It’s no secret that Hollywood loves sequels and reboots, and in recent years franchising has been taken to a whole new level with the growing popularity of shared cinematic universe. But while established properties still take the top spots at the annual box office, we’ve also seen a trend of audiences turning out in big numbers for original sci-fi films like Interstellar, Gravity, The Martian and Arrival (those last two are actually adaptations, but not of particularly well-known works).
Hoping to be the original sci-fi of 2017 is Life, an outer-space thriller from Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House). Starring Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson and Jake Gyllenhaal, Life is set on the International Space Station and tells the story of an ISS crew who discover life on Mars (and no, it’s not Matt Damon).
Life was shot almost entirely on a sound stage at Shepperton Studios, London, where a set had been built that was based on the real ISS (with a few design tweaks). Screen Rant got the chance to visit the production during filming in August 2016, and producer David Ellison – who has worked on a number of franchise projects including Star Trek Into Darkness and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – made a strong case for the importance (and appeal) of original sci-fi movies.
“We’ve had the distinct privilege of being a part of several well-established franchises and it is such a privilege to work on Mission: Impossible and Star Trek and Terminator. But one of the things that we’ve always wanted to do from moment one was to actually build an original I.P. I mean, Star Wars is only now known… because it came out of George Lucas’ mind, and I think… if the summer has said anything very loudly and clearly to audiences, it’s that that is what they are incredibly hungry for stuff that feels original. And a lot of the movies that we’re making — Life, amongst others — [are] really venturing into that category.”
While Wernick and Reese were responsible for writing the script, the idea itself was cooked up by Ellison and his Skydance Media partner Dana Goldberg. Life is set in the present day rather than the distant future, and its core concept was based on NASA’s real-life endeavors – specifically, the exploration of Mars. Ellison explains:
“Dana and I had always wanted to do an incredibly tense science-fiction thriller on the ISS all in zero G, and this was right around the same time that Mars Curiosity had just landed on Mars, and we kind of got the idea of, what if the Curiosity Rover discovered life on another planet — you know, a single-celled organism — and brought it back to the I.S.S. for analysis and once you introduced it to an environment it started to display signs of intelligence? And that was really the core concept that we fell in love with and pitched to Paul and Rhett…
“The core concept [was]… if anything was going to survive on the planet of Mars, it’d have to be at a single-celled organism type of level. But what happens once you re-introduce that into an environment that’s more conducive to carbon-based life forms? So all of this movie is very much based in what is technically possible.”
The producers deliberately kept the exact nature of the life form and what it becomes closely-guarded, but based on the trailer for Life it doesn’t look like the first encounter between mankind and Martian organism will be a friendly one.