Life is a terribly stupid movie, but it’s dumb in that fun B-movie way, a trashy space thriller full of dumb-sh*t dialogue and wildly convenient circumstances. Despite its stupidity, though, Life is decently scary because space is naturally horrifying as we are instinctively afraid of its vastness and convinced that some wet-looking space bug is going to rise from its depths to destroy us. Life taps into those latent fears and delivers thrills in its own magnificently stupid way. So stupid. So incredibly, amazingly stupid.
Basically a bottle episode set on the International Space Station, Life starts with the crew happy and joking which means they’re all going to die. (Happy people don’t belong in space. Space is terrible and will punish you for your joy.) The crew is composed of the doctor (Jake Gyllenhaal), an Army veteran who has been in space for over a year because he hates people and can’t stand to be around them, which is understandable, really. What isn’t understandable is when, later in the movie, he suddenly announces that he is the pilot, a totally separate job that requires its own years of specialized training. I understand a doctor being a hobby pilot, but a full-fledged space shuttle pilot? Here’s how stupid Life is: The space doctor announcing he is also the pilot barely registers on the Richter Scale of Dumbest Sh*t In This Movie.
Anyway, besides Doctor Pilot there is Scientist (Ariyon Bakare, Tyrant), Lady (Rebecca Ferguson), Guy (Hiroyuki Sanada, Sunshine), Captain (Russian actress Olga Dihovichnaya), and Ryan Reynolds. Their mission is to intercept a pod from Mars and see if there is any sign of alien life in the dirt samples. Turns out there is a space squid with a vagina face an adorable child on Earth dubs “Calvin”. Scientist immediately becomes infatuated with Calvin and starts poking it with sh*t. Anyone who has seen a space movie knows this is a bad idea, but apparently the movie Alien doesn't exist in this universe.
But it does exist in ours, which is a problem for Life. Written by the Deadpool team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, Life is really just a B-grade Alien that also borrows heavily from the Venom origin story from comic books. (So much so that I legit thought it was a secret Venom prequel by the end.) It’s completely derivative and has nothing new to offer us, but director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) has a flair for action sequences. It’s not brilliant or anything, especially in a post-Gravity world—oh that’s another one, large chunks of Life seem like deleted scenes from Gravity—but Espinosa puts together a few above-average sequences that manage to generate real tension and fear even as the characters spew the stupidest dialogue in the world at each other.
Which is what’s fun about Life, really. You’ll laugh at the bad dialogue, cringe as Calvin stalks the crew, and stare in utter disbelief as Doctor Pilot unironically recites Goodnight Moon when all hope seems lost. I cannot stress how stupid this scene is, it is the absolute stupidest thing I’ve seen in recent memory, a really extraordinarily stupid moment that deserves a special Oscar. What makes it really special is how seriously everyone is taking it—Ryan Reynolds is the only one who appears to realize what they’re making is less 2001: A Space Odyssey and more Battlefield Earth. Life is stupid as f*ck but enjoyable anyway, like any B-movie worth its salt. I’m not sure anyone involved realized they were making a B-movie, but that’s what they did.