Life

Humanity. Invented war, speed bumps, Damon Lindelof. But also caramel. Longer run than expected. 3/10.


Just as a bad ending can ruin a great film, a great ending cannot save a bad one.
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Reported on 23rd of April, 2017

Life has some very competent creature effects, straight up excellent creature design, and one of the best endings I’ve seen in a long long time. How is it then that you know I’m going to say ‘How is it then that it’s not very good?’ It provides the converse of Cabin in the Woods: just as a bad ending can ruin a great film, a great ending cannot save a bad one.

Life

23 April 2017 @ The Gaumont Rennes


$3.00 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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Let’s start with the ending. Boy, I could probably copyright those five words, or at least the sentiment behind them. Anyway, as Mr. Jake Gyllenhaal sacrifices himself to bring the creature into deep space with his space pod, we see Ms. Rebecca Ferguson escape to earth in her pod. What with our thoughts that somehow the Creature is secretly on board, it is instead revealed that it is Mr. Gyllenhaal who has landed on earth. The double whammy: she’s off into the vasty nothingness of space (terrifying) and the creature is smart enough to be able to best Mr. Gyllenhaal and land the damn thing.

The ending tells you why they bought the script, and who knows? Maybe they even read the rest. I wouldn’t be the first time we glossed over it. I have said before: this is a horror film, and characters acting like idiots isn’t just par for the course, it’s the game.

But’s it’s also a balance: too smart, and we don’t get to enjoy them dying. Too stupid, and they design airlocks that need two people to operate them, or bring incinerators into all oxygen environments, or wear a space suit while the temperature drops without thinking to put on the helmet.

It’s a problem.

If you can’t make it good, make it pretentious enough that people will think that the bad is just something they should read something profound into.

In fact, there are many, many, many problems with the first 102 minutes of Life, but I’m going to try to finish this today, so let’s just have today’s long form essay concentrate on The Stupid. Like using ‘long form essay’ and expecting people to keep reading.

Eh. Never stopped me before. In a way, it’s not the film’s fault, as it had the misfortune of screening before a trailer of the soon to be agonizing Alien: Covenant Is Another Word No One Uses and Doesn’t Sound Cool So Seriously Just Call It Alien 7. If you can’t make it good, make it pretentious enough that people will think that the bad is just something they should read something profound into.

Inexplicably retitled Life: origine inconnu in France, the translators have taken it upon themselves to mix French and English in three words to make the titles somehow less relevant and more incomprehensible at the same time.
The one bright spot, literally, was our late-coming crazy with his extremely bright iPhone flashlight trying to find a seat. After a good three minutes, he settled, in a near empty theater, for the seat very much behind mine. So, along with the nostalgia for the wandering nuts who came into the Hollywood theaters of year, there was some creepiness to the experience. Thanks Flashlight Guy.

Seeing the terribleness I was going to experience just made me bemoan what the Alien franchise hath become after delightfully jumping out of our male wombs some forty-ish years previous. The first a groundbreaker, the second awesome and groundbreaking (who remembers female heroines? I do, because someone has to). And then, suddenly: Alien3. And then, suddenly: us thinking it couldn’t get worse.

One of the appealing, and thus timeless, qualities of the first two is the characters doing their best in an unknown situation, and not behaving like complete fucking morons. Life, which does not compare well and yet will be compared, has the added weight of taking place in a semi real environment: contemporary space, what with all the very expensive zero gravity they had to simulate.

Ripley and her crew, just a bunch of grunts and slobs. Kids in cabins, fine. But Mr. Gyllenhaal et. al. are scientists and we thus expect a bit more than waiting until the end to remember that they had escape pods. I don’t expect that the filmmakers are old or smart enough to have seen Alien, but I do expect their characters would have.

Instead, and not unlike Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark these are people who go out of their way to make things worse. It’s a bunch of characters in a field of puppies and puppy-safe cakes who seem uncontrollably attracted to the pit of a spikes miles away. Can you blame them: the voice kept telling them: ‘You’re going to die horribly. Stay Away!!!’

And if you’re theme is smart people can be so stupid, that’s great. But then don’t trade on how ‘they’re the best in the field’ and quote poetry and so on.

Also, don’t quote poetry.

Also, don’t quote poetry three times.

So it’s goodbye earth, and well, good riddance. Because if these astrotypes are our best and brightest, ours was a specie that had its fucking chance. And you really don’t mind if the critter gets down into orbit and kills everybody.

That’s why the ending was so good. Forget everything I said. After you restart reading of course.

The Take

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Profits!
The ending is a stunner, and belongs in a great film.
$8.00
Mr. Gyllenhaal passes the ultimate test of great actors. Being watchable with material this awful.
$2.00
Total Profits
$10.00
Losses!
I guess I’m not going to finish today. The opening is all one shot and one hopes that this trend is dying. Thing is, Gravity works because there was a story, characters and things to do. If you have ten minutes of set-up for an event where you don’t know the stakes or even what’s happening. It exists for the gimmick, and you know you’re in trouble from the start.
$4.00
The writing is inane, just, despite the noble but vain presence of Mr. Ryan Reynolds, humorless. But it did give birth to a new rule: Don’t Quote Me On That. The film has two moments where it quotes poetry, and an even more unfortunate passage where it quotes Goodnight Moon. The length of time and number tells us: the amount of someone else’s material you have in your film is in inverse relation to how good you know your own is.
$3.00
Total Losses
$7.00

$3.00

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