A few weeks ago, I took in the movie “Life” ( A Ridley Scott production and the name of the producer should have been a dead give away as to how it was going to turn out. ) with a wonderful group of friends who meet regularly for “dinner and a movie”. The dinner usually follows the flick so we can engage in a few libations and some lively post movie analysis and critique. We are all sci fi fans so the selection of the Scott production about a team of astronauts who retrieve a Martian soil sample from a probe which contains microbial life was not out of character for us.
I watched the trailer and read some reviews beforehand and then informed my friends that I was going to hate this movie. But , I told them, I wanted to go so I could see first hand what I was going to be criticizing. So here I am. I was right. I hated it and here’s why.
First of all, I am a sci fan but definitely not a horror fan and I would say that “Life” falls more into the latter category. Although the initial plot perfectly sets up the foundation for what could have been a thoughtful and sensitive exploration of what constitutes “life” and how that life would be perceived and accepted by humanity, the movie makers instead resort to cheap thrills and a tired and predictable “Alien” type plot where the “life” becomes guess what? —Of course !! What was I thinking? a monster that systematically knocks off the crew members in increasingly shocking and gruesome ways. Gee—even if I hadn’t read the story line ahead of time –( insert sarcasm here ) I wouldn’t have seen that one coming!
Not only does the movie miss a lovely opportunity for some meaningful dialogue and examination of all kinds of ethical issues related to first contact with ET life forms—I’m pretty sure that the science ( what there is of it ) is just plain bad! I can’t imagine that any scientist charged with securing a sample of a potential life form from another planet would spend the return trip home talking to it, poking it and injecting it with glucose so in record time ( remember you only have 2 hours to scare the heck out of the audience ) it evolves into a giant squid like creature that looks like it was spawned in hell. I’m not overly impressionable but “Calvin” ( yes, that was said monster’s name ) gave me nightmares for the next week ! And worse, even if you did choose that route to —let’s say—highlight the obvious danger of befriending creatures from space that you don’t know anything about –the movie didn’t even attempt to offer up any explanation or speculation as to what was motivating the creature to kill and devour everything in its sight? Was it just really , really pissed off to have been inadvertently abducted from its home or is it part of a larger invasion force of creatures from another planet who want to invade our planet ( wait til you see the ending ) so they can -what?–eat us and take over our resources?
So aside from the issue of the missed opportunity to debate this important topic, I am also annoyed that this mainstream Hollywood movie with a popular director and popular actors who will no doubt be a box office draw- plays into the tired but oh so prevalent narrative of “aliens” ( hate that word for the obvious reasons but had to use it ) who are seemingly mindless and bent on coming here to eat us. I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance who told me about her friend who is absolutely terrified of “UFO’s” ( another term I don’t like ) and the increasing possibility of life on another planets. She didn’t say why but I’m guessing it is because her friend thinks that “UFO’s” are piloted by flesh eating “aliens”. And it’s because it is this kind of rubbish that is constantly being fed into our conscious and subconscious minds that I am concerned about how the public will , whether they are faith based or not, respond when evidence of “life ” elsewhere is discovered.
Thanks for nothing, movie makers of “Life”. You had a beautiful opportunity to start the conversation and get people thinking about what it will all mean when a soil sample actually does come back with microbial “life”. And you had the actors who could have pulled it off. But I guess that doesn’t sell movie tickets.
Oh and by the way —if you want to check out a cerebral and brilliant movie that does examine this issue in a meaningful way–check out “Arrival”–worth the price of admission and more!