Director: Russell Mulcahy
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Ashanti, Mike Epps, Christopher Egan, Spencer Locke, Jason O’Mara
Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson
94 mins. Rated R for strong horror violence throughout and some nudity.
There are a lot of elements in the third Resident Evil film that convinced 17-year-old me this one was going to absolutely rule. It was directed by Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, In Like Flynn), its trailer appeared to have similarities with my favorite Romero Living Dead film, Day of the Dead, and with the new character introductions, it seemed like it might be honing in on more of what the fans of the games wanted. Sure, what we got wasn’t really like what I had gleaned from the trailers, but let’s be clear: this movie is entertaining as hell through all of its many faults.
It’s been five years since the events at Raccoon City left most of the world devastated by the T-Virus. Alice (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element, Monster Hunter), on her own for some time, finds herself taken in by a convoy including some old friends: Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr, The Mummy Returns, Lair) and L.J. (Mike Epps, Friday After Next, The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2). The convoy is in search of shelter, and Alice shows them a book she discovered, claiming to have safe haven in Alaska, but they lack the gasoline to get them there. The convoy heads to Las Vegas to get supplies and gas, all the while Umbrella Corporation and the sinister Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, TV’s Reyka) plot to retrieve Project Alice and continue their research.
First of all, I have to be the one that says it: screen your movie. Resident Evil: Extinction was not screened for critics, but here’s the thing, we all were pretty confident critics would hate the movie anyway, and most of the time, critical reviews can really only influence about 10% of the box office take. When Malignant came out recently, and we were all discussing the lack of reviews, no Thursday night opening, and the assumption was that the studio didn’t believe in their product. The same is true here. Screen your movie.
As far as Resident Evil: Extinction goes, the entertainment value is a definite win. Sure, the movie itself has flaws in and out, but I was thoroughly entertained. I think that Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Extinction are the absolute best that this franchise will have to give, so if you aren’t won over at this point, this just may not be the movie series for you. Where it wins most is in the action. This is probably the best action of the series, and that is due to Russell Mulcahy’s handling of the set pieces. It’s obvious that he’s the most capable of the directors in this franchise because he has the best looking action, and it’s the most tense that the series gets. His choice to film in sunlight more often as opposed the coldness of the first film and the darkness of the second really give a more stunning visual flair that’s in line with the film’s comparisons to Day of the Dead and Mad Max. In particular, the crow scene is a new element taken from the mythology of the games that feels quite fresh and is handled well.
The returning actors, Jovovich, Fehr, and Epps are all putting forth some solid work, even if it feels odd that Jill Valentine and Angela Ashford are just gone from the narrative (with Sienna Guillory primed to return in the next installment). Their absense gives the film an Alien 3 vibe (something the franchise would probably want to avoid). All the same, I like their general chemistry and performances, but Paul W.S. Anderson’s script just doesn’t give them much to do. The big Alice moments of the film are either “She’s too powerful” or “She does nothing.” She can firebend at some points, and also, Umbrella can completely control her movements, but they’ve elected not to for the past five years. Carlos is mostly reactionary in the film, and L.J. goes from street-smart in Apocalypse to completely foolish in this installment, ultimately becoming a fairly stereotypical stock zombie movie character that we all hate now.
As far as new additions, I feel like Ali Larter (Final Destination, The Last Victim) was miscast as Claire Redfield and Ashanti (Coach Carter, A Christmas Winter Song) is just kind of bland as medic Betty. Spencer Locke (Insidious: The Last Key, Walk. Ride. Rodeo.) is given a nickname as character development, and Jason O’Mara (Batman: Hush, TV’s The Man in the High Castle) is just given very little to do as the first appearance of franchise villain Albert Wesker is concerned.
As mentioned above, you get some pretty iconic characters from the game series here, like Claire Redfield and Albert Wesker, and there’s also a newly-named scientist seemingly modeled after William Birkin with Dr. Isaacs. I guess, at this point, I wonder why they’re even introducing iconic characters if they aren’t going to use them. I’m all for creative license in adapting, especially where the video game to film adaptation is concerned, but Claire Redfield has nothing in common with her video game persona at all, and Albert Wesker ends up being very underutilized in the franchise starting here. As far as Dr. Isaacs is concerned, Iain Glen chews up the scenery quite well and has fun with the role, and because he isn’t named after William Birkin, it feels like game fans were willing to give him a pass as a character. Why didn’t they do that with everyone? It’s become obvious that we’ve strayed heavily from the video game franchise at this point, so why continue to under-deliver on legacy characters? I guess it’s worth noting that Anderson (who scripted every installment of this franchise) did care about fan reaction, but he didn’t do a great job of taking that criticism.
Alongside that, it needs to be stated that this film is the one you can look back on and realize that there was no plan for this movie series. Why is the Red Queen replaced in this film with the White Queen, and then why do we never see the White Queen again? Why does the finale of this film have a trilogy-ending set piece meant to take us “back to the beginning” of the series? I remember the idea going in was that this movie was likely to be the ending of the movies, and this film gives us that sense that we are going back to where it started to finish it, but then it ends on another cliffhanger (something that becomes more frustrating from this point on) and, looking back, this feels like an ending that was retconned into not ending, and even the final installment of the series, titled The Last Chapter, hits the same kind of story beats as this one, going back to the very beginning all over again.
Resident Evil: Extinction looks great, and the action is tense and exciting, but this is a hodgepodge of Resident Evil mythology, a Greatest Hits in some ways, hobbled together and retrofitted to kind of showcase a general knowledge of the video games. It’s full of ideas, but it’s also full of frustrating characters doing stupid things and being punished for it, and while the movie still has a solid amount of entertainment, it’s unlikely that this film will win over video game fans, and the franchise should be moving forward with its own thing and stop trying to be the games.
-Kyle A. Goethe
- For my review of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil, click here.
- For my review of Alexander Witt’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse, click here.
- For my review of Russell Mulcahy’s Highlander, click here.