Paul W.S. Anderson brings the last installment of the “Resident Evil” series with “Extinction,” based on the popular video game series of the same name. In both the films and the games, an evil corporation ominously named Umbrella creates a powerful virus that unintentionally brings the dead back to life. With a new desert setting and more knife-chopping action than Emeril Lagasse, “Extinction” unsuccessfully attempts to outdo its predecessors.
The film centers around Alice (Milla Jovovich), who is hiding from Umbrella. Alice has separated herself from the world in order to protect those she loves from her newly acquired telekinesis. How her character mysteriously develops the power is never clear. Also wandering the desert is Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and her merry band of travelers, though these characters seem somewhat underdeveloped. Newcomers like Nurse Betty (Ashanti) and old favorites from the second movie, like Carlos (Oded Fehr) and TJ (Omar Epps), should be given more screen time.
At the beginning of the film, Alice attends to a distress call only to be trapped by degenerate humans and forced to battle in their coliseum of zombie dogs. After successfully playing her own version of a gladiator, she meets up with Claire’s disease-free convoy. The group decides that their only hope in escaping the mindless menace is to reach a supposedly zombie-free Alaska. To get there, they must continue trudging through the desert, but the travellers apparently move at superspeed because they cover vast distances without much transition time. The scope of the post-apocalyptic world is never really realized.
The film does contain some action sequences that are fun, but never original. In the first half of the film, infected crows attack Claire’s convoy, a scene that feels like a more extreme version of “The Birds” and offers up some cheap scares. Another scene, in which Alice totes a pair of knives that she uses to carve up a zombie horde, is also exciting. The zombies that Alice encounters are supposed to be horrifying in numbers, but in “Extinction,” the monsters never feel like a real threat, despite the many people who get killed.
Images of the convoy moving through the desert are reminiscent of the 1970s action flick “Mad Max,” but this time the picture is led by a group of tough-as-nails women. This female cast allows for a deeper sense of emotion in the despair of the survivors. Both Larter and Jovovich offer up strong, yet vulnerable characters. As a twist to the usual zombie film, Anderson adds a scientific aspect. Umbrella attempts to find a cure to the virus by duplicating Alice’s “superior” zombie resistant blood and cloning — yes, cloning — the heroine. Of course this presents problems, and one thing leads to another until Umbrella gets fed up and decides to just go after the real deal. Really, the plot line is only good for one big headache.
The desert planet is an interesting concept. Earth, stripped of life by the virus, is visually enticing. The cinematography showcases wide shots that place the viewer in the barren landscape. These desert scenes contrast nicely with the dark and cold underground labs of Umbrella. Director Russell Mulcahy, new to the “Resident Evil” series, returns the film to more of a horror feel than the previous films. Fans of the series will appreciate the return of classic zombies following what can only be described as “zombies on ’roids” in the second film. References to famous game characters, such as Claire, Wesker and the tyrant, will satisfy gamers.
The film’s attempt to further the zombie genre falls short. The separate pieces feel underdeveloped, and the overall product suffers because of it. Interweaving plots stretch the film’s blood thin, and in the end, the film almost feels as mindless as the monsters it’s showing.
“Resident Evil: Extinction” was written by Paul W.S. Anderson and directed by Russell Mulcahy.
“Resident Evil: Extinction” received 2.5 out of 4 stars.