Those who went to see Life at the cinema likely sat in the theater, expecting the creeping panic that only the isolation of space can evoke. What you probably weren't prepared for was a worst-case scenario involving an alien life-form sans exploding chest cavities and Pulse Rifles. Life doesn't come with a spoiler warning, but we're about to dive headfirst through the airlock separating us from major spoilers for the film, so check your tether before you're cleared for spacewalk.
If death is a major theme in #Life, then the Grim Reaper is the alien affectionately known as Calvin. Hailing from the planet of endless seas of red dust and lonely robots, Calvin is humanity's first sign of extraterrestrial life on Mars. After much poking, prodding and experimentation on this perfect organism, the crew finds out that Calvin doesn't take kindly to such human "introductions" when the alien begins systematically killing off each crew member aboard the station.
It was easy to be distracted by the martian massacre taking place on screen, so many fans likely missed the importance of how each character died. In a theory put forth on Reddit, every character in Life perishes in what could be seen as a representation of their unique personality traits. In this way, their deaths are hugely symbolic, as the manner in which they die echoes who they were in life. Beginning with the first person to bite the (space) dust, here is a complete rundown of the characters and their aptly fitting ends.
Rory 'Roy' Adams, American, International Space Station Pilot
The first International Space Station casualty is US pilot Rory Adams, played by (and more an extension of) Ryan Reynolds. In true Reynolds fashion, Adams rips on his crew members, is quick-witted and even quicker to action. Our introduction to Adams demonstrates that he is willing to break protocol, and direct orders, when he manually intercepts the pod containing the martian samples, even though failure would have been catastrophic for the station and crew. Not one to sit on the sidelines, Adams breaches the lab to save Dr. Derry when Calvin escapes — he's the first in and the first to die. Calvin consumes Adams from the inside by entering through his mouth — fitting, given the pilot's trash-talking demeanor.
Katerina Golovkina, Russian, ISS Commander
As commander of the ISS, Golovkina must maintain order and control during the mission. When Calvin escapes and panic sets in, Golovkina flounders, unable to handle her responsibilities or the safety of her crew. Realizing the need to step up as a leader, she ventures outside to repair the station's communication antenna, only for Calvin to rupture her suit's cooling system, filling it with coolant and drowning her. Golovkina's asphyxiation is symbolic of her inability to contain the mounting responsibilities as captain when the mission is compromised, directly leading to the eventual death of her entire crew.
Dr. Hugh Derry, British, Biologist
Dr. Derry is the first person with whom Calvin interacts, reanimating the alien after millions of years of hibernation. In this way, Derry is a bearded maternal figure of sorts for Calvin. Their relationship quickly turns hostile when Calvin's survival instincts kick in and he escapes containment, crushing Derry's hand in the process. Derry is no stranger to disability — he is a paraplegic and therefore unable to feel anything below his waist. Calvin kills Derry by feeding off his desensitized legs, bleeding him to death in a fashion not unlike a child suckling its mother.
Sho Murakami, Japanese, Pilot Of The ISS
Sho is singularly focused on returning home to be reunited with his wife and newborn daughter. Unaware that the second ship arriving at the ISS was not there to save the crew but to jettison the station into space as a final safety measure, Sho forcibly tries to enter the spacecraft. However, the hull tears open and he is sucked outside, forever to be separated from his family, floating in isolation through space.
Dr. Miranda North, British, Quarantine Officer
Though Dr. North is the only character not killed by Calvin, her duties — containment of the alien life-form — are ultimately what lead to her death. After Calvin escapes the first three stages of North's containment firewalls, she is forced to execute her fourth and final containment measure: Sacrifice the station and crew to ensure the safety of humanity on Earth.
Electing to save the US government from negative headlines and a hefty $150 billion price tag, Dr. David Jordan plans to lure Calvin into an escape pod before launching both he and the alien into deep space as Dr. North takes the second escape pod back to Earth. However, space debris from the destroyed ISS collides with North's pod, diverting it away from Earth. Though she was tasked with containing Calvin at all costs, Dr. North facilitates Calvin's arrival on Earth while propelling herself into the nothingness of space.
Dr. David Jordan, American, Senior Medical Officer
Our impression of Dr. Jordan is that he feels much more comfortable in space than on Earth. He's fully content to live his life on the station, even at the cost of his health (prolonged periods in space can result in muscle atrophy and the less-insidious-sounding spaceflight osteopenia). As the senior medical officer, Dr. Jordan is compassionate and concerned for the health and safety of his fellow crew members. In a final act of sacrifice that would save both humanity and the station's sole survivor, Dr. North, Jordan lures Calvin into an escape pod, thinking he's launched them both into deep space where he can deliver a victorious smirk and a resounding, "Screw you, martian."
However, his pod ends up reaching Earth, with Calvin alive and now fused to Dr. Jordan's body. Tragically, the one man who wanted nothing more than to live out his days in the solitude of space hits a new level of personal defeat as he becomes an alien-human weapon that will cause the ultimate downfall of humanity.
Wonder If We'll Ever Know — Is There Life On Mars?
Each of the character deaths in Life illustrates creative irony and symbolism worthy of audience recognition. Though we were all secretly cheering for Calvin as he mercilessly ripped through the ISS, seeing the crew members face their untimely deaths felt oddly satisfying and poetic. A fitting end for all, indeed.
Life now available on digital! Pick up your copy on Blu-ray and DVD June 20. What experiment would you conduct if you discovered the first extraterrestrial life-form on Mars?