I wonder how Paul W.S. Anderson writes his screenplays. Does he actually write in all the references–think The Birds here, or a tanker like in The Road Warrior or even the Statue of Liberty shot out of Planet of the Apes–or do they come up later? Resident Evil: Extinction is an amalgam of, I imagine, as many films Anderson could rip from or reference to (it’s never homage) in ninety-five minutes. But, like the earlier ones and for the same basic reasons, Extinction is a success.
The prevalent reason for success is Milla Jovovich. Jovovich is barely in movies anymore, but she’s great as the action hero. Extinction adds another element–along with malicious tentacles, Anderson cribs pyrokinesis (I can’t believe I knew that “word,” since Oxford apparently does not) from Japanese anime–giving Jovovich superpowers and a burden along with them. Anderson also gives her some character stuff, hints at romantic longing, and some comedy moments towards the end. It really works out, since she can switch from a Mad Max Road Warrior impression to vulnerable instantaneously. Every time–and it’s not often since she’s in so little–I see Jovovich, I can’t help but think Woody Allen would be able to do something great with her.
The other reason Extinction works is because Anderson is–as screenwriter and producer–once again completely comfortable making schlock. It’s well-produced schlock, whatever–oh, he steals from Undead too–but it’s absolutely unpretentious. There’s no pretending. It’s just ninety-five minutes gone.
Still, Extinction is a really hurried film. It’s supposedly the last film in the series, which is silly because the setup at the end suggests the next one would be a lot of fun, and that condition hangs over the movie. Starting out where the first film started, ending where the first film started… it’s all very neat in terms of conclusions, but the pace is terrible.
For a lot of the film, Jovovich isn’t even the main character. Instead, Anderson tracks a group of survivors (The Road Warrior rejects) lead by Ali Larter, who is awful. There’s some blah acting in the movie, but Larter’s is the only performance near ruining it. Once Jovovich is the firm center, it’s almost over. Anderson also spends a lot of time with the scientists, setting up the big ending. The script feels rushed, the movie feels rushed….
As far as the other performances go, Oded Fehr is good, Mike Epps is better than last time, and Linden Ashby is wasted as a cowboy.
Russell Mulcahy does an okay job directing. The editing is particularly good, but Extinction is short on action set-pieces, but the big one is worth the wait. The musical score, amusing, borrows a lot from the Terminator theme.
The Resident Evil movies are also of note because they aren’t particularly expensive, so they use CG and special effects in ways to enable storytelling, a trend Extinction continues.
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