“Extinction”, the latest installment in the “Resident Evil” videogame-to-movie horror franchise, is such a Paul W.S. Anderson film that had you seen it and not known it was written by Anderson, you would think to yourself, “Wow, that’s such a Paul W.S. Anderson film.” It’s a breezy, fast-paced, no-strings-attached movie that entertains, but never reaches any significant level of “better than good”. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad film; but like most, if not all, of the films baring the name Paul W.S. Anderson in the credits, it’s just good enough.
“Resident Evil: Extinction” begins a few years after the events of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”, which saw Raccoon City being overrun with the undead. We catch up to Alice (Milla Jovovich) alone and on the road, seeking what, we aren’t quite sure. Since we last saw Alice, the world has gone to hell and back, with the T-virus having evolved into just turning people, dogs, and other assorted animals into zombies, but it’s somehow also turned the world’s oceans into deserts. How this is possible is beyond me, but just go with it; it’s a movie about zombies, after all.
Alice has been living “off the grid”, spending her time evading the orbiting satellites of the omnipresent Umbrella Corporation, which has since become less omnipresent, though still very much dangerous. What’s left of the notorious Umbrella staff now resides in underground bunkers around the world, with the one in North America headed by Doctor Isaacs (Iain Glen), who is determined to find a cure for the T-virus by using Alice’s blood. He doesn’t have Alice in custody, so Isaacs is forced to create a slew of Alice clones, although why he keeps putting them through death traps (and killing them) when he could just simply extract their blood (what he says he really needs) is beyond me, but I guess it, er, looks cool on film to see Alice get killed again and again.
And oh yeah, did I mention that since last we saw her, Alice has developed telekinesis? She has, you know. Although she doesn’t really use it all that much, which is, once again, a total mystery, since you would think having the ability to create invisible force fields with your mind and do cool things like divert fireballs would be really useful in fighting zombies and the Umbrella Corporation. But in any case, after her ride is unceremoniously destroyed, Alice runs across a band of survivors led by Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), the former Umbrella Special Forces soldier that Alice previously met in “Apocalypse”. Together, they set a course for Alaska, and hopefully, salvation.
As genre films go, “Extinction” could have been made for one-thirds of its reported $45 million dollar budget, but its pedigree as a big-screen sequel has allowed Paul W.S. Anderson to create some nifty scenarios for Alice to showcase her fighting abilities. Long-time genre director Russell Mulcahy (“Highlander”), who hasn’t exactly been working with big budgets for a while now, before finally returning to the big time, knows how to put the money to good use. Of course, we’re not talking about “Star Wars” here, and the film’s isolated, desert terrain and limited cast no doubt contributed to a giddy bottom line for the studio.
Although it’s obviously sold as a zombie/horror film, “Extinction” is far from being one. There’s nothing scary about the film, unless you are frightened by the appearance of flesh-pecking CGI ravens. “Extinction”, like “Apocalypse” and the original “Resident Evil”, is more science fiction action movie than horror. The goal here is to entertain with little set pieces and then move on, with the quick pace only occasionally broken by necessary exposition. Viewers who have not seen the previous two films in the franchise won’t exactly be lost by “Extinction”, but they will miss out on some gags, such as Alice waking back up in the mansion that was last seen in the early moments of the original film. Also, there is no real explanation regarding the existence of the Umbrella Corporation for the novice viewer.
Returning as star is Milla Jovovich, who is quickly becoming the go-to girl for “chicks kick ass” movie roles. Mulcahy and Anderson certainly know who their star is, and Jovovich literally gets the entire movie’s inventory of slow motion and “cool shot” moments. Being that this is the third time for her, Jovovich really doesn’t have much to do except hit her marks and go through the motions of her choreography, which at this point should be second nature to her. As always, Jovovich has an innate vulnerability that works in the role; even when she’s killing zombies, Jovovich’s twitchy face gives the impression that she’s not entirely comfortable doing the bloody deed. Then again, the girl could just be twitchy in real life.
There is some nice work in the supporting cast. “Heroes” star Ali Larter’s entry into the franchise is worthwhile, and if rumors that she will be replacing Jovovich in a future fourth installment are true, I don’t think fans will mind. Oded Fehr doesn’t have much to do as the potential love interest for Alice, one of those throwaway side plots that is never really followed up on. Iain Glen easily does the best work of the bunch, presenting Isaacs as part Mad Scientist and part psychopath. He’s vastly entertaining, right up to the point when his character is needlessly transformed into the T-Virus Monster.
If “Extinction’s” box office is any indication, you can expect a part four sometime in the near future. The franchise has created a big enough fanbase that “Extinction” was number one in its first weekend, and so far has taken in $100 million in total worldwide box office, more than doubling its estimated $45 million dollar production budget. This is slightly off from “Apocalypse’s” take of three years ago, especially in overseas markets, but it’s still enough to easily justify the continued adventures of Alice — or perhaps Claire?
Russell Mulcahy (director) / Paul W.S. Anderson (screenplay)
CAST: Milla Jovovich … Alice
Oded Fehr … Carlos Olivera
Ali Larter … Claire Redfield
Iain Glen … Dr. Isaacs
Ashanti … Betty
Christopher Egan … Mikey
Spencer Locke … K-Mart
Matthew Marsden … Slater