Reviewed by John Hussey
From failing to capture the suspenseful horror of the original Resident Evil, to putting together an enjoyable adaption of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil: Nemesis, the Resident Evil film series is certainly a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. Unfortunately the track doesn’t soften up for its third instalment, Resident Evil: Extinction.
My major problem with Extinction is the fact that it throws away any regard for the Resident Evil franchise by going off the rails and doing its own thing. Normally this is what Hollywood does anyway (mostly making an arse of themselves in the process) but at least the filmmakers usually stick somewhat to the plot of the source material. Here the film becomes a generic zombie movie. It’s almost as if Paul W. S. Anderson got bored with the direction of the games and went, “Fuck it! Let’s make our own series!”
I’m afraid if you want to create your own ideas then you have to make your own zombie franchise. You can’t take on the mantle of someone else’s property and then tamper with it just because you don’t like the way it was originally constructed. I mean it’s not like the Resident Evil franchise is short of good material to adapt. Resident Evil 4 is renowned throughout the fandom as being the best in the series, so why did Anderson feel the need to disregard the uniqueness of Resident Evil in a desperate attempt to try something clever.
Turning Extinction into a traditional zombie movie pretty much killed this film series dead, making it completely redundant to have “Resident Evil” in the title (even more so than the first film). Upon first impressions the film leaves me completely confused as I don’t recall the Raccoon City incident leading into a worldwide outbreak. This kind of storytelling is the kind of stunt you’d expect from any other zombie movie out there, not one that has “Resident Evil” in the title.
This direction (for me personally) is just plain stupid. Resident Evil: Apocalypse demonstrated that this series had potential in being both its own thing as well as a decent adaption of the original games. But here it just shows that the filmmakers decided to return to the style of Resident Evil and simply being satisfied with having little nods here and there rather than actually concentrate on the actual source material, veering off in a completely different direction.
Extinction has the return of Carlos Olivera and L.J. Wade from the previous film but doesn’t see the return of Jill Valentine. Her character has literally vanished from the face of the earth without explanation of what happened to her, without even a passing piece of dialogue. This begins another of the series problems: being unable to keep its characters in-check. Often than not they will appear and then disappear at the click of a finger without any real explanation as to why and how.
Another returning character is villainous Dr. Sam Isaacs, played again by Iain Glen. His obsession with Alice has reached new heights, especially now that she is crucial to his research. This entails him attempting to rebuild the world through domesticating the zombies. Again, this is something that has been done before and pushes Resident Evil more and more into the generic zombie category rather than being its own unique thing. Plus Isaacs character becomes less intriguing and more generic mad scientist. But I have to give Glen his due credit for always giving a great performance.
I can’t really tell whether I like or dislike the look of this film. Director Russell Mulcahy certainly has a keen eye and an understanding of what he wants out of his films but the desert look can be considered rather bland. It’s one of those given rules within the games community that desert levels tend to be less popular because of their design. Here’s no different. Yes it looks interesting and certainly creates an isolated feel of a dead planet but at the same time it’s not impressive to look at and takes away the unique atmosphere that Resident Evil should be delivering.
There are some moments throughout the film that add a nice flare, and suspenseful atmosphere. In fact, they really do feel like Resident Evil scenarios as the character in question wonder around dark empty spaces awaiting for something to leap out at them as the said character closely holds their weapon up front. One of the best scenes resides at the beginning when Alice comes across the pyscho redneck family. Though at the time this may have seemed alien for Resident Evil but after RESIDENT EVII: Biohazard this fits safely at home and adds to the dark world of crazed humans.
I guess I’m mostly on the fence with whether I enjoy the style of this particular sequel because part of me likes it and part of me doesn’t. There are certain elements within this film, particularly the development of the characters within the Umbrella Corporation, and the growing friendship between the main characters. But I really don’t like the fact that the majority of this film is flipping the bird at us Resident Evil fans by being everything but Resident Evil. I suppose if I’m to look at this as a Resident Evil movie I’m going to hate it, but if I look at it as a generic zombie movie then it earns some good remarks.
Another thing that this film endangers itself with is Alice. Luckily her character continues to grow but I don’t understand her abilities, and I certainly don’t like how important she becomes to the world-building of this universe. She literally becomes the most important person because of her bonding with the T-Virus. This makes me all the more mad that they had to create a brand-new character that becomes a massive Mary-Sue because of her divine importance rather than bring on the characters from the actual games that hard-core fans want to see more.
The addition of telekinesis really places this film in a completely different ball-game, making me question where the filmmakers were even going with this. It just becomes really obscure and only serves to add something of spectacle, or to make Alice look more cool when what she really needs is a proper character. Honestly, I actually wonder if Umbrella didn’t experiment on Alice and make her this ultra-impressive goddess would she be interesting? I mean she was hardly a candidate for best protagonist in Resident Evil and I feel her character hasn’t really grown that much over the series, but rather her powers and conflict with Umbrella. These are the elements that draw us to her and not her actual character.
Extinction decided it needed some more nods to the video games and so brought in some more characters to make the film series feel acceptable. Claire Redfield joins the gang, thought it isn’t really explained why she’s included beyond Anderson and his crew believing “it’s what the fans want”. I think the fans would probably prefer a more straight-up adaption of the games but each to their own. I will admit Claire is a good character within the film through her independence and selfless nature, often becoming conflicted over her responsibilities as leader as she tries desperately to keep everyone safe.
The other addition to this film is Albert Wesker. Wesker happens to be one of my favourite villains and so to see him added into the film series actually made me excited. Though to be fair I didn’t actually realise he was in it upon first viewing despite his name clearly being mentioned multiple times throughout the film. I guess it’s because he doesn’t feel like Wesker and rather a fierce looking suit running the corporation from behind-the-scenes. Jason O’Mara does the best he can with the material given to him but it’s very clear that the filmmakers didn’t know what they were doing with Wesker at the time, which ultimately lead to his revamp within the next film to accommodate their mistakes.
I think Extinction certainly has some of the best horror moments within the series at that point, but it’s such a shame that the overall film doesn’t feel right. Like I said above, it’s all about perspective and how I look at this film, which ultimately alters my views and opinions. But at the end of the day I am meant to be reviewing a Resident Evil film (it’s in the title) so I feel I must treat it as such and not sway my view by turning a blind eye and pretending it’s something that it’s not. For the record it is enjoyable, and I do enjoy it more than the first film, but it definitely makes more mistakes regarding the adaption of its source material.
And the film builds-up to its climax and it does have an okay one at that. It is tragic to see Isaacs cause the destruction of most of Claire’s convoy after releasing a horde of super-zombies in an attempt to capture Alice. In the process Isaacs is bitten by one of his creations and tries to cure himself with repeated exposure to the Anti-Virus, resulting in a mutation.
Wade ends up becoming a zombie after deliberately not telling anyone that he was bitten near the beginning of the film. And Olivera tragically gets bitten by Wade (before he puts him down) and sacrifices himself to lead a path to Umbrella’s helicopter, granting Claire and the remaining survivors a chance to escape (though I really don’t know how they all fit in that tiny helicopter).
Alice once again attempts to confront Umbrella by going deep underground in a base similar to the Hive. She discovers that Isaacs has been cloning Alice in an attempt to replicate her blood for his research. Along with that the insane scientist has been placing her clones into a twisted experimental re-enactment of the original film, accompanied with Alice awaking naked in the shower (I’m beginning to think there’s a pattern here). I will admit that along with Alice’s increased abilities the clone aspect is another puzzling point that places this series into obscurity, completely placing it outside the perimeters of Resident Evil.
Alice is then updated on the situation by the White Queen, the sister software of the Red Queen, to which Isaacs has gone completely insane after his transformation into a tyrant and its up to Alice to save the day. She’s also told that she is the cure to everything and the facility will grant her the means to destroy the T-Virus (though we later discover she doesn’t take any notice and instead tries to take down Wesker). Alice then comes into contact with one of her clones, who is naked in a weird water ball thing (which by now I’m convinced it’s within Milla Jovovich‘s contract that she has to get more naked as each film goes on).
This meeting is interrupted by tyrant Isaacs and the two super-humans go toe-to0-toe in a rather anti-climatic battle, but it’s still semi-entertaining at least. I suppose it doesn’t help that Isaacs is now a less impressive version of Nemesis, along with being bulky, slow, and looks god-awful due to his mutation. And of course he’s up against Alice who can do anything. The odds are surely against him. Like a piece of bad nostalgia, the battle ends where it all began and the best scene from the first film ends up being Isaacs downfall (until he miraculously returns for later sequels, but by that point where supposed to stop asking questions and just turn our brains off).
Extinction is definitely a mixed bag because it’s both good and shit at the same time, but it’s all down to that annoying thing called perspective. At least it was entertaining but it’s certainly not a film I would highly recommend, nor re-watch on a casual basis. One of the things it does have going for it is setting up yet another great concept for a future instalment, i.e. Alice attacking Wesker with an army of clones. Does Anderson follow this through? More or less within his mediocre standards.