a plan to lure Calvin into one of the escape pods and blast him back out into deep space. Only, this involves one of the scientists to be inside with Calvin and manually override the preset controls to get it to not land on earth, while the other scientist escapes on the other pod to get back to Earth and warn everyone of a potential threat. We then end on a twist that everyone saw coming the moment the solution was mentioned. The end.

Life, as a science fiction movie, is fine. It’s well-shot, well acted and manages to get some effective claustrophobic thrills out of a story that is rather cookie-cutter. Again, I refer back to the comparisons to the movie Alien that everyone seemed to be making, and there’s some point to that; after watching Life, I personally like to think that this was more a prequel to the movie The Blob, mainly due to how Calvin ate and metabolized everything. And while we’re on the topic of Calvin, I have to say that the “monster Calvin” effects were kind of…off. He came off as kind of an underwater fern thing rather than a space monster. But, in the end, while I saw the ending coming, I was pleased with the standard dun-dun-duuuuun ending they went with.

Overall, I get the nagging feeling that Life would have worked better as an episode of the revival-era Outer Limits television show, rather than a full-length movie. The movie does try to get that hard sci-fi cred with how they approach the science part of the fiction; by the time the ending credits roll, though, I wasn’t really craving more beyond that. Worth a rental, at least.