Amazing, that the "Resident Evil" franchise, based on the long-running Capcom video game series, has reached a third entry and is still garnering theatrical distribution. Sure, the first two movies, 2002's "Resident Evil
" and 2004's "Resident Evil: Apocalypse
," were financially successful, but was anyone actually a fan of them? Both pictures, haphazardly chaotic, loud and mindless while throwing out all opportunities for generating anything approaching genuine suspense or frights, represented why the horror genre sometimes gets a bad rap. Even as far as old-fashioned zombie flicks go, they were embarrassing tripe that succeeded only at rendering the undead as bores with poor skills when it came to jumping out of the darkness and scaring their one-dimensional prey. Would screenwriter Paul W.S. Anderson (2004's "Alien Vs. Predator
") and new-to-the-fold director Russell Mulcahy take the interceding three years between films to correct all of their wrongs and finally present a respectable "Resident Evil" movie that would do the creepy video games justice? As it turns out, yes and no.
The good news is that "Resident Evil: Extinction" is about twice as good as its predecessors. That's not saying much, but give the filmmakers credit for working out a story that is fast-paced and involving rather than fast-paced and lugubrious. As a mindless action picthe type where a bunch of sexy people act tough and fire a lot of guns without blemishing their professional make-up jobsdirector Russell Mulcahy keeps things moving and crafts several thrilling sequences, the best being an attack fronted by a mass of zombie crows that plays like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" on acid. Additionally, people who appear to be safe are not, and casualties on the protagonist side are too numerous to count. As the proceedings roll on and the blood flies, the viewer sits and sort of admires the grisly showmanship of it all.
When the frenetic goings-on conclude, however, "Resident Evil: Extinction" does not hold up under the light of scrutiny. Indeed, it's as strong as the series has been thus far, but it also pales in comparison to such recent similar horror opuses as 2004's "Dawn of the Dead
," 2005's "Land of the Dead
," and 2007's "28 Weeks Later
." Those films had actual thoughts and ideas to go along with a palpable under-your-skin creepiness. "Resident Evil: Extinction" is neither smart nor scary. Fraught with cheap jump-scares, some effective, others not, the only contemplation occurring under Mulcahy's helm is how to get the most mileage out of the various throat slittings and explosions happening throughout the 95-minute running time. Is it too much to ask that there be something more to hang onto?
It has been a few years since Alice (Milla Jovovich) was nearly killed while escaping the obliterated, zombie-filled Racoon City, her life reborn via the Umbrella Corporation's evil head researcher Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen). Now on the run and still getting used to her newfound powers, Alice has no idea that her every move is being monitored by an interior computer with the ability to control her. As she travels through the desolate deserts of Utah and Nevada, she comes upon information possibly pointing to there being a safe zone in Alaska. Teaming up with a renegade group of fellow survivorsamong them, leader Claire (Ali Larter), orphaned teenager K-Mart (Spencer Locke), tough Betty (Ashanti), and two comrades from Alice's past, Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps)Alice and company set their sights on the sanded-over wasteland of Las Vegas in hopes of stocking up on the supplies needed to make the journey north.
The premise for "Resident Evil: Extinction" is promising, but therein lies the problem; there is too much squandered potential for the climax to be as satisfying as it should be. The notion of exploring a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, where flesh-eaters could be lurking anywhere, is exciting. Its treatment, alas, is disappointing and uneventful, with the characters showing up long enough to drive down the strip, do battle in front of the Paris hotel, and then make their exit from the area. So much more could have been explored, and so many ingenious set-pieces could have been constructed within the ornate hotels and casinos of Sin City, that it is a real shame the script is too lazy to realize the missed opportunities.
What else is there to say about a film where people knife and/or shoot zombies, fake CGI red stuff rains in buckets, and yet not a speck of anything sprays upon them? The new angle of domesticating the undead is silly, and was broached more provocatively in "Land of the Dead
." As Alice, Milla Jovovich (2006's "Ultraviolet
") is tough and blessed with skin so flawless she looks like porcelain. Because she has been around for all three movies, she's the only one to care about. The other actors, including a slumming Ali Larter (2005's "A Lot Like Love
") and the fresh-faced Spencer Locke (2006's "Monster House
"), are underwritten to the point where nothing substantial is ever learned about any of them. Ultimately, "Resident Evil: Extinction" has many of the same pitfalls as the earlier films, but is more competently made overall. It's a step in the right direction, but not the full-on leap required to make it worth actively seeking out.