It’s hard to pin down exactly what I think about this one.
So much of it is far better than one expected: not just the sets and design of the world of the future, but, far more important, the basic social reality of that future has clearly received some thought. The notion of travelling by “beaming up” in what amounts to a super, long range transporter is perhaps familiar and far too convenient, but it comes complete with the shuddery possibility of an occasional transmission error and the very real complication of time distortion caused by mass.
It is also true that the featured monster is quite intriguing: they find that the organic crystalline substance mined on the planet is, in fact, a planet full of frozen primordial slime.
All right, we know the whole notion of primordial slime is one of those Nineteenth Century myths (Thomas Huxley got so carried away he actually decided his samples of a clear substance dredged up from the bottom of the sea was this slime. He even gave it the scientific name Bathybius haeckelii, after the original proponent of the theory, Ernst Haeckel. Unfortunately, it just proved to be a natural precipitate caused by his own preservation methods!) While the scientists of that age believed that cells were just full of living jelly (protoplasm) and could easily imagine it existing outside the cell, we now know that life actually involves a vast array of coordinated chemical reactions and internal cellular machinery. These are all quite fragile: today scientists picture the separation of the potential elements of life from the surrounding environment as one of the first steps towards the evolution of life.
However, you can’t kill a myth that easily, at least not with facts, and a lot of people do still believe in it, so we can give them a pass on this one. However, portraying this slime as a super-evolving substance (after all, it’s formless, so it should easily be able to take on any shape it likes!) is clearly a move into total fantasy – as are the hints that it may have some degree of intelligence. But who expects a science fiction film to get its facts right, anyway?
Where the film falls down is its descent into madness, as the rescue team and the lone survivor are infected by the living slime and start killing each other. This just becomes ugly, hard to follow, and nearly unwatchable.
That said, the final resolution comes from somewhere so far out in left field that it might almost have started in right field and got there the long way around. We’ve seen happy endings pulled out of hats before, but you’ve gotta admit this is one big rabbit.
Oh, well. I am glad to see an SF movie set in deep space: they’ve been a bit rare lately. So I’ll try not to complain too much.