Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

*. In my notes on Resident Evil: Apocalypse I remarked on its strange ’80s vibe. With Resident Evil: Extinction we finally enter the twenty-first century with a much slicker production, one that eschews the cheap video-game levels of the dark and claustrophobic earlier films for the sun-drenched great outdoors and a post-apocalyptic spaghetti Western with slightly better CGI. At least I thought they were doing fine with the CGI until the tentacles of the “Tyrant” monster came into play.
*. According to producer-writer Paul W. S. Anderson the zombie genre had become so overrun since the first film that setting the action primarily in the desert was just a way to try and make it new. And I guess it does that. I can’t remember too many other desert zombie movies, aside from the Eurotrash Oasis of the Zombies. Oded Fehr might have felt some déjà vu though after being in those Mummy movies.
*. I liked the look of the film, but I felt it only played like an episode, and not a very inspired episode, of The Walking Dead. Apparently five years have passed, the zombies have taken over, and now we’re just wandering the waste lands, mixing up scenes involving a bit of talk and plot exposition with the usual splatter orgies (there was a conscious decision to make this the bloodiest Resident Evil movie).
*. And when I say “a bit of talk and plot exposition” I mean a very little bit. About half way through Extinction I was wondering when I’d last seen a movie with so little actual story. The intro gets us up to speed as to what’s happening with the Alice Project and then . . . nothing much happens. Sure there are action sequences. A lot of them. Firefights. Zombie violence. An attack by a murder of zombie crows (the one signature scene in the film). But for all this nothing much seems to be at stake. We realize by now that this is just another episode in the Alice saga and that there isn’t going to be any resolution but just another step up to fight more powerful bad guys.
*. Meanwhile, Alice’s powers are growing but she isn’t growing as a character. I like Milla Jovovich in this series but by this point it was clear she was just another superhero, and as uninteresting as that sounds.

*. Other movies continue to be drawn on. There’s a lot of The Road Warrior here, especially with the caravan. There’s The Matrix. We are also reminded at times of Day of the Dead, The Birds, The Andromeda Strain, and The Omega Man. More than most other franchises the Resident Evil movies go in for pastiche. They’re really not interested in doing anything new.
*. How is it possible no one understands LJ has been infected? Isn’t it kind of obvious? And didn’t they explain in the previous movie that Alice can sense infection automatically?
*. Three movies in and I still don’t understand what the Umbrella Corporation is up to. This does make it hard to care, since the nature of the conflict is murky. We can see Alice progressing through different stages and taking out level bad guys to finish each instalment, but any larger explanation of what’s going on keeps getting pushed back.
*. The point is to just let yourself be carried along, knowing that each movie is only going to provide more of the same. You enjoy the sight of Vegas reclaimed by the desert, and wonder at how only the hottest girls survived the zombie apocalypse and still manage to maintain their looks so well under such harsh conditions.
*. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this series though, and what stops it from growing on me or ever being particularly memorable, is the total absence of wit. You’d think the fact that Alice is wearing garters would at least be worth a mention at some point, but these movies are totally humourless and the scripts only functional. Dialogue serves simply to give the requisite amount of information we need to keep things moving along. Because moving along is all we’re doing here.

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