Long before Zack Snyder’s much ballyhooed Army Of The Dead placed the ravenous undead in the sand wastes of Las Vegas Nevada, the third installment of Paul W. S. Anderson’s much maligned Resident Evil series managed to get there first. As galling as I’d imagine it is to be scooped by the guy who made Pompeii, for once I’d initially have to give the series some credit – I mean, not only did the film recruit the services of Highlander director himself Russell Mulcahy, but it finally had the balls to go full Mad Max and give us a dusty dystopia that still has the cheek to include the name “resident” in it’s title despite not feeling particularly residential at all.
So with events moving far away from Racoon City and the film getting a whole new vibe from it’s new, gritty location, was Extinction going to mean a new lease of life for the notoriously hyperactive video fame franchise?
After a From Russia With Love-esque pre-credits sequence that sees a clone of Milla Jovovich’s Alice killed in typical RE style fake out, a rather rushed voice over clues us in to the fact that the T-Virus has now turned the very atmosphere into a sandy wasteland with cities like Las Vegas almost being entirely swallowed up by the deserts. Into this sandy shithole we find Alice – subject of many experiments by the dastardly Umbrella Corporation who caused this mess in the first place – alone and travelling on a fruitless quest for answers to the questions I’d honestly lost track of. After a run in with a family of psycho rednecks, Alice finds that her T-Virus rejigged DNA has given her new abilities, such as an utterly random dose of telekinesis that she struggles to control, but elsewhere, a small caravan of survivors led by Claire Redfield and RE: Apocalypse veteran Carlos Oliveira are struggling to persevere as their resources start to steadily dwindle.
Meanwhile, in one of Umbrella’s countless bunkers, head scientist Dr. Issacs strives to find a counter virus that could hopefully domesticate the legions of zombies that are currently gobbling down any scrap of human flesh they can get their rotting mitts on, but after butting heads with indoor shades wearing CEO Albert Wesker, the scheming smart-arse is ordered to get back to work on the Alice clone project.
Alice and the survivors eventually meet during a vicious attack of infected crows (think The Crows Have Eyes aka. The Crowening from Schitt’s Creek but with a bigger budget) where out heroine gives her burgeoning powers a fiery test run and after bonding with whomever hasn’t been pecked to death, joins them in order to help mark their passage to a safer Alaska. However, Umbrella and Dr. Isaacs simply won’t be denied and after the not-so-good doctor decides to diddle with his own DNA after an accident, Alice is set for another showdown where the current plans of the corrupt corporation will be laid bare – before being utterly ret-conned in a future movie…
I admittedly give the Resident Evil movies a ton of crap whenever I can thanks to their bland characters, nonsensical plots and lazy twists, but every now and then an installment will take those negatives and make them surprisingly bearable. The previous movie – the horror-themed, sugar-rush that was subtitled Apocalypse – was one such example that somehow buffed up the turd it was into a stupid, noisy romp that was the cinematic equivalent of watching an older kid complete a video game in an arcade with a deafening soundsystem (y’know, back in the days when people actually left their house to play video games). Extinction manages to pull off a similar trick; enlisting an established director like Mulcahy to helm this third installment means the action actually manages to carry some weight and thankfully cuts back a bit on the overbearing edit-fu fight scenes that gives past films the appearance of having a panic attack. Plus the complete overhaul of the visual pallett from flashy labs and disheveled, blue-tinged metropolis’ to the dry oranges and yellows of a world that badly needs some moisturizer make the story feel far more orginal than it seems – which is impressive because technically it’s the same old shit.
Milla Jovovich can still pull a cool pose, look stern and handle a fight scene (although I’m not sure how slashing the throat of a zombie would manage to kill them) but she’s still an athletic enigma who’s character demonstrates all the depth of the first game’s graphics on the PS1. The supporting cast, that includes Ali Later as the sister of the game’s Chris Redfield, a returning Oded Fehr, Spencer Locke and singer Ashanti, who literally seems to have signed up only to get torn apart by killer birds, all bear the brunt of Paul W. E. Anderson’s hackneyed scripting and the combined plot points of Alice’s superpowers, Umbrella’s frenzied cloning and a Day Of The Dead style plan to tame the zombie threat feel like he simply couldn’t decide on a single story and just chucked them all in together. The fact that none of the three actually have a satisfying payoff probably means that Anderson was far more interested in finding more scenarios to make his partner look cool than for the film to have anything close to a intelligent conclusion, although Iain Glenn turns his smugly sinister levels up to a comfortably entertaining 9 and a half as Dr. Isaacs.
Still, at least the movie continues to slip in other memorable creatures from the game apart from zombies and the requisite skinned dog attacks and trip to the laser corridor, which includes that literal murder of mutant crows and the overdue screen debut of a Tyrant which dominated the final levels of many of the earlier games who maybe missing that noticable giant eyeball growing out his shoulder, but still stands as a decent, arbit rubbery, crack at a classic RE foe.
Crappy, but not disastrously so, Resident Evil: Extinction potters along competently, filling it’s mercifully brief ninety minute runtime with enough splattery headshots and unnecessary flippy kicks to keep you vaguely entertained but never engaged with it’s story of the crusty undead and it’s heroine, who’s greatest superpower is not telekinesis or her impossibly limber kicks, but is instead the ability to remain absurdly fashionable when the entire world has gone to apocalyptic pot.