The new scifi film Life didn’t exactly light up the box office this weekend, and that’s a shame. If audiences had turned out, they would have seen an entertaining movie with an ending that blew their damn minds.
Life’s ending is one of those things you have to immediately start talking about to even process what happened. So we did just that with three of the people primarily responsible: director Daniel Espinosa and writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese.
We’re about to spoil it, so if you plan on seeing the movie, do so, then come back. If you saw it already, or just don’t care, proceed.
In Life, the last two surviving characters, David (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Miranda (Rebecca Ferguson) realize the only way to wipe out the killer alien, Calvin, is to bring it into deep space. However, one of them will have to sacrifice themselves to do so. David volunteers. Each character then takes a one-person pod in opposite directions: David into space to die with Calvin, and Miranda toward Earth to live and tell the world the story. On the way, both pods experience problems. David has to fight Calvin to stay on course and Miranda hits debris. However, it seems like both are still going in their intended directions.
A pod hits the water back on Earth but we don’t see who is in it. It’s only when a few fishermen start to approach that we realize what’s happened. The pods changed directions entirely. Miranda is headed into deep space to die and David is on Earth, accompanied by a very vicious alien. The camera pulls back to reveal a sprawling ocean, filled with food, and more boats approaching. This, we realize, is ground zero for something truly terrible. Roll credits.
It’s a bleak shocker of an ending that the writers couldn’t believe they were allowed to write and was of paramount important to the director.
“That was the reason I wanted to do the movie,” director Daniel Espinosa told io9. “It’s truly an old school, 1950s noir ending. It’s Raymond Chandler. But I never thought they would allow me to do it. So in the first meeting, I said, ‘You will never allow me to do this ending right? If you don’t like the ending, we should part ways right now.’”
Obviously, they let him do it. But the idea itself was birthed by writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese.
“It evolved over the course of Rhett and I discussing the story for several weeks before we set off to write,” Wernick explained. “And we thought it was really cool and ominous and there is always the drive of studios to create franchises. And I feel like, there could be a Life 2 should we be so fortunate, with this creature now on Earth in a pretty creature-friendly place with lots of water and people and things to kill.”
Though the opening weekend box office didn’t inspire much confidence in that hypothetical sequel, Reese did explain a bit of where they saw that story going. “It would to be interesting to look at the Calvin creature and make the decisions like how does it reproduce, for instance,” he said. “And if it does reproduce and there’s more than one Calvin, what does that look like?”
We may never find out the answer to those questions, but that doesn’t take away from the film’s incredibly impactful last scene.