Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

( ** out of ****)

Resident-evil-extinction-poster

(Originally written for The Boston College Heights on 9/24/2007)

Movies based on video games have a long history of bombing at the box-office. Super Mario Bros., House of the Dead, and Street Fighter were all disasters among critics and fans alike. Therefore, it is surprising to find the Resident Evil series on its third entry. Although none of the movies are masterpieces or critic favorites, viewers have not yet tired of watching Milla Jovovich go to battle with hoards of flesh-eating zombies.

Resident Evil: Extinction find’s Jovovich’s Alice at an interesting point in her life. The world she once knew has been overrun by the T-Virus, a contamination that turns humans into zombies and erodes all the plants and bodies of water that it touches. Alice has escaped from the Umbrella Corporation, the culprits who created the T-Virus. Wandering a post-apocalyptic desert straight out of a Mad Max film, she faces the dual threat of the living dead and Umbrella scientists (the evil British type who have that maniacal grin down perfectly), who want to experiment with her DNA, which may or may not hold the secret to the T-Virus. Along the way she meets up with a convoy of survivors and helps them look for a safe location where they can set up a new society.

RE: Extinction pales in comparison to its two predecessors. The plot is significantly thinner and the pace is annoyingly uneven. The desert location dominates a majority of the film’s running time, setting a bleak, static tone for the events that unfold.

Nevertheless, there are a few great scenes of zombie rampages, which, although heavy on cheap jump scares, manage to create an effectively frightening environment. The special effects are impressive, perhaps due to the fact that the filmmakers did not rely too heavily on CGI. Besides, any movie that has zombie birds can’t be all that bad, right?

Although the acting in the movie is passable, the script does very little in terms of fleshing out sympathetic characters. Jovovich more or less goes through the motions here, playing the same robotic, science-fiction butt-kicker that she did in The Fifth Element and Ultraviolet. She has very little dialogue throughout the film and when she decides to speak up, it is usually just to deliver a predictable one-liner. Ali Larter’s Claire is stiff and lets her sunglasses do the talking, constantly reminding us that she’s not just some piece of eye candy. Thankfully, Oded Fehr adds humor to the otherwise bland script, much like he did a few years ago for the Mummy franchise. With his character, it feels like there’s someone worth rooting for.

Director Russell Mulcahy struggles to determine how he wants the audience to view the female protagonists. Much like Paul WS. Anderson, who helmed the first two installments, Mulcahy initially portrays the women as empowered fighters but then goes on to objectify them with skimpy outfits and compromising camera angles that will appeal to the male audience. After a while, it gets a bit tiring – we get it, you have very attractive women in your movie!

RE: Extinction’s biggest fault is dipping into a vat of endless clichés, the worst being the character L.J. (Mike Epps), who returns from the previous film. Epps shamelessly indulges in his tired, socially insultingly stereotype routine, complete with the phrase, “Aww,hell naw!” In terms of genre cliches, there is the guy who gets bitten by a zombie, yet decides not to tell anyone because he believes he is somehow above being infected. None of the characters never seem to figure out that you can only kill the zombies with head shots. All the scientists have ambiguous motives, in this case a desire to domesticate the zombies. This would have been a clever idea if it hadn’t originally been done in George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. Is it a homage or rip-off? That’s for you to decide.

There’s nothing to be lost or gained by seeing Resident Evil: Extinction. It is a middle-of-the-road popcorn flick that should be viewed by someone looking purely for a thrill ride or a fan of the series. Unless this film bombs, it is safe to say that the Resident Evil franchise will be seeing at least one more chapter.

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