Good movies worth discussing have really been a rarity of late. Sure, we’re having a ton of fun looking at Triangle… and we turned up our noses at Kong, but really? Fun movies that were worth peeling back and discussing? Nope. Not a lot of that going on right now. And I promised you, at the turn of the new year, that I’d spend more time on better pieces than continuing to waste extra time on numerous meh pieces.
But! But! Have you seen the movie LIFE yet? Oh please tell me you’ve gone to the theaters and watched this one. Because holy goodness and light my friends, did I enjoy that ride. Think back to the first time you watched Alien. The greatness of that experience? Yeah, totally and completely fell head over heels for this one. But what is it, for those of you who have just accidentally stumbled onto this page out of complete ignorance. Life is a movie about the crew of the international space station receiving a satellite, returned back from Mars, that was looking for Life on that planet. And it was also about how that sort of an encounter could go horribly and completely wrong.
See? Great Golly Gobsmacked that looks like a fantastic movie. Makes me want to head back to the movie theater and watch it all over again. But the rest of this discussion is going to be highly, highly spoiler based. Like completely. I basically want to run through the high level events of the movie, just so we can talk about what happened at the end, and what it might mean for the LIFE movie franchise, if there is one. Ok? So, if you haven’t seen it yet… shew.
LIFE Movie High Level Overview
The concept of the movie Life is your standard horror movie/monster movie. It begins by the head of the house inviting the monster in… which, is requisite for any horror movie of all time. We say to the big bad guy… please, do come in and destroy our house. You think I’m kidding? Look back through all the Aliens movies and any other monster movies you can think of. It’s a requirement. And that happens here as well. And in an amazing 5 minute long opening, single cut sequence we not only get introduced to the space station, but also decide to allow the monster in across the threshold.
When the soil of Mars is analyzed and dissected, the International Space Station’s resident expert on Life, Hugh Derry, notices that they’ve got a single celled life form that is in stasis. So Hugh starts fiddling with the cell’s environment to see if they can jumpstart the little horror, I’m sorry, the little cell, back to life again. One of my favorite quotes of the movie was from Ryan Reynolds’ character, RoryAdams:
Hugh: “Bringing temp up…”
Rory: “This is some awesome Re-Animator shit.”
Miranda: “That’s an obscure reference.”
Rory: “Not if you’re a nerd.”
Had me laughing out loud. Re-Animator if you don’t know, is an 80’s… no. I’m not explaining the joke to you. Here’s a link instead. So, moving on, after Hugh (who, importantly, also happens to be handicapped) adds some glucose, increases the CO2 in the atmosphere, and jacks the cell around a bit, the cell begins to move. And once the cell is awake, this is when the fun really begins to happen. (Which, I think happens at around the 20 minute mark? 25 minutes in? Pretty soon after the movie begins.)
Death, Your Name Is Calvin
Once it is announced back on earth that we have incontrovertible proof of life from other planets, the Earth goes crazy. And a child gets picked to name it. And she names it Calvin, after her school. Which would be sweet if this life form didn’t turn out to be a homicidal maniac.
Very quickly things go to hell in a handbasket, all kinds of pear shaped. Calvin connects to Hugh’s glove. And basically attacks him. Next thing we know Hugh is unconscious and Calvin is loose in the ISS pod. Rory makes a critical mistake and heads in to get Hugh out. Which, he succeeds in doing, but ends up stuck himself. And after a fantastic scene involving flame throwers and Alien-esque flashbacks, we watch as Rory gets his insides liquefied. Which is a totally awesome decision by the screenwriters, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick, to kill off, arguably the biggest star in this movie within the first 30 minutes of this film. Then, after feeding on Rory thoroughly, Calvin gets significantly bigger. And the shape and consistency of this particular alien is more octopus like than anything else. Which, is a fantastic choice for the weightlessness of space.
Calvin and the Game of Cat and Mouse
From here on out, Life is one big game of cat and mouse. Calvin finds his way into the venting systems, then a space walk is needed to repair comms with earth. Next Calvin is killing outside the space station. Which then means it needs to find a way back into the space station. Calvin finds a way in through the thrusters, which are dangerously low on fuel, and could cause the space station to fall out of earth orbit if they aren’t careful. So, they allow Calvin back into the space station, but decide to vent most of the station’s oxygen in order to send it back into stasis.
While the survivors are sitting and talking Hugh apologizes to them for bringing this chaos to life. And then he flatlines. When this happened, I was certain, GUARANTEED CERTAINTY, that Hugh was going to be a breeding ground somehow, someway, for another Calvin because he had had contact with the alien early on. But that wasn’t it at all. Calvin had been inside his pants feeding on Hugh’s leg and he didn’t know it because he was paralyzed. Brilliant writing there.
About this same time, Earth, which had heard their distress call, but not much else, sends up a Soyuz capsule. Everyone on the ISS believes they’ve sent a rescue…. but actually the pod from Earth is actually attempting to send the space station out into space. Which, I have to say, seems the most dubious bit of writing in this entire movie. There’s no way that a single Soyuz capsule could have enough fuel to send the ISS out into space, never to come back again. No? I mean, I’m not a rocket scientist by any means. But hello?
The Three Firewalls of the Movie Life
Apparently, before this mission to find Life on Mars was started, they had decided ahead of time that there would be three firewalls put in place to protect earth.
“Firewall 1 was the box.
Firewall 2 was the lab.
Firewall 3 was the station.”
Which basically means that everyone on the the space station is doomed. Earth cannot allow the risk of contaminating our planet with a hostile alien. And since the initial box is breached, the lab was breached, and now the space station has been breached, earth must send them out into deep space, never to reach earth again. Miranda understood, and signed off on the fact that, even before she left earth that she would never return if the life form ever left the firewalled zones allowed.
The Chaotic Few Minutes of Life
Amongst the final few minutes a lot happens all at once. During the Soyuz thrust out towards space, Sho – the crew member hiding in the sleeping chamber – made a break for it. Sho was mindlessly flying from locked down compartment to compartment. Sho’s major glitch? He was opening portal after portal. Calvin takes a bead on Sho and fights him, and eventually overtakes him. But during the fight with Sho, the Soyuz’s throttling goes all wrong and crashes and bounces through the middle of the International Space Station. (No, I cannot give you a good reason why this happens. If you know, please(!) explain in the comments.)
Once the chaos subsides, David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Miranda sit and read Goodnight Moon as the realization that the ISS’s orbit is degrading and that they only have another hour and a half before they begin entering the Earth’s atmosphere. And that is when David and Miranda realize they are about to run out of oxygen in the next thirty minutes. And so David comes up with a plan…
Explain To Me What Happened at the End of the Movie LIFE!?!
Alright, so the ending of this movie is clever. But could be fairly confusing to some. The plan that David came up with was to use a set of oxygen sticks to lure Calvin into an escape capsule and then to launch into deep space with it. David had decided to sacrifice himself. And so off he went. And, surprisingly, everything worked according to plan. David pops oxygen stick after oxygen stick and leaves them as bait to lure Calvin along. And Calvin follows – devouring the sticks as it moves closer and closer to the escape pod.
Eventually, David pops an oxygen stick and dives into the escape pod. And Calvin jumps in after. David then shuts the door… and launches the craft. David’s hand is on the stick for controlling the manual override, and he is intent on launching them out into space. Simultaneously Miranda launches her escape pod as well. And we watch as both escape pods travel near each other for a bit, and then one heads down towards the earth’s surface, and the other out into space.
BUT WHICH IS WHICH?
David, hand on the till, is doing his absolute best to force the thrust out into space, but Calvin forces his hand into a downward Earth directed trajectory. Meanwhile, on board Miranda’s escape capsule, something goes horribly wrong. The lights blink red. Alerts go off, and we hear her scream the scream of someone who knows her pod has just malfunctioned and sent her out to deep space to die. Meanwhile, on Earth, some fishermen push their boats out to investigate the capsule. They look in the window to see a still, barely alive David, shaking his head “NO! Don’t open it.” Sort of a shake.
Right? If those fishermen open that hatch, Earth is now endangered.
Rhett Reese – “We always wanted it to end in a creepy fashion that set up at least the possibility for future movies and but the script is very much a seesaw between Calvin having an advantage and the astronauts having an advantage. We always wanted them to be smart, but then a new problem present itself so when they got out of the frying pan they found themselves in the fire. And it just so happened that the last twist was that despite all their best intentions, Calvin was once again once step ahead of them at the end of the movie. It was very intentional and we just wanted to leave people with a real sense of goose bumps and anticipation of what might happen next.”
Reese, and Wernick, the writers for the screenplay on the movie Life, are also the screenwriters for the movie Deadpool, Zombieland (1 & 2), and so we currently sit, as of the ending of this movie, with two really capable writers who could take this moment and really run with it in a sequel.
Reese – “that Calvin can now possibly reproduce, I think, is an interesting idea. We’ve dropped him in a situation that is teaming with life to hunt and to eat. That being the ocean, or the coast of Indonesia or Vietnam or wherever we are saying he’s landed. So that opens it up right there. But just the idea of firewalls could extend to Earth in the sense that now they’ve failed to contain Calvin to the station. The question is, how would the Earth react? Obviously, this was an international effort, so there are a lot of countries cooperating. And again, they would be trying to contain this thing from moving forward and yet there might be more Calvin’s to deal with. To us, that screams interesting sequel.”
Well, I for one am in for a Life Sequel. Sure, there wasn’t a ton of thinking happening in this film… but I had a ton of fun and enjoyed it from beginning to end. What were your thoughts on the movie?
Edited by, CY