Resident Evil: Extinction

It begins right where the last one left off.  A naked woman in a running shower awakens in a crouched position to find she is all alone.  And naked.
 
That lovely, naked woman is Milla Jovovich, once again playing Alice, the Tomb Raider wannabe in Resident Evil: Extinction, the third, but sadly, not-quite-last installment in this increasingly needless franchise.  (A fourth one is in the works.)  In the original Resident Evil (based on the video game which has also spawned sequels), a nasty virus is accidentally released in a science lab.  Because this science lab is within the confines of a building owned by The Umbrella Corporation (get it?), the place is locked down and no one can escape.  (What brutes!)  Alice, along with some military types, are assigned the delightful task of finding possible survivors.  All they discover are zombies.
 
In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the threat spreads.  And now, we have Extinction which, you think, based on its title alone, would indicate the final chapter in this unoriginal, unscary saga.  The ending completely takes away your hope.
 
Through the always helpful narration provided by Alice, we learn that the world is now riddled with those pesky, ravenous undead despite the best efforts of The Umbrella Corporation in the second movie to contain them in Raccoon City, the site of the original infection.  There are very few healthy survivors left in the world, supplies are exceedingly limited and it’s only a matter of time before the entire human race is wiped out.  Zombies gotta eat, you know?
 
When we catch up with Alice, she’s in biker chick mode enlightening the audience on how a badass like her carefully navigates the dead zones of America.  When she hears a distress call from an abandoned radio station, however, she walks into a huge trap.  Thankfully, her captors/rapists are incredibly stupid.  Their ultimate plan to have their bloody, skinless dogs finish her off in a room below them while they watch in a large hole from above has failure written all over it.
 
Meanwhile, evil scientist Dr. Issacs (Iain Glen) is under strict orders by an Umbrella bigwig to drop everything in order to quickly find a cure for the virus responsible for all this worldwide carnage.  (A little late for that, isn’t it?)  The best he can do is attempt to "domesticate" a test subject, a zombie plucked from the multitudes pushing against a steel fence that surrounds a shack that has a secret elevator to the company’s underground facility below the desert wastelands of Nevada.  (And no, zombies can’t climb, for some reason.)  After demonstrating his versatility with a cell phone and a camera, the zombie goes apeshit over a children’s toy (don’t they always?) and Dr. Issacs is down a couple more scientists.  Thanks to the blood sample he acquired from the elusive Alice (who he’s desperately trying to relocate via satellite) in Apocalypse, he’s been cloning her sweet ass dozens of times but something always goes wrong.  Hard to top the original, eh?
 
Speaking of Alice, she isn’t the only survivor left in America.  Claire (Ali Larter) leads a group of adults and kids, some of them carryovers from the last movie, through the desert in a small parade of vehicles in search of fuel, food and permanent isolation, all elusive items.  They rest at a seemingly abandoned hotel where L.J. (Mike Epps) gets bitten by a hidden zombie he’s woefully unprepared to fight (he’s rescued by Carlos (Oded Fehr) almost in time) but he neglects to tell his friends, especially his unconvincing love interest, Betty (Ashanti).  Subsisting on canned goods, which they’re running low on, they set up a surveillance perimeter around the area to keep an eye out.  When hundreds of black crowes (no, not the band, unfortunately), infected by the dead zombies they’ve been munching on, swoop down on them one fateful afternoon, a nearby Alice, now reduced to travelling by foot (awfully ridiculous how her bike gets busted), channels her inner Drew Barrymore and restores a temporary peace.
 
In an earlier scene, she discovers a diary directly under a hanged, fly-covered corpse in another abandoned business.  (And you thought our economy was bad.)  It offers the faint hope of safety somewhere in Alaska.
 
Like the Underworld movies, the Resident Evil franchise has stretched a very thin premise (hot action babe and company fighting zombies) to the point of snapping.  Extinction never allows us to know anything interesting about the heroes nor does it welcome any emotional investment.  Late in the film, when one character decides to become a suicide bomber, there are plenty of teary eyeducts amongst the good guys.  I felt nothing.
 
Despite making the most of its beautifully barren locations, the plot is more boring than exhilarating.  The violence is repetitively gruesome and routine, never scary.  (Too many zombies jumping in the frame.  Lazy.)  Honestly, how interesting can it possibly be to observe the neverending cycle of slash, punch, kick, stab and shoot?  For that matter, how interesting can it possibly be to watch one tediously long room sweep after another?
 
The villains aren’t much better.  Iain Glen does what he can with a standard mad scientist role but like all the actors in this mess, he gets swallowed up in a cinematic sea of mediocrity.  We don’t hate him as much as we should.  As for the zombies themselves, beyond the "domestication" scene, they’re up to their usual tricks.  The make-up is fine, especially when we see that emaciated fella on the highway, but when you’ve seen one movie zombie, you’ve seen them all.  (Speaking of skinny zombies, how come they haven’t thought of cannibalism?  It would cut down on starvation time.)
 
Watching charismatic actors like Jovovich and Larter waste their talents in a been there, done that action flick is especially depressing.  They are more than capable of playing smarter characters than this (check out He Got Game and Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back for the proof) and both are well suited for the genre.  They can convincingly kick ass without losing an ounce of their femininity.  Hollywood needs to take them more seriously.
 
By the time we reach the comic book third act, the movie and the series have more than worn out their welcome.  Too bad the filmmakers still haven’t gotten the hint.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, April 27, 2009
2:44 a.m.
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Published in: on April 27, 2009 at 2:44 am  Leave a Comment  

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