Movie News & Reviews

'Resident Evil: Extinction' too loud, rather weak

Am I crazy, or is there some kind of actual rule whereby no horrorfranchise may make two good movies in a row?

Take "Blade." First one, OK. Second one, kind of awesome, probablybecause director Guillermo del Toro appears to know the completehistory of everything ever, including what makes for a rocking vampiremovie. (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 legalto marry an accent. There aren't.) Then "Blade 3" went andsquandered all that by being all not very good.

The "Return of the Living Dead" series went a different way, beinghilarious the first time out, pure '80s cheese the second, andreturning to form with the third. Who knows what's up with the Freddyand Jason series. With those, it's like someone would make a goodone, then other people would use that as an excuse to make money for acouple uninspired movies until someone else said "Hey! Remember whenthese 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 "RE2" was pretty ass-kicking. In a noble effort to match the secondentry, "Extinction" actually kicks off with Milla Jovovich naked in ashower curtain. Those are some great instincts from director RussellMulcahy, but that's about as high as the movie ever gets.

After some business about how that ne'er-do-well UmbrellaCorporation's been cloning Jovovich for its own mysterious reasons,Jovovich wanders around a desolated America for a while, fightinghumans gone feral and zombie dogs in a scene that looks way too muchlike 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 tryingto find a safe haven in the ruins of civilization while meanwhile,Umbrella Corp. scientist and Chief Executive Jerk Iain Glen tries tofind a way to alter the T-virus to turn the infected into docileslaves. Dastardly.

Rather than tying these three threads together to create tension or astory, though, the script is content to let them play out on their ownfor an extremely long time. Eventually, they begin to intersect, butby then we've been running with a skeleton plot for nigh-on half themovie.

On the other hand, "Extinction" is really, really loud, so it's gotthat going for it. The dialogue's mixed at a normal level, but thegunshots, explosions, and even falling glasses are so noisy it's as ifthey're intended to liquefy your brainstem.

Which might just help get you through all the cereal box-leveldialogue and a weak, confused story that seems unsure of just whatJovovich's ever-growing powers may be and what that means to the restof 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 toexplain any of this? Would that be so much to ask? Also, the thingsthe 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'rehaving 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 bythe second cup of coffee, three virtues this movie sorely lacks.

I didn't know who directed "Extinction" going into it, but theprinciples of detection have shown me Mulcahy helmed "Highlander2" -- 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 evercame to this.

"Extinction" isn't as bad as the H-Bomb, as I've just taken to callingit, but that might be a downside. Instead of being stupendouslyatrocious in a way that leaves you in awe of the majesticpossibilities of an infinite universe, it's just kind of boring anduninspired. Zombies and post-apocalyptic wastelands have beenrigorously proven to be cinema's two greatest contributions tomankind. When a movie brings them both together and can't manage morethan a few loud noises and retreads of scenes the first movie didbetter, you know you're in trouble.

Grade: D