Director: Russell Mulcahy
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Mike Epps, and Ali Larter
Runtime: 95 min.
by Brian Eggert
Original Release Date:
Resident Evil: Extinction begins just as Resident Evil: Apocalypse did, rehashing material from the original film, which was based on the popular videogame. The first five minutes show us Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakening, using basically the same cuts (if not footage) from the first movie, only not in a clip-show format like its most recent parent. We soon realize that this third and hopefully last sequel has decided to grave rob from dozens of big franchises, including its own. And while I understand this kind of movie by nature is derivative and relies on innovation, the borrowing that occurs here is unconscionable.
Just to bring you up to speed: the mega-corporation Umbrella has engineered a “T-virus” for some mysterious reason. When exposed to living tissue, the virus reacts by killing, mutating, and then reanimating the flesh, turning its victims into George A. Romero-esque zombies, while some exposed victims grow into baddie CGI monsters with tentacles and big teeth. Also engineered by Umbrella is Alice, who’s not only an adept fighter, but at the end of Apocalypse has telekinetic powers. The virus escaped the underground facility known as The Hive in the first film, wiped out Umbrella’s own Raccoon City in the second, and when the third begins, has killed off most of the Earth’s population.
Our first taste of action is like something straight out of The Hills Have Eyes. A southern-fried hick family made up of inbred sons and their chubby momma catch the franchise’s hero Alice by posing as distressed survivors of the zombie apocalypse. One of the hick sons even motions to his belt, as though he’s going to rape Alice right there in front of his mom. Oh, those hicks! Such charmers. As movie aliens, vampires, and zombies all over the universe have learned: don’t mess with Milla Jovovich. Alice responds by kicking the would-be rapist in the face, killing him. She then has to deal with virus-infected dogs… again.
Survivors of the plague live on the road, according to Alice’s opening narration, just like in The Road Warrior, except without all that coolness baggage. Alice is on her own, keeping off Umbrella’s satellite tracking grid. She has abandoned the other survivors from Apocalypse: the ever-annoying L.J. (Mike Epps) and the militarily-inclined Carlos (Oded Fehr), who have since formed a convoy. They drive through the desert wasteland that is Earth, avoiding major cities, surviving on whatever's left. Unfortunately, there’s no Mohawk-laden bad guys to fight with over gas, just zombies.
Umbrella survives in underground bases all over the world, the North American division of which reminds us of Romero’s Day of the Dead—an underground facility run by a mad doctor bent on domesticating zombies. Horror movie buffs will either enjoy this blatant reference or despise its unoriginality (I’m in the latter camp). By the way, who builds these underground facilities some 2,000 feet below the Earth’s surface? Is there a contractor? Did Umbrella get a Home Depot gift card for its birthday and go crazy?
Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) attempts to clone Alice, which if successful, could take away the undead's inherent desire to eat flesh. One scene reminds us of Day of the Dead’s Bub, where the potentially tame zombie’s recognition and reasoning skills are tested. The zombie is given a cell phone and he puts it to his ear; he’s given a digital camera and he takes a photo; he’s given a child’s puzzle box and he freaks, smashing the puzzle and attacking the doctors. Perhaps the zombie wanted a XBOX 360.
I mentioned before that the Resident Evil zombies were akin to Romero’s zombie archetype; that’s true in the previous films, but now Dr. Isaacs has changed a small zombie group so they can run and reason. Running zombies came about in 28 Days Later and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead; undead reasoning skills were breached in Romero’s underappreciated Land of the Dead. I suppose I’m attempting to point out that Resident Evil: Extinction has nothing zombie fans haven’t yet seen in better movies. It’s no surprise that this movie makes silly, plagiaristic plot choices—it was written by Paul W.S. Anderson, writer-director of the first Resident Evil and just writer of the second.
Alice re-teams with her buddies Carlos and L.J. and their convoy, protecting them from evil zombie crows that are like something out of a twisted version of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Even though she’s endowed with psychic powers, Alice chooses to wipe out human zombies with two knifes, meaning a lot of fwoosh sounds, slit throats, and chopped-off heads are depicted. Throughout action scenes, Milla Jovovich’s L'Oréal-rendered complexion remains intact; many thanks go to what appears to be CGI cleanings of her glimmering skin. I understand why the filmmakers wanted a former model to head their franchise, but when you’re making a movie where the world has become a desert apocalypse, couldn’t they rely on rustic, natural beauty?
Speaking of apocalypses, do you think if Alice had known that her actions from the first film would eventually cause a worldwide zombie apocalypse, that perhaps she wouldn’t have been so selfish, but rather self-sacrificial? If you recall, the virus was originally exposed only in The Hive, whose computer program Red Queen suggested that everyone down there should be terminated to protect the topside. Alice and her crew fought back, thinking Red Queen nuts; only Alice survived to see the results of their selfishness: the virus eventually spread and exposed the entire world to zombification. I ask you, is Jovovich’s twitchy, always half-naked-with-tubes-coming-out-of-her-in-a-bubble-of-water performance worth the world dying-out for? The answer is no.