2 out of 5
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
At time of release, I remember quite liking this entry, but perhaps that was just to offset my disappointment with the overly flashy previous sequel, Apocalypse, after falling in love with the first film… because rewatching it now, Extinction suffers from its own set of eye-rolling problems, which, again, may or may not be due to Paul Anderson not being at the helm…
But: there is a lot of valuable plot (or perhaps setting) fodder here, which nudges it past the “and then this happened” one-minute-story-stretched-to-ninety of part two, and – along with director Russell Mulcahy’s animated sense of pacing and direction – the film feels visually accomplished, or at least not like a demo reel.
Five years have now passed, and the world is overrun by our Umbrella Corporation zombos. People are sequestered into roving camps looking for supplies – one of which includes film two fellas Oded Fehr and Mike Epps and Sienna Guillory / Jill Valentine replacement Ali Larter as Claire Redfield – or perhaps holed up in secure Hive facilities with various shady UC schemers, such as Iain Glen’s mustache-twirling Dr. Isaacs and Jason O’Mara’s bossman Albert Wesker. Picking up the teaser from the end of Apocalypse, Isaacs is working with endless clones of Alice (Jovovich) to perfect both the T-Virus cure and perfect a controllable zombie. Meanwhile, satellites track Alice Original as she putt-putts on her motorcycle across the barren landscape (things go to shit when zombies have chased everyone away from their day jobs) because something something her blood is the key, and soon enough, Alice stumbles across her former mates and convinces them to take a run for an apparent survivor’s outpost in some fictional place called Alaska.
Mulcahy and Anderson try to mix up the zombieness by tossing in mutated crows and allowing Isaacs muto-zombies to be of the run-fast variety, and the film has a nice sense of increased scope with all of these bits and pieces… until it comes crashing down around predictable character-offing and rather pointless non-escalating fights. Like, yes, films need climaxes and our source video games have lead-ups to boss fights, but it all feels so predestined here as to be… tepid. The shuffling of the old cast to the new cast makes us immediately not care about almost everyone, and Alice’s apparent clone-iness and growing super powers make it hard to see her as a target. Later, she shuffles through a wave of zombies like it ain’t no thang and uses Professor X mental projectiles to throw giants around. So why me worry? Regarding this film’s “boss,” Apocalypse admittedly had some originality in the way it showed us the monster up front and then kept teasing confrontations, even trying to “evolve” the monster’s role to have some plot components beyond growl and kill; Extinction’s final baddie (modeled after the Tyrant from the game) is all rubber suit and looking at your watch to figure out when it’s going to pop up. Instead of continuing with the survival elements of the flick’s opening 30 or so minutes, we hit a hard stop once Alice redirects back to Umbrella Corp and this inevitable monster, watching the film churn through nonsense to try to justify its appearance.
And while I do feel like Mulcahy’s style has verve, I’m not sure it was the right approach to the movie. Anderson has a way of writing and directing that’s not, in any way, nuanced, but gives his films (generally) enough visual gravity to immerse us during their runtime. He knows he’s not changing the world, but he’s committed to the the universe within the confines of what he’s filming. Mulcahy, meanwhile, has seemed to picture this as a straight up B-movie, all cheeky wink-wink giallo style close-up cuts around the violence and camera-whipping martial arts, which is in absolute contrast to Anderson’s writing style. The latter isn’t quite deft enough for the former. Then: supposedly gigantic locations like a sand-swallowed Vegas and a huge underground facility never seem larger than studio sets, and – as many noted – all of Milla’s closeups have these Moonlighting-like diffused palettes, which is strange considering she certainly designed her grimed-up costume and makeup and, like, wouldn’t you want to show off that work in detail?
So I’m not sure where I stand on this one in the overall Resident Evil, uh, hexalogy. I didn’t like Apocalypse when I first saw it, and that opinion remained consistent on re-viewings. Extinction is different, for sure, but equally flawed. And while I know I did not like the fourth film, I’m looking forward to seeing how it stacks up during sequential viewing, especially with Anderson back in the director’s seat.