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Resident Evil: Exinction (2007)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (2007)

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Oded Fehr, Iain Glen, Spencer Locke, Christopher Egan

Written By: Paul W.S. Anderson Directed By: Russell Mulcahy

The Short Version

Let’s try the zombie apocalypse for real this time, shall we?

Mad Max, Mad Alice; whatever works.

Same script; different time of day.

Milla Jovovich has some awesome knives here.

It isn’t great, but franchise fans can have fun with Resident Evil: Extinction, and hey!  Milla!


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

MOVIE THEATRE NACHOS.

Kind of a mess, not the best stuff out there, but a reliable and tasty snack none the less.


Pairs Well With...

JIM BEAM.

There’s just something about bourbon and a zombie apocalypse set in the desert that fits.

“I knew your sister.  She was a homicidal bitch.”


On the one hand, Resident Evil: Apocalypse made scads of money at the box office (and continues to do so on home video, of course).  On the other hand, even people who liked that movie – or at least what they could remember of it – complained about its overall lack of satisfying zombies and, despite its title, its less-than-convincing apocalypse.

The message was clear enough: people would pay to see another one, but they really wanted an actual zombie apocalypse to show up the next time around.  And a real director, come to think of it.  And, of course, more ass kicking Milla Jovovich awesomeness.

Message received, declared the powers that be, and so they delivered Resident Evil: Extinction.  As for how well they did…

Our story begins with a voiceover narration from our heroine, Alice (Milla Jovovich, The Three Musketeers):

“The Umbrella Corporation thought they'd contained the infection.  Well, they were wrong.  Raccoon City was just the beginning.  Within weeks, the T-virus had consumed the United States.  Within months, the world.  The virus didn't just wipe out human life.  Lakes and rivers dried up, forests became deserts, and whole continents were reduced to nothing more than barren wastelands.  Slowly but surely, the Earth began to wither and die.  What few survivors there were learned to keep on the move.  We avoided major cities.  If we stopped anyplace too long, they would be drawn to us.  Only a few at first, but then more and more.  A neverending army of undead.  For those of us left, staying on the road seemed the only way to stay alive.”

And so, five or so years after the events of the previous film, we now find ourselves following three points of interest.  Alice is cruising the desolate highways of America on the back of a motorcycle, dodging zombies and satellite flyovers, lone wolf style.  Meanwhile, not too far from where we find Alice, Claire Redfield (Ali Larter, Final Destination) leads a ragtag convoy of people who think the best odds of survival lay with sticking together.  And out in the Nevada desert (though of course not anywhere near Area 51 cough), Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and his Umbrella cronies continue to do experiments with the T-virus… and attempt to create a viable clone of Alice.

Surely, at some point, these three will converge, and who knows?  They might even have some zombies along this time…

Yeah.  About that.

On the one hand, the powers that be definitely got some kind of message, and made a movie that is cosmetically different from Resident Evil: Apocalypse.  On the other hand, as Mr. Berra once said, it’s déjà vu all over again.

As is and was the case with Resident Evil: Apocalypse, I like Resident Evil: Extinction.  I enjoyed it the first time that I saw it in the theatre, despite its flaws.  As had happened with the previous film, after a while, I forgot about those flaws, selectively remembering only the parts where Milla Jovovich was present, and so my opinion of the movie went up over time without real cause.  I bought the movie when it came out on video, re-discovered the flaws, liked it enough to have fun anyway, lather, rinse, repeat for future viewings.  Whatever cosmetic changes this film may have made, the end results are the same as they were with its predecessor.

It boils down to two questions:

1) Do you enjoy watching Milla Jovovich kick ass?

2) Do you like Paul W.S. Anderson’s take on the “Resident Evil” story?

Answer “yes” to both, and anything else is pretty much immaterial.  You’re going to watch this and any other Resident Evil flick that Anderson writes just to keep up with the story, and you’re going to have a bloody good time doing it because Milla Jovovich rocks like a hurricane.

Answer “yes” to just the first question, and you’ll still put up with anything Anderson writes because Milla Jovovich rocks like a hurricane.

Answer “no” to the first question, and you probably shouldn’t bother with this or any other Resident Evil sequels.  (I am, by the way, convinced that if you answer “no” to the first question and “yes” to the second, you simply don’t exist.)

Beyond that…

On the plus side, Resident Evil: Extinction is an incremental upgrade from Resident Evil: Apocalypse.  This is primarily due to the fact that there’s a real director in the big chair instead of a second unit guy.  Though his work here is nowhere near the greatness that was Highlander or the artistic fun that was The Shadow, it’s competent, which automatically qualifies as an improvement over the directorial yawnage that was the previous film.  Say what you will about Mulcahy being a one-hit wonder who’s made a career out of that single success (Highlander), but the fact is that he knows how to make an action sequence look good and how to bring gravity to dramatic moments.  There’s not much in the way of innovation here (unless you call the blazing daylight that Mulcahy insisted upon ‘innovation’), but at least it’s never boring.

This is a good thing, because the script rarely does him any favors, and frankly sets a few traps that he can’t help but fall into.

From the “big picture” perspective of “how this fits into the arc created by the first two films,” the story here is solid enough.  It flows logically from what came before, thickens the Umbrella plot, does some interesting things with Alice, and gives the zombie fans in the audience the world-thrashing zombie apocalypse they’ve always wanted.  Zoom in, and things get to be more problematic.

For one thing, instead of the incredibly tight, pace-pounding, single character focus of the first film, Paul W.S. Anderson instead goes for the closest thing to a carbon copy of the loose, meandering screenplay of the second film that the change of lighting and scenery can stand.  (If you watch Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction within two weeks of each other – before the Anything But Milla Amnesia sets in – the copycat framework is just impossible to miss.)  Once again, the audience is stuck following parallel storylines, and once again, character development is something that happens to other movies.  Without the breakneck pacing and tight focus that the first film had, the overall lack of character development makes any scene that doesn’t center on Alice or Dr. Isaacs feel like nothing more than hollow filler, and even the addition of two familiar faces – Carlos (Oded Fehr, The Mummy) and L.J. (Mike Epps, The Hangover) – doesn’t help in this regard.  (Frankly, Epps makes it worse, especially since his character has gone from being an out-of-place stereotype to being an excuse to stunt cast Ashanti in an even more throwaway role.)

Along with copying the framework of the previous film, Anderson lifts a few elements from both preceding chapters wholesale.  This is perfectly fine; indeed, the callbacks end up being some of the best scenes in the movie.  Unfortunately, he can’t resist the opportunity to lift from other stuff while he’s at it, and Russell Mulcahy, in turn, can’t resist filming these moments in what some will call “homage” and some will call “rip off” fashion.  (I’ll go with mostly “homage,” but crossing the Hitchcock line – badly – was a bit much.)  I don’t think any desert apocalypse movie can get past a Mad Max reference or three, and any zombie movie that even tries to be a zombie movie will end up having a scene that looks like something out of a Romero flick whether it’s intentional or not.  But the lift from Hitchcock’s The Birds is pretty blatant and plays out very badly until the very last moment when Alice shows up (which I do have to admit makes for a cool entrance).  With that said, I think it’s more than past time to retire the “inbred cannibal hick family” thing, don’t you?  Again, we get a good action sequence out of it, but damn, that well has gone bone dry.

And speaking of stuff that should be dead but keeps hanging around anyway…

The good news is that the zombies in Resident Evil: Extinction are a definite improvement over the shambling camera tricks and middle school makeup jobs of the previous film.  Even in bright sunlight, they look good, and the movie makes sure to point out that they exist as often as possible.  However, if you’re expecting an apocalypse made up of “all zombies, all the time,” that’s just not happening.  And really, I’m good with that.  If I wanted “all zombies, all the time,” I’d watch a Romero flick.  If your mileage varies, then you probably need to come to a certain realization about the Resident Evil movies: though they exist in a world that has unleashed the hungry undead, they’re not really about zombies.

They do, however, like to make a go at showing off a boss monster each go-round, and this time, it’s the one called the Tyrant.  Unfortunately, this one’s got some heavier CGI involved, mainly in the form of tentacles.  I don’t know a single movie fan (hentai fetishists excluded) who likes CGI tentacles; indeed, most consider them an abomination.  Effects departments, however, seem enamored of them, and so – oh, yay – we get tentacles.  Color me unimpressed.  I liked the rubber suit from the last movie better, thanks… though at least this guy gets a much more awesome death.

And that, I think, is one of the two things that saves Resident Evil: Extinction from dreadful lower mediocrity.  Time and again, a sequence will play off really badly, only to be saved in the final moment by something clever and/or satisfying.  So it goes with the birds, so it goes with the Tyrant, and so it goes several other times.

As for the second thing that saves Resident Evil: Extinction… oh, right!  Milla!

As suggested before, this film – and this franchise – lives or dies by the awesomeness of Milla Jovovich, and once again, she saves the day.  Whether she’s using psychic powers to fry a flock or two really wicked looking knives to lop off some zombie heads, Milla is at the top of her action game.  Her physical presence as an ass kicker simply cannot be questioned… nor can her charisma as an actress when there’s a break in the action and she has to hold the fort by playing the only character that script really bothers to develop to any significant degree.  Whenever Milla Jovovich is on the screen, she owns it.  It’s that simple.  And after a few days pass, her presence is so powerful that any part of the movie that doesn’t directly involve her starts to fade from memory.

So I ask again: Do you enjoy watching Milla Jovovich kick ass? 

Bottom line, your answer to that question is all that’s necessary to determine whether or not you’ll enjoy Resident Evil: Extinction.

Two quick notes before I go, though.  One, I’ve got to give a quick shout out for the music that kicks off the end credits: the cover of “White Rabbit” by Collide is easily my favorite version of that song; high energy and worth a listen.  Two, I think maybe the makeup department needed to lay off a bit while Alice was in the desert.  Five years in the harsh, apocalyptic wasteland, and yet her skin still glows. Really, folks; it stands out.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, August, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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