Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick penned an interesting theory about the signs of life in Mars: The living things have been hibernating for millennia. Director Daniel Espinosa let his imagination carried him too far, as "Life" showed that an alien life form from Mars needed oxygen to survive. It also wanted another living thing for growth. Some moviegoers may be quite disappointed, as the thing looked like a distant relative of the trilobite. It happened that "Alien: Covenant", which would open in theaters on May 19, should reveal the fate of Elizabeth Shaw and David after the failure of the Prometheus exhibition in LLV-223. (Trailer showed that David was alive, but Shaw was nowhere to be seen. Ridley Scott could be teasing moviegoers.) Before asking Espinosa if this could be chance or coincidence, there must be a question that must be answered right away. Why Mars?
There have been many books and films set in Mars, which theorized the history of the Red Planet. Edgar Rice Burroughs may have come up with the most dazzling description of the planet's past, as a fiery civilization once ruled it. And a captain (on the side of the Confederacy) accidentally transported himself from a remote cave in Arizona to the wide, arid desert that turned out to be out of this Earth. On the other hand, Andy Weir hinted a sign of life in "The Martian". The novel turned out to be a tale of survival for an astronaut who was accidentally left behind after a sand storm. It would be "Angry Red Planet", a B film released in 1959, which seemed close to "Life". Sidney W. Pink thought about the height of the Cold War, but it wasn't impossible to speculate that he imagined the existence of hostile, if not deadly, creatures in Mars.
The trouble with Calvin
There's such a thing as International Space Station, which conducts experiments in biology, astronomy, and other fields. British biologist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), an expert in exobiology, was able to revive a dormant organism from Mars, with the right atmospheric adjustments and glucose level. Derry and the rest of the multinational crew (Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds) agreed to call it Calvin. The awe prompted them to let curiosity overcame their fear, which resulted to shocking results. Calvin revealed extraordinary strength when it was big enough to grip Derry's hand. It showed resilience to fire. And it could be more intelligent than a top-ranked chess player. In other words, the (dormant) species in Mars could be very human like us.
NASA expeditions haven't found evidence of Martians, even the dormant ones, so Reese and Wernick might be right about this one. If the plot didn't resemble the Alien series. (Calvin's ejection from the International Space Station won't please Sigourney Weaver. It was as dramatic as the Queen Alien's departure from the Sulaco.) If Reese and Wernick and Espinosa didn't think of the other memorable science fiction flicks during the last few years. (One climactic scene was a nod to "Gravity".) If the same trio recalled "The War of the Worlds" (and opted for a happy ending instead). Perhaps the Swedish filmmaker doesn't want the audience to think of "Life" as a poor imitation of the Alien series.
The gripping tale of an experiment gone wrong wasn't bad at all, but it might have been better if the organism came from Venus. (Nathan H. Juran's "20 Million Miles to Earth" would come to mind.) The final scene seemed like an open ending, but those who read "The War of the Worlds" would remember the lethal effects of nitrogen. There might be a sequel to "Life", even if it was breaking even at the box office.