Skip to main content

They hunger for flesh, but do not require it.

Resident Evil: Extinction

(SPOILERS) My previous exposure to the Resident Evil movies was limited to the first outing and then this one. And the reason I was intrigued to see this one was to a small degree the Mad Max trappings it chose to appropriate, but mostly it was the presence of one Russell Mulcahy as director, at that point very much in the straight-to-video realm (an arena he’d quickly return to with a Scorpion King sequel). My interest in the Highlander – and Ricochet! – director tackling zombies was not misplaced. Resident Evil: Extinction is vastly superior to anything the series offered hitherto. Why, it even makes the material seem half respectable.

Paul WS Anderson, as ever on script duties, also manages to offer a few decent ideas, magpie-ing in particular Alien Resurrection’s cloning onto Alice. The opener finds her awaking in a mansion, much as we’ve come to expect, only for her to be killed and dumped in a pit… joining a load of other clones. It’s a striking and effective image (one that would in turn be magpied by Christopher Smith in Triangle a few years later). The duplicates idea will be returned to at the climax, when a clone Alice saves the original. We also revisit the control theme of Resident Evil: Apocalypse, with the transhumanism element rearing its programmed head as Alice is shutdown via satellite (you know satellites, right?) and fights the conditioning, short-circuiting the “orbiting” relay.

However, the problem with delivering more Alice, along with the general upping of the quality ante, is that it serves to emphasise Milla’s something of an empty centre; when the movies are strictly functional, kickass affairs, this matters not a jot, but try to infuse a sliver of texture and the holes start showing (she’s as blank as her face is when, for cosmetic purposes, some photoshop is called upon to smooth out Alice’s wrinkles). It’s fortunate then, that Iain Glen, who gets some stick in some quarters as wooden, yet I’ve always considered a decent actor, is there to share some of the thesping duties. In a smart move, he’s not only nefariously inclined but also up against it from unsympathetic superiors, which means his character Dr Isaacs is going out on a limb.

There are even some genuinely strong scenes occasionally, amid the convoy-in-peril swill you’d expect. Such as the one where Isaacs tries out a means of modifying/domesticating the undead. It’s a sequence with shades of Romero’s Day of the Dead (1985), and it adds an impassive, unflinching echo to Isaacs as he unblinkingly shuts his assistant in with the formerly pacified subject. Perhaps inevitably, Isaacs is infected and duly transformed into a hulking loon (the Tyrant, it says here), complete with manga tentacles, after overdosing on anti-virus software. And Mulcahy trots out the dicing effect again, because, well, it’s cool and grisly and audiences can never get enough of that kind of thing (Anderson also reminds you just who is writing this when Tyrant’s announcement “I am the future” elicits “No. You’re just another asshole”).

Getting out into the arid expanses helps Extinction considerably in establishing its own movie identity, as opposed to merely the latest add-on to its predecessors. Sure, we get the de rigueur MKUtra eye closeups, but the vistas are evocative, and the more surprisingly so, since this is David Johnson returning as cinematographer from the unexceptional original. The zombie prosthetics are solid and often used artfully to frame shots. The besieged desert base is a striking visual, and while these are evidently CGI zombies (in long shot), flies and crows, they’re used in a complementary way, rather than excessively. In general, Mulcahy’s pop-promo sensibility aids and abets the tone and atmosphere; this is a way better sequel than anyone could have hoped for, and way better than Anderson, who attested to admiring the director’s work, would have furnished himself.

We see the return of the AI presence, this time in the form of a sister entity White Queen, and there’s significant hearkening back to earlier outings (replicas of the base and visual cues) as well as revisiting previous characters (Carlos Oliveira and LJ return) and those from the games (Heroes’ Ali Larter is Claire Redfield and Jason O’Mara is Umbrella CEO Albert Wesker).

The Vegas setting represents another cue lifted by Zack Snyder for Army of the Dead (see also Resident Evil: Apocalypse). And obviously, on the predictive side, the depopulation signifiers abound. This is a world where humanity has been devastated, albeit nursing very ’80s wasteland visual cues (the T-virus has infected everything, not just people). The future for the remainder appears to be one of augmentation or else. It’s quite possible Resident Evil: Extinction isn’t as popular with game enthusiasts for taking a significant detour in content and setting, but that’s probably one of the reasons it’s halfway satisfying.

Popular posts from this blog

Doctors make the worst patients.

Coma (1978) (SPOILERS) Michael Crichton’s sophomore big-screen feature, and by some distance his best. Perhaps it’s simply that this a milieu known to him, or perhaps it’s that it’s very much aligned to the there-and-now and present, but Coma , despite the occasional lapse in this adaptation of colleague Robin Cook’s novel, is an effective, creepy, resonant thriller and then some. Crichton knows his subject, and it shows – the picture is confident and verisimilitudinous in a way none of his other directorial efforts are – and his low-key – some might say clinical – approach pays dividends. You might also call it prescient, but that would be to suggest its subject matter wasn’t immediately relevant then too.

Abandon selective targeting. Shoot everything.

28 Weeks Later (2007) (SPOILERS) The first five minutes of 28 Weeks Later are far and away the best part of this sequel, offering in quick succession a devastating moral quandary and a waking nightmare, immortalised on the screen. After that, while significantly more polished, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo reveals his concept to be altogether inferior to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland’s, falling back on the crutches of gore, nihilism, and disengaging and limiting shifts of focus between characters in whom one has little investment in the first place.

I said I had no family. I didn’t say I had an empty apartment.

The Apartment (1960) (SPOILERS) Billy Wilder’s romcom delivered the genre that rare Best Picture Oscar winner. Albeit, The Apartment amounts to a rather grim (now) PG-rated scenario, one rife with adultery, attempted suicide, prostitution of the soul and subjective thereof of the body. And yet, it’s also, finally, rather sweet, so salving the darker passages and evidencing the director’s expertly judged balancing act. Time Out ’s Tom Milne suggested the ending was a cop out (“ boy forgives girl and all’s well ”). But really, what other ending did the audience or central characters deserve?

The Bible never said anything about amphetamines.

The Color of Money (1986) (SPOILERS) I tend to think it’s evident when Scorsese isn’t truly exercised by material. He can still invest every ounce of the technical acumen at his fingertips, and the results can dazzle on that level, but you don’t really feel the filmmaker in the film. Which, for one of his pictures to truly carry a wallop, you need to do. We’ve seen quite a few in such deficit in recent years, most often teaming with Leo. The Color of Money , however, is the first where it was out-and-out evident the subject matter wasn’t Marty’s bag. He needed it, desperately, to come off, but in the manner a tradesman who wants to keep getting jobs. This sequel to The Hustler doesn’t linger in the mind, however good it may be, moment by moment.

Your desecration of reality will not go unpunished.

2021-22 Best-of, Worst-of and Everything Else Besides The movies might be the most visible example of attempts to cling onto cultural remnants as the previous societal template clatters down the drain. It takes something people really want – unlike a Bond movie where he kicks the can – to suggest the model of yesteryear, one where a billion-dollar grosser was like sneezing. You can argue Spider-Man: No Way Home is replete with agendas of one sort or another, and that’s undoubtedly the case (that’s Hollywood), but crowding out any such extraneous elements (and they often are) is simply a consummate crowd-pleaser that taps into tangible nostalgia through its multiverse take. Of course, nostalgia for a mere seven years ago, for something you didn’t like anyway, is a symptom of how fraught these times have become.

You just threw a donut in the hot zone!

Den of Thieves (2018) (SPOILERS) I'd heard this was a shameless  Heat  rip-off, and the presence of Gerard Butler seemed to confirm it would be passable-at-best B-heist hokum, so maybe it was just middling expectations, even having heard how enthused certain pockets of the Internet were, but  Den of Thieves  is a surprisingly very satisfying entry in the genre. I can't even fault it for attempting to Keyser Soze the whole shebang at the last moment – add a head in a box and you have three 1995 classics in one movie – even if that particular conceit doesn’t quite come together.

This guy’s armed with a hairdryer.

An Innocent Man (1989) (SPOILERS) Was it a chicken-and-egg thing with Tom Selleck and movies? Did he consistently end up in ropey pictures because other, bigger big-screen stars had first dibs on the good stuff? Or was it because he was a resolutely small-screen guy with limited range and zero good taste? Selleck had about half-a-dozen cinema outings during the 1980s, one of which, the very TV, very Touchstone Three Men and a Baby was a hit, but couldn’t be put wholly down to him. The final one was An Innocent Man , where he attempted to show some grit and mettle, as nice-guy Tom is framed and has to get tough to survive. Unfortunately, it’s another big-screen TV movie.

Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists!

Don’t Look Up (2021) (SPOILERS) It’s testament to Don’t Look Up ’s “quality” that critics who would normally lap up this kind of liberal-causes messaging couldn’t find it within themselves to grant it a free pass. Adam McKay has attempted to refashion himself as a satirist since jettisoning former collaborator Will Ferrell, but as a Hollywood player and an inevitably socio-politically partisan one, he simply falls in line with the most obvious, fatuous propagandising.

Captain, he who walks in fire will burn his feet.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) (SPOILERS) Ray Harryhausen returns to the kind of unadulterated fantasy material that made Jason and the Argonauts such a success – swords & stop motion, if you like. In between, there were a couple of less successful efforts, HG Wells adaptation First Men in the Moon and The Valley of the Gwangi (which I considered the best thing ever as a kid: dinosaur walks into a cowboy movie). Harryhausen’s special-effects supremacy – in a for-hire capacity – had also been consummately eclipsed by Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years B.C . The Golden Voyage of Sinbad follows the expected Dynamation template – blank-slate hero, memorable creatures, McGuffin quest – but in its considerable favour, it also boasts a villainous performance by nobody-at-the-time, on-the-cusp-of-greatness Tom Baker.

Archimedes would split himself with envy.

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) (SPOILERS) Generally, this seems to be the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad outing that gets the short straw in the appreciation stakes. Which is rather unfair. True, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger lacks Tom Baker and his rich brown voice personifying evil incarnate – although Margaret Whiting more than holds her own in the wickedness stakes – and the structure follows the Harryhausen template perhaps over scrupulously (Beverly Cross previously collaborated with the stop-motion auteur on Jason and the Argonauts , and would again subsequently with Clash of the Titans ). But the storytelling is swift and sprightly, and the animation itself scores, achieving a degree of interaction frequently more proficient than its more lavishly praised peer group.