Resident Evil: Extinction
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
The third Resident Evil installment is actually a fairly entertaining flick that mutates the genre-bending series into a true-blue zombie spaghetti western. Or would that be spaghetti zombie western?
Alice of Nevada
For those unfamiliar with Resident Evil, it all revolves around an incident in Raccoon City. A ginormous conglomerate called the Umbrella Corporation was experimenting with something called the T-Virus. A corporate spy shattered a vial of the stuff, which spread through the headquarters' air ducts and turned everybody into the living dead.
Resident Evil: Extinction picks up some time after the events in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, with the virus having now spread globally. The entire planet's a wasteland, the kind of dire place Al Gore had in mind in An Inconvenient Truth, except global warming is the least of the planet's concerns at this point.
The main heroine of the series, Alice (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element), is one tough honey. But she herself is simply one more experiment out of the Umbrella compound. A genetic piece of sublime, ass-kicking perfection, her very blood may prove to be the antidote to the virus.
At least that's the theory held by Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider). Having cloned Alice innumerable times, his antibody tests have met with unpredictable results. Now he needs to track down the real Alice in order to secure a more stable antidote, reverse the effects of the virus, and quite possibly create a legion of docile humans in the process.
Alice, for her part, has been keeping a relatively low profile, living a solitary life on the road, like a female Max Rockatansky, and doing her best to avoid the ever-watchful Umbrella satellites.
From a certain point of view, making a movie out of the Resident Evil video games is a no-brainer. They're loaded with plenty of material to plunder and are themselves a mutt-like breed of numerous cinematic genres, including the spy flick, the high adventure movie, and, of course, those zombie fright shows. But, like adapting a book to the big screen, it's not an easy thing to transfer to the movies the essence that made the Resident Evil games so popular.
While the first two movies met with enough commercial success to keep the film series going for a third time, neither of the preceding chapters truly lived up to the bounty of potential offered by those games. Both were too wrapped up in a fairly limited storyline that felt more like a rehash of Escape from New York meets Dawn of the Dead. At least the second one ramped things up in terms of the fun quotient and this third chapter keeps the goofy comic book/video game/adventure flick mojo going.
With all three movies written by Paul W.S. Anderson, this time around Russell Mulcahy, best known as the director of Highlander, takes the helm and imbibes the material with an agreeable mix of schlock and awe. While the end result is still a mixed bag, it's marginally better than the previous two.
It helps quite a bit that the story's scope has expanded outside the confines of Toronto, which filled in as Raccoon City in the first two flicks. With most of the United States a wind-blown desert reminiscent of the original Planet of the Apes, Alice has moved west where Las Vegas is now buried under sand, a haunting reminder of all those happy, hedonistic times. (No, smarty pants, the devastation in Vegas has nothing to do with Britney Spears' recent toxic performance at the VMAs. It's all the result of that nasty, nasty T-Virus.)
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Even in its new environs, though, Extinction has more than its share of clunky moments. The worst involves a swarm of blood-starved, zombie-eyed ravens. Escaping from the birds is an awkward bit of storytelling that defies all sensibility, even in the frantic, frenetic world of zombies.
However, for every ridiculous sequence this installment manages to redeem itself with a dandy bit of filmmaking. The best is a relatively simple scene that calls to mind all those classic spaghetti westerns. The scene starts by focusing on Alice's boots, partly shrouded under a well-worn, all-purpose trench coat, as Alice storms her way to Paris (Las Vegas) for some butt kicking. The camera pans up her boots, follows her brown leggings, then it stops midriff as she cocks her rifle. Ah, bliss!
As with the first two movies, Milla Jovovich herself provides both the eye candy and the gusto that at the very least make this series watchable and at the best moments provides the movies' biggest kicks and most thrilling action. Now it'd be nice to see her do more dramatic work, like she did in The Million Dollar Hotel; she's got the talent, she simply needs the right vehicle to showcase it.
But, while Extinction is widely perceived as wrapping up the Resident Evil trilogy, the door is left wide open for a fourth installment. The prospect of a globe-trotting showdown between Alice and Albert Wesker, one of Umbrella's nefarious, menacing minions, should entice fans of the games back for more.
Even better, though, Extinction ends with the tantalizing prospect of lots and lots and lots more Alice to come.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.