Review – In Space, No One Can Hear You Yawn (“Life”)

In a blatant rip-off of Alien (with a little Gravity thrown in for good measure) you have a thoroughly predictable sci-fi/horror epic set in space aboard an international space station somewhere in the distant future where anything that CAN go wrong, GOES wrong. And look! A cleaned-up Deadpool is there to help things along!
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Stop me if you’ve heard this plot before (spoiler alert: you have!). A soil sample containing dormant organisms from Mars is sent to the Plymouth Space Station for study before going to Earth. Why is this always a bad idea!? Haven’t they seen movies on the SyFy Channel? But before it reaches our planet, Calvin (they call the Martian substance “Calvin”) gets the once-over by scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), who fiddles with the one-celled amoeba stuff and wallah! It comes to LIFE! Yaay! But soon that little thingy starts to mutate (like they always do) and grows rapidly, attacking the good doctor. Booo!!

Next, the little critter, which resembles an octopus mixed with an orchid flower, goes after wise-cracking astronaut Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) and then the Russian commander, Katerina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya). Growing bigger and seemingly unkillable by fire or oxygen deprivation, Calvin just wants to survive, as do the others on board. Soon, mission specialist Miranda North from the CDC (Rebecca Ferguson), doctor and lifer on board, David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), and flight engineer Sho Kendo (Hiroyuki Sanada) are the only tasty samples left on the creatures menu.

An SOS is attempted, but will Earth receive it on time, since their communications went down at the worst possible moment? My, wasn’t THAT convenient! As all attempts to capture/corner/isolate Calvin fail, North reveals a ghastly truth to Jordan: special order 503. If that alien aboard becomes a threat to life on Earth, all personnel on board the space station become expendable to keep it away! Yikes!

With time and air running out (not to mention Calvin eating Kendo for a late-night snack), the remaining pair decide to lure Calvin into an escape pod and then jettison themselves from the Plymouth and, hopefully, to freedom. But, predictably, you know what happens next, as the twist ending ain’t so twisty. Ho-hum. Really, if you’re gonna rip-off Alien, at least have Jordan sing, “You Are My Lucky Star”, as he’s flying away in the emergency pod.

In a yawn-inducing script penned by the guys that brought us the terrific Deadpool, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, I can’t imagine why they chose to steal such an obvious movie plot, right down to the “special order 937” sub-plot from Alien! Really, guys? You went there!? Then there are the numerous plot holes that are not only dumb, but downright laughable in places. And Swedish director Daniel Espinosa didn’t help things either as he copycatted the zero-G film look from Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity! Jeepers, didn’t anyone bother to have an original idea here?

As far as acting goes, you DO have some very nice choices: Reynolds, for the oh-so brief amount of time he’s on screen, is his usual cocky best. Bakare, Dihovichnaya, and Ferguson are all strong in their characters, despite being chased by a flower-looking squid. Then there’s Sanada and Gyllenhaal who, even though their talents are wasted here, rise to the occasion in a “screw it, I’m acting the hell outta this role, even though it’s a stupid part” sorta way. Classy guys. Your best bet? Skip this movie and rent Alien or Aliens. Trust me.  

ALIEN (1979)

“In space no one can hear you scream”. That was the tag line for the queen mother of all space-alien movies. Critically acclaimed by all, a box office mega-bonanza, and an endless start to countless rip-off movies (see above), this Ridley Scott directed triumph had it all: suspense, terror, science-fact & fiction, Dan O’Bannon’s damn good script, and H.R. Giger’s bio-mechanical creature that was scary as hell!

Deep in space flies the USCSS Nostromo, a commercial starship carrying raw ore back to Earth when it receives a distress call that wakes its slumbering crew. By company rules they have to investigate, so they touchdown on planet LV-426 and find (WTH??!!) a gigantic long-dead derelict alien ship and, what appears to be… eggs? Quicker than you say “OMG!”, Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a ‘face-hugger’ creature from inside an egg! Lt. Commander Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) does NOT want that alien thing back on board,  but she’s over-ridden by the ship’s weird doctor, Ash (Ian Holm).

But the creature dies shortly afterwards, Kane is okay, and things get back to normal. Yeah. Right. At dinner, Kane complains of a tummy ache and BOOM! An small alien creature rips through his bloody chest and runs away! Eeesshh!! The crew is speechless and now has to hunt this ‘thing’ down before they leave. Unfortunately, this little critter grows FAST and viciously attacks with lightning speed and retractable mechanical teeth. Oh yeah, it also has corrosive acid for blood, so there’s that.

One by one, the crew gets picked-off (except for Jones the Tabby cat) as they search for the creature. The captain (Tom Skerritt) gets turned into a webbed-meal, both bickering engineer buddies Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) get killed, navigator Lambert gets ripped apart, but Ash? Ash, it turns out, is a freakin’ android sent to spy on the humans by the company. Worse yet, Ripley discovers his secret agenda: ‘special order 937’; preserve alien life form at all costs, while all personnel are expendable. Oh &%$#@ !! Riley decides to nuke the ship with that thing on board, taking the lifeboat pod to safety.

BUT! After the ship goes ka-blooey, Ripley finds out the creature stowed away aboard her space pod! Oh no! The dramatic conclusion is heightened only by her trying to remain calm by singing, “You Are My Lucky Star”, from Singin’ In The Rain. It’s a miracle the film got made at all with all the rewrites that happened, not to mention the tension from writer O’Bannon and executive producers David Giler and Walter Hill, who kept insisting on tinkering with the script with subplots and character changes.

Needless to say, the movie was a monster success, making it one of the biggest money-making films of 1980. Then there was the laundry list of awards it won from Academy Awards to Grammy’s and each of the actors involved got major starring roles afterwards; always a benefit. This movie also has a ‘director’s cut’, showing about 5 extra minutes that explains the creatures cocooning process and what really happened to Brett and Dallas.

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