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September 23, 2007 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | September 23, 2007 |

First of all, I have to confess that until now I’ve had the pleasure of avoiding this whole Resident Evil business; I haven’t seen either of the previous two films or played much of the Capcom games which, I gather, are only tangentially related to the premise at this point. So, my assessment of Resident Evil: Extinction might be hampered by a lack of familiarity. There’s only so much I’m willing to go through for research.

But I’m guessing, given what little I know, that Resident Evil sucks pretty hard since 1) it’s based, however loosely, on any video game, 2) the reviled Paul W.S. Anderson (Alien vs. Predator) directed the first effort and produced/wrote both sequels, 3) Milla Jovovich, the female equivalent of Dolph Lundgren, is the recurring player, and 4) Raccoon City.

Well, whatever the hell was going on in REs one and two, this third installment veers the franchise heavily into Mad Max territory; superhuman clone/warrior/whatever Alice (Jovovich, who admittedly looks quite fetching in her soldierly hot-pants and chaps) is wandering around the post-apocalyptic America rendered by the first two films — some evil corporation unleashes a virus that turns everyone into zombies, right? If some extant plot explains what Milla is doing, I’m not aware of it - she’s presented merely roving around the Southwest, which has become more desert-like since the zombie scourge, occasionally doing battle with some inbred bandits and a few skinless Dobermans.

Meanwhile, at a nearby science facility, said evil corporation is still conducting vaguely insidious experiments, either trying to pacify the zombies or cure the disease which created them, all while tracking the roaming Alice. Eventually our heroine’s path crosses with a convoy of survivors lead by Claire (Ali Larter) and including some recurring characters — L.J. (Mike Epps) and a guy with massive earlobes (Oded Fehr). After a bloody battle with zombie birds, Alice tries to help the caravan, informing them of a possible zombie-less sanctuary in Alaska. But to gather supplies they all have to wander into Las Vegas, rife with the undead, and an inevitable confrontation with the corporation’s baddies.

Well, there you have it; do I need to tell you that Resident Evil: Extinction is as bad as its premise and predecessors? Probably not. The plot is a meandering muddle, simply allowing the characters their own uninteresting motivations without any sense of cohesion. Paul Anderson, in addition to being an impressively bad director, is an even worse writer — his characters are both transparent and sedate, he introduces them as quickly as he serves them up as zombie-fodder. As a whole, the story barely functions except to offer up a few scenes of carnage, though even these lack a sense of immediacy.

Yet for all its faults, Extinction isn’t horrible, especially not enough to provoke a genocidal tantrum. The premise is dull, even with regards to a zombie onslaught, and laughably indebted to both The Road Warrior and Day of the Dead, but director Russell Mulcahy (he of Razorback and Highlander) takes the whole dumb mess and runs with it. Mulcahy’s direction eschews the more obnoxious camera techniques of his predecessors, Anderson and Alexander Witt, whose idea of innovation was, I gather, to edit the action sequences into rapid-fire malarkey that would give even Tony Scott a seizure. In addition, transplanting the whole scenario from the dark urban languor (which, I’m told, contributed to the boredom) of the first two films into the wide-open wastes of Nevada gives us more to look at. It’s not much, but it helps.

So, Mulcahy salvages what should’ve rightly been a debacle; he’s never completely able to escape the turbidity of Anderson’s awful script, but those allured by the post-apocalyptic scenario and gory battles with zombies will find plenty to be entertained by. And Milla Jovovich, though obviously no great actress, is obscenely easy on the eyes (with my apologies to those less likely to ogle her); she’s obviously part of the new generation of comic-book-esque heroines who provoke males to admire and/or lust after. It’s always good to see more strong female protagonists in action roles, but do they always have to be so unabashedly sexualized? Anyway, both Milla and Mulcahy make the whole fiasco watchable, even when the story becomes almost irredeemably stupid with the presence of (spoiler!) a Toxic Avenger villain and an army of nude Milla clones in the film’s concluding moments. I may not have been particularly interested in Resident Evil: Extinction, but I was certainly never bored.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.

Beyond Chunderdome

Resident Evil: Extinction / Phillip Stephens

Film | September 23, 2007 |

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