In 2012 Ridley Scott announced there would be more sequels in the "Alien" franchise after the relative success of the last episode, "Prometheus" which cost $130 million to produce and grossed $400 million globally. In May of this year, that next episode will be released by 20th Century Fox.


As is the nature of Hollywood, no studio has a problem with riding the coattails of or releasing a cheaper version of practically the same film to grab a piece of the pie. Film District released "Olympus Has Fallen" just two months before the nearly identical "White House Down" by Columbia/Sony. Both made money, though "Olympus is Down" was cheaper to make.


This time Columbia/Sony is offering up a discount take on the "Alien" franchise with Daniel Espinosa's $58 million "Life". You can bet that Scott has spent more money on the upcoming "Alien: Covenant"! Columbia/Sony plans to toss this into theaters against fairly light competition - "Beauty and the Beast" market won't affect its attendance - the plan is to grab some of the space/horror market before Fox.

Written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick ("Deadpool", "Zombieland"), you can can tell they were probably watching the original "Alien" while inking this story. There are so many similarities it's pathetic. But they were creative enough to toss in elements from a couple of other sci-fi creep flicks shows to give the film its own character.


The cast is small - just like "Alien" with Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds as the three major stars and Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare and Olga Dihovichnaya filling out the rest of the crew. With a fairly short run time of 103-minutes, Espinoza spends little time developing characters as Ridley did in "Alien". It opens with the crew of the International Space Station grabbing a damaged capsule that is returning from a scientific mission to Mars.


After astronaut Rory (Reynolds) makes a successful capture, scientist Hugh (Bakare) finds a inert microbe buried in one of the Mars rock granules. Using a variety of stimuli, he resuscitates the tiny life form.

In a miracle of miracles, the life form not only responds to the stimuli but also starts to grow exponentially until it is big enough for Hugh to start playing with it through the lab suit. But the life form becomes dormant again and Hugh decides to jump start it with additional stimuli. Oops!


The organism, which the crew nickname Calvin, becomes aggressive...and hungry. More importantly, despite its size and makeup, Calvin is quite intelligent; more intelligent than the astronauts as if quickly figures out how to escape the firewall of the lab and enter the habituated area of the ship. From then on it is a race against time as the crew tries to outrun and then isolate Calvin who seems impervious to all of their solutions.


It is quite fun watching the various actors get wiped and devoured by Calvin who keeps growing as a gelatinous, octopus-like critter that can slip through the tightest cracks yet is quite strong. It is also quite humorous as it breaks through all the firewalls effortlessly and plays out Agathy Christie's And Then There Were None much like Scott's "Alien".


Yet it adds touch of Irvin Yeaworth's "The Blob" and Robert Wise's "Andromeda Strain" for those who need a further memory challenge, while at the same time raising the question as to what happened to life on Mars. (Of course, it also raises the question of why anyone would ever want to go there!) But the CGI special effects are pretty cool as Calvin proves to be one nimble foe.


The acting, though not great, is good enough as everyone takes their turn going from hero to scream-queen. No one outshines anyone else, but there are a couple of blatant plot holes that you will notice.


"Life" is an amusingly thrilling space horror in the vein of "Alien" with a heavy dose of "The Blob" and "Andromeda Strain" stirred in. The outcome is predictable, but it is nevertheless entertaining.   -- GEOFF BURTON