Wednesday, July 5, 2017

‘Blu-ray or Bust’ - LIFE

‘Blu-ray or Bust’

For a movie that’s all about death, they picked an interesting title for this one.

LIFE tells the tale of seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station set to analyze samples from Mars.  After reanimating a single celled organism within the samples, chaos breaks loose.  Things break.  People die.  There is mayhem.

All of which is pretty cool to watch; the effects are impressive, especially the Zero-G environment the scientists live in; the creature design is an ever-transforming badass amoeba, and feels scientifically accurate (even though it doesn’t have a brain but certainly does learn at a quick pace); the acting is on par for the cast, which includes space handyman Ryan Reynolds, Doctor Jake Gyllenhaal, “firewall” expert Rebecca Ferguson (THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN), and biologist extraordinaire Ariyon Bakare (THE DARK KNIGHT).

But for all the acting, all the awesome attention to a zero-gravity environment, all the great sets and effects, there is a key component missing.  From the title of the film alone, you would expect to care about the characters—but only one really gets a chance to develop, and it takes the entire film to do so.  LIFE would be so much better with…well, more life, really.  Reynolds plays to type—he is the smartass comedian of the crew; Bakare plays the biologist as a scientific genius (even if his character is given the dumbest task in the film), Gyllenhaal is the quiet ex-military type—please, stop me if you’ve seen these characters before.  The biggest problem is that the alien organism develops more than any of the humans on the space station, which is exciting to watch, but leaves you wondering about the human crew.  Why are we supposed to care about these characters?

There is tension that organically emerges.  The action taking place is engaging and there are a few edge-of-your-seat moments that work well.  It is when director Daniel Espinosa (SAFE HOUSE, CHILD 44) slows down for those little “care about me” moments—which are a bit too late to embrace—that the film loses its momentum, and flags.

LIFE isn’t a horrible film, and if you are going to watch it, you should definitely do so on Blu-ray.  The effects, not to mention that moody score by Jon Ekstrand (CHILD 44), alone are worth it.  It takes a lot to pass off zero-gravity as well as it is portrayed here, and the special features are a must-see.  In fact, the studio has, in a move I haven’t seen before, made it so you don’t really have a choice.  While I watch all of the special features anyways, Columbia features has them automatically playing right after the film ends.  They even go so far as to include a two-minute preview FOR THE SPECIAL FEATURES before the film even starts.  Who does that?  It’s like a kid leaving you a drawing of the refrigerator on the front door to remind you to check the fridge for their latest finger painting—unnecessary overkill, if you ask me.

LIFE is a decent creature-feature flick with a serious scientific nod to it.  But, I saw more character development in “What’s Opera, Doc?” (it’s Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd—go YouTube it), and that was a seven-minute cartoon.  And, that had an ending you didn’t see coming a mile away.

Grade: C+
Special Features: B
Blu-ray Necessary: Recommended  

-- T.S. Kummelman

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