Movie Review | Lifeforce
Aliens and vampires and zombies, oh my...
Movie summary: A race of space vampires arrives in London and infects the populace, beginning an apocalyptic descent into chaos. (IMDb)
Lifeforce is a tricky movie to talk about thanks to everyone who knows anything about it probably thinks of it as that movie where the sexy space vampire walks around naked in it. Which, to be fair, is pretty accurate - that picture above is one of two scenes where French actress Mathilda May wears any kind of clothing at all.
Above anything else, you have to praise her for the level of supreme confidence she had to take this role in the first place, knowing that she would be nude for almost the entirety of her screen time. Saying that, praising May for her comfort in her own skin is probably the biggest praise I'd endow on any of the acting in this movie.
No-one here stands out, even Patrick Stewart making a brief appearance, although this is almost entirely down to none of the roles having any defining characteristics outside of what the plot requires them to do to keep moving. There's no indication given as to what anyone we see was like before we met them or the kind of person they are away from the jobs they're doing.
It all just helps to make Mathilda May and her nudity stand out all the more, because there's so little else to take your attention away from it from anyone else on-screen. The dialogue is functional at best and none of the actors do anything interesting or unique to make the audience care about them.
You could argue that Lifeforce isn't the type of movie to be too worried about character depth, but by giving the audience no reason to care, it means nothing feels like it matters. Considering this movie ends with London devastated and millions dead, most of the main cast among them, that's a pretty spectacular failure.
And it could've been so much better too. Hell, the pace starts off pretty slowly as an experimental spacecraft investigates a strange signal coming from the tail of Halley's Comet, finding a ship with a design that wouldn't look out of place in an Alien movie, countless bodies of dead bat-like creatures and three nude 'humans' in pods.
Another problem is that the pacing only continues to accelerate from this point, with events zipping by faster and faster until the finale absolutely flashes by and the credits start rolling. While I can respect the intent of just wanting to build constantly in intensity, there's just no quiet moments for the audience to think on what's happened (probably for the best) or for the characters to react to proceedings (definitely for the worst).
Trying to fit in everything it needs to into a single movie really doesn't work and I can see why there's been more than one attempt to make a TV show out of this story. I'm not sure it could sustain multiple seasons, but a single mini-series could probably do the trick and give all the crazy elements the necessary space to breathe.
You've got the paranoid threat of Alien or Sunshine with the events on the shuttle; an escaped alien who can shape-shift and possess others, leading characters into wondering who they can trust, like the Founders of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or the 'skin job' Cylons of Battlestar Galactica; and the grand finale of an apocalyptic zombie movie with shades of World War Z or 28 Days Later.
Hell, make it a primarily non-Caucasian cast and keep the invading aliens white, taking what they want from the native culture and leaving when they have it to give it an anti-colonial slant. Give Space Girl (yes, that's how May's character is credited) the chance to mock the leading men for being so pathetically easy to control without her having to do anything other than being nude to ridicule the male gaze and criticise how women's bodies are inherently sexualised by men.
Or, if you want to make it incredibly relevant to 2020, you could treat the zombie plague like the pandemic and having the authorities struggling to make everyone follow instructions to be safe, leading to things getting worse. And I haven't even mentioned yet how the aliens are stated to be the cause of vampire myths on Earth that could be explored too!
How can you tell me that you couldn't make something good from all of that given the right amount of time to tell that story? A single movie certainly isn't long enough and Lifeforce is the proof enough of that. Poor acting, dialogue and characterisation, with ludicrous pacing just make this a more than disappointing mess of a movie.
Lifeforce isn't a good movie and I don't think it ever stood any chance of being one, with far too much happening to do any of it justice without turning it into a 4-5 hour monster. It's a shame, because the premise of a super-apocalyptic event really could've worked, but the poor acting just makes it all worse. At least some of the practical effects still look pretty great - and hats off (plus everything else) to Mathilda May and her sky-high confidence!