dir: Russell Mulcahy
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The first flick in this franchise, based on the popular survival horror game, achieved the remarkable by not being an absolute piece of shit. The basic premise involved a poster child for genetic engineering, Alice (Milla Jovovich), squaring off against legions of zombies and the machinations of the evil Umbrella Corporation that created her.
Had a few stunts, few gory parts, the requisite rip-offs from better flicks like Aliens, plenty of references and in-jokes for the alleged gamer fans, and all in all didn’t represent a completely excruciating experience, despite being directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.
The second flick, RE: Apocalypse, achieved the unremarkable by being a complete piece of shit that made no fucking sense and defied all laws of knowledge, gravity and common decency by being an aggressively, relentlessly stupid experience for all concerned. I’m sure it made audiences dumber just with partial viewings.
This third one, Extinction, is directed by Australia’s own Russell Mulcahy. Russell Mulcahy is a hack of the first order and top rank, so imagine my non-existent surprise when this managed to find an happy medium between the mediocrity of the first film and the utter shiteness of the second.
After all, never forget, Mulcahy made one of the worst films I’ve ever seen and probably ever made, being Highlander II: The Quickening. Russell, there’s only so much you can blame on other people. Step up and take responsibility for the worst film made until Battlefield: Earth came along.
Now, this isn’t the place to rip shreds off Mulcahy for his earlier work. It’s the place to tear shreds off Mulcahy for his present work.
As Extinction opens, the world itself has become a desert (presumably excluding the oceanic bits), with most of the life thereon having died off. The effects of the T virus, created by the Umbrella Corporation, have reached their most profitable by killing off all the plants and animals, and turning many of the remaining humans into hungry zombies. Some remaining animals, too, hunger for human flesh.
The human race seems to be heading for extinction too, and it’s about time, as far as I’m concerned. As post-apocalyptic scenarios go, it’s very familiar and not depressing in the slightest. The only difference here is that the Umbrella Corporation seems to be chugging along fine with its various underground facilities scattered around the globe, working as they are to find a way to profit from the planet’s death throes.
There are a few unsullied humans left, travelling in Mad Max-style convoys eking out an existence by scavenging supplies.
And then there’s Alice, wandering the desert wastes clad in sexy stocking and short shorts combos, shedding a tear at humanity’s passing and her own isolation.
The start of the flick is interesting, in that we see a reprisal of the imagery from the first flick, as a confused Alice wakes up after looking like she’s had a fall in the shower. She dons the trademark red dress and boots, and cautiously plods her way through a familiar-looking mansion, confronting obstacles also reminiscent. After a while, what shock and horror! She is killed! Scientist goons stride manfully in, manhandle the corpse, and dump Alice’s body in a pit chock full of Alice bodies.
The ‘real’ Alice is out there, evading the Umbrella satellites and zombies, and even more nasty humans playing on the compassion of good Samaritans. She finds, by chance, a diary detailing the unspoiled haven that Alaska must be, and she wonders if it’s worthwhile trying to leave the sandy wastes behind in order to travel to icy wastes instead.
The makers of the flick forget to include much of a plot, so they randomly decide that Alice also should be able to use some kind of magic on top of the fact that she’s superhuman and can fight like a whirling dervish despite weighing about 80 pounds. They also spend a lot of time and money doing CGI on her face which makes her look very odd indeed. In many a scene it has that soft focus, glowing putty look which can be explained in different ways, but probably comes down to vanity.
Alice eventually hooks up with the convoy of humans, and saves them from a murderous flock of Hitchcock references using her magic powers. They decide to travel to Las Vegas in order to get supplies, but the evil Umbrella people have somehow predicted their intentions, and plonk down a whole mess of zombies in their path.
Look, even though I didn’t hate it whilst watching it, I have to admit that it’s a pretty stupid movie. It’s easy to blame its game origins, but the fact is, people who make that kind of claim haven’t played any of these games. Their plots, by comparison are fucking George Orwell, Shakespeare and Penthouse Forum all rolled into one.
The games take the time to develop their characters and their clichés, and manage to build tension and interest, and come up with devastating set pieces which leave the player exhausted and a little bit afraid. It’s one of the few times I can remember where the threat of the extinction of our species hasn’t really struck me, based on the story, to be that bad an outcome. I figured that if pointless characters like a girl calling herself K Mart, and a sass-talking former pimp were to be amongst the last to die, it really wouldn’t be that sad an occasion for humanity to take its final bow and exit stage left based on the strength of this flick.
At least we know that genetically perfect Alices will be around to pick up the slack. Mmm, think about it: Alices alternating between killing zombies, Umbrella execs and lezzing out with other Alices. Now THAT will pack the multiplexes.
Mulcahy does as mediocre a job here as he’s done in most of the flicks he’s ever done, and clearly made this only because someone in Hollywood finally decided to lift the ban on him after his diabolical work in the 1990s. Plenty of the scenes on offer are badly thought out, poorly edited and senseless. The whole Vegas extravaganza doesn’t make a lick of sense on any level, and could only have gone ahead in its present form if the people involved flat out just did not care.
Acting is a secondary concern, if not tertiary, so when you get sub-standard work from people like Oded Fehr (great as Farik in the Sleeper Cell series) and Ali Larter, who can definitely act, you blame the hack behind the camera. That would be you, Russell, you goddamn hack.
As a franchise it is shooting blanks right about now, but then it has been since the end of the first film. The appeal of watching Jovovich killing stationary zombies using kukri knives, guns or high kicks really is starting to wear a bit thin, and it doesn’t have much else going for it. The undead aren’t much of a threat, and Jovovich can’t really convincingly act any emotions apart from being ever so weepy. They’ve also turned her into a super magical being who can do whatever in order to get her out of a situation the screenwriters can’t think of an intelligent solution to.
With no-one having anything interesting to do or say, it’s debatable on any level apart from the financial, why further forays into this universe need to be made. Even on the financial level, surely there’re snake oil, emu farms and timeshare investments that would prove more profitable. There surely can’t be enough Japanese fans to justify the expense.
Just give it a rest, all right?
5 reasons why a world populated entirely by Milla Jovovichs would be an IQ-free but very sexy heaven on earth out of 10
“It really is the end of the world.” – if only, Resident Evil: Extinction.