Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Life; Gravity meets Alien, and you shouldn't meet the result

Life seems to have been made to answer a question no-one’s asked; what if you made a crap version of Gravity? And now I know the answer, and I’m not the better of it. Want to see a movie in which everyone’s floating in space and in tonnes of trouble? Check out Gravity. Want to see a movie where half a dozen people get eaten by a space monster? Watch the original Alien. I don’t know what the reason for watching Life would be. In my case it was straightforwardly “Nothing else was on this week.”, which is a terrible reason in a world where I could always have stayed home or even watched something for a second time.

It’s good looking, I’ll give it that, but it’s good looking in the service of nothing in particular. They’ve gone out of their way to gimmick up a plausible looking replica of the International Space Station, but making that look realistic makes it all the more jarring that they’ve staffed it with idiots who don’t have a plan. Here you’ve got six of the smartest people off the planet, trying to figure out whether there’s life in a soil sample for Mars, and just about every part of the plan is stupid. The moment where it all goes pear-shaped is when Calvin, the hideous little blob of god-knows-what crushes the exo-biologist's hand and then squirms and stabs its way out of the glove-box glove it’s just managed to empty. The science team has full control over the atmosphere inside the glove-box, and they’ve already figured out that Calvin needs at least some oxygen and warmth to keep going. Why isn’t the box configured to flood with refrigerated Halon? Calvin’s not going to get much done at -100 C. Or just vent the box to vacuum. Or a hundred and one other things, any of which could have been in the plan that they’ve got one whole character for explaining. Seriously, one sixth of the cast is quarantine officers, and they had no machinery in place to sterilise the lab if things went weird. Did humanity lose its only VHS copy of The Andromeda Strain?

Later on Calvin gets on to the outside of the ISS, which I would have seen as “problem solved”, but he somehow sneaks back in through “the thruster manifolds”. This is idiotic. The whole thing about the ISS is that the living spaces are airtight. If they weren’t, well, it would all end very badly, very quickly. So something on the outside of the ISS has no way INTO the ISS. If there was a way in, no matter how narrow, all the air would come out, and then there would be tears before bedtime. Once Calvin’s outside, you just leave him there until space does the job of suffocating and freeze drying him for you. But that would have been a short movie, so he sneaks back in and gets back to killing the whole crew one after another.

In ways which don’t make a button of sense. Calvin’s abilities are pretty much whatever the hell the script needs from moment to moment; hides everywhere, runs around, swims in zero gravity, knows what all the machines do even though there’s no way he could have figured it out, knows what the characters are thinking even when there’s no evidence the characters are thinking at all … Whatever we need for a jump scare. It reaches the nadir when Calvin shows up hidden wrapped around a character’s leg. How did he even get there and why did he bother hiding? Because they needed a low-rent John Hurt at breakfast moment, I think. After that Calvin’s ability to figure out the controls of an escape capsule and pull them just the right way to de-orbit it was just “meh, I guess, whatever."

Everyone dies. I mean, everyone dies. All the cast, and then - inplicitly - the whole population of planet Earth, since in a bait and switch you can see from Jupiter orbit, Calvin gets down to the surface and schwacks some kindly Asian looking fishermen. I’d say this rules out a sequel, but maybe they have daydreams of a whole series of movies in which more and more Calvins kill their way through all seven billion of us.

No comments: