“[A]s people made space movies that were successful, people make more space movies,” said Jake Gyllenhaal in a recent Indiewire interview, promoting his new space movie, Life. That about sums up the ambition and artistry behind Daniel Espinosa’s sci-fi/horror, a film that asks “what if Alien but also Gravity?” and that’s about it.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that! In theory, I’m all for a B-movie exploitation picture with a big budget and big-name(ish) actors (Gyllenhaal appears alongside Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson). I love Alien! I liked Gravity! Mashing the two together – zero-g, contemporary context, scary space alien – should be a winner.
But it’s mostly …not. Life isn’t a total waste of time: there’s one great scene which evokes the horror of frantically chasing a scary-looking spider around your house with a rapidly-dwindling spray can, and Gyllenhaal gives it his all as always. However Espinosa’s direction fails to create any real suspense, horror or memorable imagery; there’re a couple of fancy zero-g long shots but that’s about it.
A particularly-sticky rumour has sprung up that the film is a backdoor Venom-prequel; it probably isn’t, but the way it resonated speaks to the lack of originality on display here.