Saturday, August 2, 2008


I've made no secret of my overwhelming contempt for the RESIDENT EVIL films. Glossy, soulless eye candy, they are, and I utterly despise them. So news of a third installment didn't quite send me dancing with joy in the street, but I was at least heartened to learn that Russell Mulcahy would be directing EXTINCTION. (Never mind that I really haven't enjoyed much of his work since his debut RAZORBACK--and RICOCHET, of course, if only for the novelty of a John Lithgow/Jesse Ventura grudge match--but hell, Todd Sheets could've replaced uber-hack Paul W.S. Anderson and I would've been happy.) But when you're following the celluloid exploits of a video game franchise the prospect of good filmmaking is a fool's pursuit indeed.

EX-STINK-TION stays true to the series by prioritizing video-game aesthetics over good, or basic, storytelling. It picks up after the events of APOCALYPSE, wherein the T-virus has killed most of the world's population (you know a virus is badass when it can not only scrub mankind from the face of the planet, but turn the earth into a desert wasteland as well), and buys into the notion that any post-apocalyptic setting must be inhabited by MAD MAX-inspired misfits. Milla Jovovich returns in full "pleasing to the eye, grating to the brain" mode, hooking up with a few of the previous film's survivors in a cross-country convoy (led by Ali Larter, who doesn't exactly make for a convincing leader of such a rough-and-tumble team, though I doubt the intended fan base won't mind) while also trying to defeat the Umbrella Corp.

If you've ever played any of the RESIDENT EVIL games or seen a zombie movie, a more detailed description would simply be redundant. EXTINCTION is just as plodding as its predecessors, spending way too much time in shadowy boardrooms with evil corporate types who're trying to domesticize the zombies (they even have their own Bub surrogate), but Mulcahy tries to keep the story moving as best he can. His action scenes are frenetic but shallow, stimulating only as a flashing succession of images than engaging set-pieces. The much-discussed zombie-crow sequence might've worked better if it was more than a blur of poor CGI, though the living dead themselves often look impressive (even if they're given little to do).

With storytelling so simplistic it could work just as well as a silent film it's no wonder that the next sequel--the aptly-titled DEGENERATION--will be completely animated. A few striking visuals aside, there's nothing here that wouldn't be out of place in those straight-to-disc stinkbombs Lionsgate likes to pick up--and that includes the lame, digitally-enhanced finale that wouldn't impress a sugar-addled twelve-year-old.

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