September 19, 2012

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (Movie Review)

REVIEW

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Director: Russell Mulcahy
Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

RATING:
3 / 5 zedheads

 

So far, my look into the Resident Evil movie franchise has taken me on some twists and turns. To my surprise, I found Resident Evil a much more enjoyable film than I remember seeing when it was originally released. Then, turning to the sequel,  Resident Evil: Apocalypse took all my new-found goodwill and dropped a huge bag of shit all over it. Predictably, I went into the third film - Resident Evil: Extinction - with reservations and uncertainty.

I've been through the desert on a bike with no name
Thanks in part to fantastic makeup effects and a fresh setting straight out of the Mad Max films, Resident Evil: Extinction turns out to be a solid return to form for the franchise, even if that form is characterized by plot holes and logical inconsistencies. Although Resident Evil: Extinction is by no stretch a perfect movie, it's a satisfying sci-fi / adventure / horror road trip that improves on the strengths of the franchise while jettisoning the bloated elements of its predecessor by keeping the film tightly focused on a clear, distinct conflict between Alice and her puppet masters at the Umbrella Corporation, even if it is formulaic

She fell in to a burning ring of fire

 Despite the nuclear blast that took out Raccoon City in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Extinction begins on the premise that the T-virus outbreak was not contained. In five years, it has spread across the globe, turning much of the world into a desert wasteland populated by zombies and other T-virus monstrosities. How a virus can create global desertification to the point where Las Vegas finds itself engulfed in sand after only five years? I don't know.  Don't look to the Resident Evil franchise to learn anything realistic about biochemistry or earth sciences. What I do know is that Alice (Milla Jovovich) our zombie-killing superhero, has struck out on her own because she fears that her mutant powers and connection to Umbrella are too great a risk to her friends and fellow Raccoon City survivors: Carlos (Oded Fehr) and Lloyd "L.J." Jefferson Wade (Mike Epps). To survive, Carlos and L.J have joined a convoy of new survivors under the command of Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) who truck across the wastelands in search of supplies and shelter. The lovely Jill Valentine is inexplicably absent.

Yeah, we got a great big convoy
Meanwhile, the Umbrella corporation, headed by new chairman and Matrix-wannabe Albert Wesker (Jason O'Mara), is utilizing Alice's mutated blood to create a cure for the T-virus through the production of thousands of Alice clones. Instead of using them to manufacture a cure, Dr. Sam Isaacs (Iain Glen) seems more interested in running the clones through a deadly maze that replicate the traps encountered in the mansion and Hive from the first film. These tests demonstrate that Alice's blood has bonded with the T-virus and, apparently, can retain its own memory. Each clone appears to inherit the memories of the previous version. Regardless, this deadly rat's maze is really only a side project for Isaacs. Against orders, his primary goal is to re-capture the original Alice by attacking her with a new breed of zombie that is smarter, faster, more aggressive, and dressed entirely in matching overalls. Never underestimate the role of fashion coordination in your corporate plans for world domination.

Anytime you feel alone, put on your headphones
Resident Evil: Extinction excels on two points. First, the zombie makeup is fantastic. Unlike the previous two Resident Evil films in which the zombies looked mostly like dirty-faced humans, the undead in Extinction look clearly desiccated and dried out by the harsh, desert landscape of this post-outbreak world. Until the climax of the film, zombies remain the central threat. We get the standard zombie walkers, zombie ravens, the prerequisite zombie dobermans, and then a new breed of running zombie as fodder for several mindlessly fun action sequences. It's not until the end of the film that we encounter Resident Evil's standard mutant boss character, but since he's on screen for so little, I'd say that Extinction is the most zombie-centric movie in the original Resident Evil trilogy. In Second, Extinction succeeds based on its desert landscape, post-apocalyptic costuming, and general Mad Max atmosphere. Taking the action to the desert injects Extinction with rush of vitality that was in danger of being lost by the previous film's obsession with slick, polished techno-sets and dark, gritty, urban decay backdrops. Extinction takes on a completely new style that may not be original but sure goes a long way to extend the franchise's shelf life.

It's like Deja Vu all over again
On the flip side, Resident Evil: Extinction is a terribly unoriginal movie. When its not cribbing from Mad Max, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, George A. Romero's Day of the Dead, or even the original Resident Evil films in a series of call-back moments, you can easily predict what's going to happen almost beat for beat. Extinction holds few surprises for the audience, but unlike Apocalypse, the story's not obnoxiously overburdened by logic-defying action set pieces, so even if it's not original it's at least enjoyable, like slipping into an old pair of slippers. Aside from its unoriginality, Alice's lack of personality is becoming increasingly more apparent in each installment. Alice is a plot device disguised as a character who can do basically whatever the filmmakers want. She kills zombies, kicks ass, saves lives, and wants to bring down Umbrella, but her motivations are thin constructions of happenstance. She's got two hands for carrying guns or knives, and she has a whack of undefined super powers, but who is she as a person? There are hints of some attraction between her and Carlos, but nothing is ever developed as there's no time in a Resident Evil movie for romance when there could be zombies on the screen. Plus, how can you develop a romance with a character who's about as shallow in personality as her own clones?

Smile though your heart is aching
For the purpose of simple, escapist fun, all the elements in Resident Evil: Extinction align to produce an enjoyable and inoffensive action movie with better-than-average makeup effects although it certainly breaks no molds as far as story or characters go. Plot holes continue to plague this film series while story momentum and logic find themselves taking a back seat to visual effects. Then again, zombie fans get more than their fare share of the undead, and you don't have to lose too many brain cells in the process to enjoy it.

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