Director: Paul W. S Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Oded Fehr, Iain Glen, Mike Epps, Ashanti, Spencer Locke
Plot: Years after the zombie apocalypse, survivors keep on the move in protective conveys, painfully aware petrol is becoming a limited resource. Then they hear whispers of a safe haven.
When marathon-watching these Resident Evil movies, it is hard to decide if the third entry is a good film, or simply superior to the poor second outing from this popular video game reboot. At the very least, it is an improvement, suggesting a slight upwards scale in terms of action.
Its main strength is that the writers are beginning to take themselves slightly seriously. While Apocalypse revelled in writing every character into a martial arts expert or introducing melodramatic story arcs, there is something a little more real and ultimately gripping with Extinction. True, it is worlds away from the intimate creeping original movie which clung to suspense and tension over action set-pieces and in aiming for smarts, it makes the dumb plot holes all the more glaring (apparently an airborne virus has dried up lakes), but at least we can begin to settle into some form of the story. The action picks up after the apocalypse which helps leave the second movie’s poor writing a distant memory. The film jumps between sole survivor Alice taking on groups of horrible scavengers and zombies on her own, to a fully-formed convoy, our first experience of a group of survivors, logically trying to carve out an existence in this tattered remains of society. Zombie movies are always at their best, as proven by AMC’s popular Walking Dead, when it focuses on the enduring humanity that the remains of civilisation keep alive. Here Extinction trades in a constant supply of fighters to a group of dependable (perhaps still a little bit too good at what they do), characters. The writers show off the fact they are willing to kill off their series regulars and strongest characters at certain points too, so whereas no one was scared Jill Valentine would be at the mercy of a zombie, here most of the stars are liable at getting chomped from something at the shadows. That tense dread is something we missed last time around and is appreciated here. With the basis of a strong zombie movie at play, Anderson adds in the two plot points that drive the movie forward. Alice has a rumour that there is a safe haven away from the apocalypse that humanity can use to start again. As also the Umbrella Corporation are back, this time headed by the sinister Iain Glen. Driven by a shadowy, familiar blond villain sporting shades, Glen has a plan to both domesticate the zombies and use Alice’s blood to complete his nefarious scientific projects.
So yes, Extinction is a lot better than Apocalypse. Easily. Add a few solid action sequences to the review above and you have a very watchable piece. However, the movie is still far from perfect. The truth is that this series is always a little too heavy-handed to be really classed as a reliable action series. Even the original movie could have done with a lighter touch and a more comfortable director. Extinction comes up with some good themes and hits us over the head with them, like it mistakes us for zombies in need of head-stomping. Take the throwbacks to the first movie, with an opening that finds an excuse to write in the crowd-pleasing laser trap and Red Queen. It feels a tad forced as if Anderson is desperately trying to appeal to a fan base. This movie has an air that it is designed for an already established audience with no desire to try and win anyone else over to its cause. The characters are also, while an improvement, still a little devoid of some subtle development. The newcomers are introduced to us, talking about their remaining marijuana supply. The point is to establish that these characters are bad-ass, but also not worlds away from the rebels the teenage audience like to think they are. The dialogue is far too cheesy to make the movie feel like revealing character study, instead coming across as pandering puppy, trying to be likeable. A great example of this is the casting of Ashanti, an obvious attempt to please the demographic it feels it is best catered to. Anderson is always trying to give us the movie it thinks we want to see and while everything pleases, there is nothing cutting edge that surprises us and lifts the movie out of the mediocre hole it finds itself in. Perhaps the shaky moments like this benefit the movie as a whole, as it does lower the standards ripe for a generic action movie to impress with. Glen is gloriously over-the-top as the bad guy, bringing Macbeth levels of acting to a rote stock character and the action delivers in spades, bound to please anyone that just wants to watch Milla Jovovich tear into zombies for an hour and a half.
Final Verdict: Still trapped in a slightly sub-par quality, but a definite step in the right direction.