The Aggressive Admiration of Resident Evil: Extinction

By  · Published on January 19th, 2017

Our journey through the Resident Evil franchise doesn’t stop at the kitchen sink.

Fandom has taken over cinema. We don’t simply make movies anymore. We make movies about movies, attempt to look dope while doing it, and hope it doesn’t get in the way of the story we’ve been paid to tell. This phenomenon is not new, and occurs across all artistic formats. Whether it’s Pablo Picasso’s determined variations on the works of Edouard Manet, or Charlie Chaplin’s wish fulfillment recreation of the grinding machinations of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis in Modern Times, artists have been tipping the hat to other artists since creation itself. Does this artistic pastime of allusion offer the fanboys both in front of the screen and behind the camera more value than a quick scan through a large print Where’s Waldo?

In Part One of our tour through the Resident Evil franchise, we saw how director Paul W.S. Anderson took the opportunity of adapting the Capcom video game series as a means to work out his own Alice in Wonderland obsession. This decision to cram in his personal fandom sent ripples down the series, and has driven the direction of the sequels more directly than anything found on a gaming console. Some of the built in fan base may have been alienated, but this marriage of material allowed Anderson a familiar connection, and we should only be so lucky if every filmmaker succeeded in such a fashion.

The reality of invention is that the creator cannot help but be influenced by the art they’ve consumed over a lifetime. It’s going to seep in, and as an audience, we should want that to happen. Resident Evil: Apocalypse attempted to draw some of that inspiration back from the video game, and succeeded mostly in making a goofy B-Movie romp through Raccoon City (read how that’s also a good thing in Part Two of our month long love-fest to Resident Evil). Adaptation is often a tug of war mêlée, and the success stories are the films that do not adhere so slavishly to the source material.

Resident Evil: Extinction doesn’t quite reach the levels of metafiction the way Quentin Tarantino soaks his cinema, but it embraces genre history aggressively, and delights in its revelry. Still unable to film his screenplay while gearing up to muck about with Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 remake, Paul W.S. Anderson selected Highlander helmer Russell Mulcahy to escort Alice through the wastelands of the Umbrella Corporation. Mulcahy wanted to escape the never-ending night of Apocalypse, and was determined to find sincere scares in the blazing hot sun of the Mexican desert. To that end he hired Patrick Tatopoulos (I Am Legend, Underworld, Pitch Black) to cake his extras in craggily cracked zombie makeup, and original DP David Johnson returned from his Alien vs Predator excursion to bake the latex into their flesh.

Set eight years after the events of Apocalypse, Extinction opens on that oh-so-familiar iris. Alice, once again awakens, collapsed nude on the shower floor. Is this a flashback? Memory recall? Or is there something even more sinister at play? Alice wanders that familiar mansion, back through the looking glass, and down into The Hive’s treacherous laser corridor. There is no dialogue for the first five minutes as we witness Alice make different choices from the original film. Ultimately, this Alice meets her end when she triggers an Umbrella drone that fills her belly with lead. I guess she didn’t learn the lessons of Indiana Jones and the Penitent Man. Iain Glen’s Dr. Isaacs (seen too briefly in the last film) monitors his Truman Show experiment from a safe distance, and orders another Alice corpse to be dumped in the mass graveyard above ground. We’ve barely started this venture, and already Resident Evil: Extinction offers an image more horrifying than anything glimpsed in the previous efforts.

Milla Jovovich trades red dress for duster; her chic Mad Max attire concocted by the designers at her own clothing line, Jovovich-Hawk. Seemingly thundering out of a Tom Petty music video, Jovovich rocks the goggles, the desert scarf, the garter belt boots, the crossbow, and twin kukri blades. Her superhuman road warrior seems to have been waiting a lifetime for such an environment to erupt around her, and the confidence Jovovich displays when striding through Armageddon in such a ridiculously constructed wardrobe makes her all the more badass. Sergio Leone could not have possibly imagined how majestic his signature look could appear when connected to a wire-fu stunt team. The tail of Milla’s duster spinning through the air as she kicks some reject from The Hills Have Eyes in the throat is something this Western/Wushu fanatic has fantasized about from adolescence on.

Oh! And the blood flows! Thanks to the success of Eli Roth’s Hostel and Tobin Bell’s debauchery in SAW, a Resident Evil film was finally allowed access to those Tom Savini intestines. The new bloody world order is established with a swift splashy roundhouse kick from Milla, and Mulcahy doesn’t let up. Sure, Extinction was never going to reach the grotesque heights of Cannibal Holocaust, but the violence depicted in the third film finally feels appropriate for its R rating. The Zombie Dobermans (that aren’t actually Dobermans here, but the Belgian shepherd bred, Malinois) go for the throat and pull away bone. Ravenous ravens descend from the skies, scoop out infected eyeballs, and get all the right butts squirming in the seat, while the horror hounds in the crowd release twisted smirking squees.

While Extinction seems like the Resident Evil film with the least amount of interest in the video games, it still manages to introduce a few of Capcom’s core characters. Ali Larter has the thankless task of standing next to Milla Jovovich as Claire Redfield, but she’s allowed a few scenes in the film to go full Sarah Connor. Jason O’Mara is given one film to show off the diabolical douchery of Albert Wesker before fleeing the franchise for greener pastures (Life on Mars???). Neither character feels particular true to their origins, but they’ll find more script to chew in the sequels.

Possibly the most pleasant surprise of the film is the return of Oded Fehr as Carlos Oliveira, and Mike Epps as L.J.Wade. Jill Valentine is ditched with barely a mention, but Mike Epps is still peacocking those custom gold plated Desert Eagles. Epps, however, is less of the comic relief stereotype, and is offered a few emotional beats before shuffling off the mortal coil. They attempt a Wrath of Khan to Search for Spock continuity here, and I appreciate the kissy face developments between Carlos and Alice. At the very least, this doomed romance allows Jovovich to reveal an affectionate side to her Man With No Name performance.

Ali Larter’s convoy is meant to elicit passion from the George Miller anointed, but accomplishes even more as the diet of the dead. Seeking solace in the rumors of an Alaskan refuge, Claire’s crew keeps pace with the runtime as they’re picked off by Dr. Isaacs’ newly domesticated ghoulies. Russell Mulcahy still finds bits of celluloid to develop fodder like Ashanti’s Nurse Betty, or Linden Ashby’s Cowboy Chase. These moments of plotless character are strikingly refreshing when compared to the previous films. It’s ok folks, you can also care about these hopeless sidekicks while admiring the craft behind their dispatching.

Returning to a variation of The Hive for the climax is a tad disappointing for a film so determined to stay in the daylight, but the collaboration between Patrick Tatopoulos’s creature effects and Iain Glen’s Tyrant mutation routine nearly forgives this touch of repetition. It’s impossible to decipher the science behind the Resident Evil monstrosities, but attempting to fight zombie infection by injecting himself with Alice’s superblood somehow causes Dr. Isaacs to sprout a Lovecraftian makeover. The mad scientist is all tentacles and wet screams as he lunges his digital digits at the now telekinetic Alice. We never question the outcome.

Telekinesis? As if Milla’s Alice wasn’t already a supreme ass kicker of the highest order. But that’s the joy of the Resident Evil franchise. It’s not just about zombies. It’s got your mad scientists, and evil corporations. It’s got your Day of the Dead, your Road Warrior, The Andromeda Strain, The Birds, Planet of the Apes, Scanners, and a dozen other acts of homage. All that you love is jacked up into one film. Resident Evil: Extinction is kitchen sink cinema at its most gratuitous.

Next week, we’ll launch from the most promising of cliffhangers (Milla Jovovich: The Clone Wars!!!) to the return of Paul W.S. Anderson as director. Resident Evil: Afterlife and Resident Evil: Retribution steal James Cameron’s 3D Fusion Camera System, and make a bid to elevate the environment of the Umbrella Corporation. Valiant effort, or simple money grab?

Read more from our series about the Resident Evil franchise:

Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)