In a time where reboots and remakes seem to dominate the box office, original films don’t seem to get the love from movie audiences that they deserve, but this weekend a new film starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal will give people a reason why a movie not belonging to a franchise deserves to be seen.
‘Life’ is a sci-fi thriller that feels like it could be in today’s headlines. The film centers on a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery and curiosity turns deadly wrong as they examine a possible life form from Mars. As director Daniel Espinosa says, “We live in a world that is quite mundane, but in space, you enter an adventure – you don’t know how it looks, how it feels, what it can do to you, where it is. It doesn’t make a sound. That’s terrifying.”
While speaking to ScienceFiciton.com during the film’s press junket, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick spoke about what intrigued them to write this film and why ‘Life’ is not another ‘Alien’ film.
ScienceFiction.com (SF): What was it about the concept that made you guys decide to write the script?
Rhett Reese (RR): To us it was a chance to draw upon the inspiration of a movie we loved in the past which was ‘Alien’ and but then reintroduce that concept of “an alien in a haunted house” to a new generation and also along with the idea of what would happen if it happened today as opposed to far in the future or in another galaxy. What if an alien sample was brought back to the International Space Station today and interacted with astronauts who were just like us. It really appealed to us. Also, the weightlessness of the environment appealed to us. It was a very ripped from the headlines feel that made it feel fresh and interesting and we ran with it.
Reese and Wernick came up with an idea for a completely original alien creature which is named Calvin in the movie.
RR: “We had a vision for this alien whereby it began as a single-celled organism and then that cell divided many, many times until it became a multi-cellular, complex organism that was able to navigate its environment. It’s not a higher intelligence – it’s a combination of cells that are not differentiated. A human body has differentiated cells – muscle cells, nerve cells, blood cells, and all of these cells perform different functions. In this alien, every cell performs every bodily function on its own. Every cell is an eye cell, a muscle cell, a nerve cell, and as such, the creature is very, very adaptable.”
PW: “It’s our worst nightmare and the crew’s worst nightmare.”
SF: Did you do a lot of research when you were creating the alien Calvin?
Paul Wernick (PW): We did a lot of research about it. We got into the science quite a bit. We got into the creatures of the deep sea, the translucency… the octopus was another inspiration of ours as we were writing Calvin and the way they improvise and overcome obstacles presented to them. An octopus can fit into a tiny hole when you don’t think they could so that was an inspiration to the way Calvin would be able to fit into various places in the ISS. Then David (Elliot), Daniel (Espinosa) and the creature design folks came aboard and brought it to life in a way beyond our imagination.
SF: So were you completely blown away once you got to see what they did to make your creature come to life?
PW: Yeah, completely
RR: I’m particularly terrified of baby Calvin. Baby Calvin is scarier than adult Calvin. That little creepy little thing… oh God… that really scared me.
SF: You had mentioned ‘Alien’ as an inspiration. What would you tell people who would compare ‘Life’ to that film?
PW: Well, ‘Alien’ is nearly a 40 year old movie so it’s two generations ago and while it was an inspiration, it was set in the very far, far future and our movie, I think, is a very grounded, very real exploration of what could happen or what would be happening as rovers are exploring Mars now as we speak. We feel that grounding it in a way to make it feel that it could happen today makes the movie different.
RR: I also think our movie shares the DNA with ‘Alien’ and ‘The Thing’ which came out soon after that one. It’s the claustrophobic, trapped with an alien inside a box feel and that particular idea, that particular feeling and genre hasn’t really been done great for many years like a long long time so to us it feels like we are reintroducing the genre to a new generation.
‘Life’ definitely brings life back into the sci-fi horror genre! So if you are looking for something a little different than the usual movie fare of late, then make sure you catch ‘Life’ this weekend.
Directed by Daniel Espinoza, ‘Life’ stars Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Ariyon Bakare. The film opens in theaters on March 24th.
Janice Kay is the Senior Editor for ScienceFiction.com. When not working, you can most likely find her drinking copious amount of mochas while in front of a TV binge watching on sci-fi shows. You can follow her on Twitter.