Darke Reviews | Life (2017)

If you are not new to my site you know that I love good sci fi. If you are new to my site, you now know I love good Sci-Fi. If you want to make it horror sci-fi then you better hold to your science while telling me your fiction. I think this belief of mine comes from most horror sci-fi being relatively close in period to our own and with our own rules of science, biology, chemistry, and physics. If you want to violate these rules you need to establish you are acting outside of them early on or you risk losing me to wondering how within the confines of known science you are operating.

It’s why I buy phasers, lightsabers, xenomorphs, and flux capacitors. You laid forth rules. You have not violated them within your own fiction. We’re good. Tell me your rules, your world and I will board the suspension of disbelief train and ride it to the end. If you present me my world, my rules (as I understand them) you have established the protocols by which your science will be held standard. Violate them at your own risk or at least the risk of me ripping your movie apart.

So does Life need to find a way or is it worth exploring?

Written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, LIFE is the story of scientists aboard the I.S.S. in a “near future” time that is otherwise undisclosed. During a mission in which samples are being brought back from Mars for study, they find proof of life. Maybe they wish they hadn’t.

Rheese and Wernick who worked on Zombieland and Deadpool together  would seem an odd choice for this movie as their comedy/action and comedy/horror don’t lend themselves to a tension based sci-fi thriller when you first think of them. Yet – somehow they did it. In the vein of Alien nearly 40 years ago they  did a well paced, no forced humor thriller.  The science is good, the fiction is good,  the thrills are solid enough; but within that something is missing. The characters themselves. You don’t get to know them as much so when the movie begins traditional Ten Little Indian’s as it needs to, you don’t feel it as deeply as you could.

Swedish director, Daniel Espinosa (Safehouse), shoots the movie rather well and he apparently knows how to deal with the limited space provided and uses that to add to the innate claustrophobia of having no where to run. Though, much like I feel about the script I don’t think he teases enough out of his actors to elevate the characters and really get their motivations – beyond the one who gets a bit of a monologue. It’s clear though he had a vision along with the writers and I feel that they executed the vision well enough but didn’t quite elevate it. More on that in the TL;DR.

From an acting perspective everyone is absolutely passable. Ryan Reynolds was well Ryan Reynolds in space, but he dialed himself back from an 11 to a 5 and the restraint was to his benefit. Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai, The Wolverine, 47 Ronin) may not be able to turn out a bad performance if he tried. Russian actress Olga Dihovichnaya makes a good mission commander despite this being her first American produced film. Ariyon Bakare, mostly a TV character actor, satisfies as our biologist. Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa Faust from Mission Impossible Rogue Nation) plays my favorite character, the CDC specialist; leaving us with Jake Gyllenhaal who is the only one who just has a weird read. Each of the others despite having limited dimension still come off as normal people, Jake’s character just comes off …odd. I don’t know if it is a specific affectation he was directed to do or choose to do but he just was…odd to me.

From an FX standpoint they are 90% solid. The creature is interesting in its design and it’s movements. The overall space scenes and movement through the zero-g environment is beginning to be mastered after films such as Gravity nailed it as well as they did. The best effect though is a subtle one involving one of the characters. While it was an attempt to give one of them more depth (it kinda failed) it did succeed in making you believe the visual trickery before your eyes without looking overt. I would guess it was a mixture of practical and CG and that is often a winning combination.

TL;DR?

Life is good. The movie that is. Maybe the cereal too. I think what frustrates me about it is it could have been more and I think it wanted to be. I just don’t think the director or the script knew how to take it up just one more notch from something good to something great. There’s half-hearted attempts to ask the deeper questions that could come from this, but it’s just that half-hearted. Effort was definitely put into the production; but the net result was a “Good”. I honestly believe this movie could have been great, but it just didn’t know how to get there.

One other thing in it’s favor – the trailer did it’s job and was cut very specifically and rather well.

Should you see it?

It’s not bad sci-fi. So if you enjoy a lil in the Sci-Fi Horror genre give it a go. I’ll be curious to what you think.

Would you see it again?

Matinee maybe? If someone else paid.

How about buying it?

…the magic 8 ball says undecided.

Last thoughts?

Life is a good movie in its genre, well above average but not quite making a mark. Effort was there and it shows and that alone gets merit. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it and if nothing else someone tried and succeeded at a good sci fi horror. There is a lot worse coming this year (*stares at Geostorm*) and I do believe it deserves to make a profit just so we keep getting good pictures in this genre. It just could have been better.

Darke Reviews | R.I.P.D. (2013)

Rest In Peace Department. Oh where do I begin? Do I start with the camera work that nearly made me nauseous? No, I don’t think so. How about the characters? Detestable but no. Writing? Meh. How about the Visual Effects? They were cutting edge right? ..Hmmm alright, lets start with direction then.

Robert Schwentke. Who? 8 titles to his credit, one of which is the cult favorite and generally successful film: RED (the one with Bruce Willis). He wasn’t brought back to direct the sequel that also comes out this weekend. In that movie, there is a sense of comedic timing, charisma and chemistry between the actors, well paced action and an understanding of how to do over the top. I believe there is very real chance he has been secretly lobotomized between films. None of the direction from RED survived into this film. None of it.

Ok so writing? Three of them. Yep, the magic number for fail so far this summer. Two of them work together regularly and have given us such written gems as Aeon Flux, The Tuxedo and Clash of the Titans. The third gave us such humorously memorable films like The Wedding Crashers, The Change Up and Fred Claus. Remember how people flocked to those and praised the genius comedy? But Jess you say – “It’s based on a comic book.” That may be true, well it is true. I’ve done a quick glance at the source material and it doesn’t look all bad and at the end of the day had me more interested in three pages than this movie did in an hour and fifty one minutes. The writers clearly had no clue and were painfully disdainful to the material (that I’ve seen anyway).

Right visuals then! They can save this movie. Good FX and solid visuals can cover a movies flaws from time to time. The Special effects in this were excellent back in 1997 when Men in Black did it better in every respect. Sixteen years later, they don’t hold up and quite frankly look like they went to the same FX house that SyFy channel used for Sharknado. There was only one effect in the movie that looked clean and you’ve already seen it in the trailer where Ryan Reynolds walks through a still frame of his death. One effect. That’s it.

Acting! Acting can …No I can’t even write that with a straight face. Ryan Reynolds is the only thing that saves this from being as repugnant as a Garbage Pail Kid left to rot in sewer waste in the Arizona sun. He has such natural charisma and charm it almost overshadows the horrifically obnoxious, loathsome and detestable persona played by Bridges. The ridiculous accent and talking don’t stop. Ever. Seriously he never shuts up. He has no redeeming qualities and is one mustache twirl away from just being a bully. Does the villain help? Nope. It’s telegraphed the first moment they walk on screen.

So TL;DR –

When asked if I would watch this or World War Z again, it took me half a second to say WWZ. That first half was choking down the bile of thinking of the festering boil of the summer slate that is RIPD.

For those unsure of the short form of my opinion on this repugnant piece of film.

Do not see it. You will never get that two hour block of time back in your life. There are so many other films in the theatre now that deserve your time and money. If…If however you want to see this – see Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. This is another film based on a comic, couched in the supernatural that gets everything right that this film got wrong.

Now I am going to go bleach my brain before watching RED 2 this weekend. I want to go in without the hate.