High Life

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I think Stanley Kubrick is rolling in his grave so fast that…he turned back into a baby, and…ended up on a #7 spaceship as a tyke for Robert Pattinson, who continues to do weirder and weirder roles. Enough already, Robert!!! I loved you in Good Time (one of the best movies of 2017), but just do a normal movies already. Trust me, you’re not going to be typecast because of your Twilight career.

I’m surprised that, in a movie that has so much masturbation, Pattinson’s character is the one guy that’s refusing to and vowing to be celibate. Perhaps I should explain; or at least try. The movie starts with Monte (Pattison) fixing the spaceship, while talking to a baby inside. They seem to be the only two on the ship. They jump to a flashback to show the crew, and they’re a motley bunch. They should be, because they’re prisoners that are sent to live out in orbit so scientists can do experiments with fertility. Either that or a mad scientist has taken over and that’s her bag. Anyway, that means these folks are giving semen samples each day, when they’re not raping each other, or Dibs (Juliette Binoche) isn’t taking care of herself in a room with a device that looks like the one George Clooney made in Burn After Reading. When that scene showed her…in ecstasy for about four minutes…I started to wonder if this was perhaps a porno we had stepped into. And for all the comparisons critics will make to 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’m wondering if anybody remembers the mid-70s movie A Boy and His Dog, where a teenage Don Johnson is captured in a post-apocalyptic world and his semen harvested (note to self: find out if this is the most often I’ve used the word “semen” in a review).

I’m guessing critics will just bring up the usual suspects — Solaris, The Martian, Interstellar. And nobody will bring up the Disney sci-fi film The Black Hole from the late ‘70s (they shouldn’t, as they’re not remotely similar). This movie just deals with black holes, too. Very timely, with the photo of the black hole being released recently.

For some bizarre reason, every 24 hours someone on the ship has to use the chip in their finger to keep things running smoothly. So when a new person dies, their finger is sliced open, the chip taken out, and put into another finger. It’s a bloody procedure, and there’s a lot more blood than that. There’s blood from punches to the nose, shovels to the face, menstrual blood, faces imploding in space suits. In fact, this movie probably has more bodily fluids than I’ve ever seen (including movies that aren’t just rated R, although I wonder how this didn’t get an X rating). The bodily fluids shown in this would also include lots of urine, sweat, and breast milk.

Dibs (Binoche) is obsessed with her scientific duties on the ship, which include drugging the crew, raping them, artificially inseminated the females when they’re asleep, and…blow drying her really long hair.

The cast is mostly unknown actors, other than Andre 3000 (from the band Outkast), who like everyone else, shakes it like a polaroid picture. Although he’s mostly content with thinking about his kid on Earth and working in the garden.

The set designs look rather cheap, and like something you might have seen in the Star Trek shows from the ‘60s. Yet that wouldn’t bother me, if the 72-year-old French director Claire Denis (Beau Travail, Nenette and Boni) gave us something. In her first English-language film, it’s like she’s just throwing a bunch of crap at you for shock value. There are half-themes, symbolism (is the black hole…our soul? Oh really, who cares; didn’t Event Horizon try tackling that?).

This movie needed more character development. You never get invested in any of these crew members. It also needed a handful of more interesting scenes. One that comes to mind is when they come across another ship like theirs and what they find on it.

Even the cinematography in this isn’t anything special, although some of the scenes in deep red and blue hues were interesting visually.

The score by Stuart Staples was annoying. I did dig the song “Willow” in the closing credits. It sounded like Tim Buckley or Bert Jansch. Nope, it was Mr. Pattinson himself singing that ditty.

The art house crowd will think this is profound. Everyone else will hate it. In fact, my wife couldn’t stop talking about how much she detested it on the drive home and she was furious I was giving it any stars at all. I just can’t give something a zero when it holds my interest most of the two hour running time. Sure, the payoffs weren’t there and the more I think about it, the less I like it. I just don’t feel like it was a complete waste of time.

If you want an indie sci-fi film that deals with isolation — seek out Moon with Sam Rockwell and thank me later.

1 ½ out of 5.




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