Am I crazy, or is there some kind of actual rule whereby no horror franchise may make two good movies in a row?
Take "Blade." First one, OK. Second one, kind of awesome, probably because director Guillermo del Toro appears to know the complete history of everything ever, including what makes for a rocking vampire movie. (Seriously, listen to one of his DVD commentaries sometime. You'll learn so much you'll probably go out and found a religion. Also, you'll wonder whether there are any states in which it's legal to marry an accent. There aren't.) Then "Blade 3" went and squandered all that by being all not very good.
The "Return of the Living Dead" series went a different way, being hilarious the first time out, pure '80s cheese the second, and returning to form with the third. Who knows what's up with the Freddy and Jason series. With those, it's like someone would make a good one, then other people would use that as an excuse to make money for a couple uninspired movies until someone else said "Hey! Remember when these used to be good? I think I'll make a cool Jason/Freddy movie! Pretty novel, right?"
"Resident Evil: Extinction" is in an unlucky spot, then, because "RE 2" was pretty ass-kicking. In a noble effort to match the second entry, "Extinction" actually kicks off with Milla Jovovich naked in a shower curtain. Those are some great instincts from director Russell Mulcahy, but that's about as high as the movie ever gets.
After some business about how that ne'er-do-well Umbrella Corporation's been cloning Jovovich for its own mysterious reasons, Jovovich wanders around a desolated America for a while, fighting humans gone feral and zombie dogs in a scene that looks way too much like the time she fought the zombie dogs in the first "Resident Evil" and it kind of looked like "The Matrix."
Meanwhile, a caravan led by Ali Larter rolls around the country trying to find a safe haven in the ruins of civilization while meanwhile, Umbrella Corp. scientist and Chief Executive Jerk Iain Glen tries to find a way to alter the T-virus to turn the infected into docile slaves. Dastardly.
Rather than tying these three threads together to create tension or a story, though, the script is content to let them play out on their own for an extremely long time. Eventually, they begin to intersect, but by then we've been running with a skeleton plot for nigh-on half the movie.
On the other hand, "Extinction" is really, really loud, so it's got that going for it. The dialogue's mixed at a normal level, but the gunshots, explosions, and even falling glasses are so noisy it's as if they're intended to liquefy your brainstem.
Which might just help get you through all the cereal box-level dialogue and a weak, confused story that seems unsure of just what Jovovich's ever-growing powers may be and what that means to the rest of the world. So she's some kind of mind-wizard now? How? Why? Will you stop deafening me for the 30 seconds it would take to explain any of this? Would that be so much to ask? Also, the things the Umbrella Corp. can do, especially with satellites: what the hell?
It's a little like a dream with such fuzzy logic that even as you're having it you realize it doesn't make sense. But dreams don't cost $8.50, they don't promise dicey sequels, and you can forget them by the second cup of coffee, three virtues this movie sorely lacks.
I didn't know who directed "Extinction" going into it, but the principles of detection have shown me Mulcahy helmed "Highlander 2" -- and longtime readers (Hi, Mom!) will know I regard "Highlander 2" the way I'd regard a naked drunk passed out in a field: with shock, dismay and pity, but also a touch of surreal wonder about how it ever came to this.
"Extinction" isn't as bad as the H-Bomb, as I've just taken to calling it, but that might be a downside. Instead of being stupendously atrocious in a way that leaves you in awe of the majestic possibilities of an infinite universe, it's just kind of boring and uninspired. Zombies and post-apocalyptic wastelands have been rigorously proven to be cinema's two greatest contributions to mankind. When a movie brings them both together and can't manage more than a few loud noises and retreads of scenes the first movie did better, you know you're in trouble.