Resident Evil: Extinction Review
Paul WS Anderson, in his continuing quest to bring the Resident Evil series of videogames to the screen, has picked up a fair bit of criticism for his choosing only to adapt occasional console-rendered moments for his films. Still, having dug out my old Playstation console and Resident Evil and played the first hour or so of the game, I can see his point. That movie-style introduction to the first game, all severed hands, growling dogs and Chris Redfield looking angry, features acting so bad anyone at risk of suffering flashbacks to it would be well advised to avoid operating machinery, driving a passenger vehicle or minding a small child.
Two of the actors, Una Kavanagh (Jill Valentine, billed as Inezh) and Scott McCulloch (Chris, billed as Charlie), might have hidden behind pseudonyms but I'm not sure who made the greatest demand for them, the actors who would rather not have had their reputations tarnished by Resident Evil or Capcom, who, by not listing the names of professional actors, clearly wanted to avoid difficult questions from shareholders. I'm not sure if, "How much? For that shite?" translates well to Japanese but it was surely asked. But with a performance so bad it can make cats weep, it's Albert Wesker who stands out. Be-shaded and with spiky-blonde-hair, Wesker owes everything to a style last in vogue when Tom Cruise danced about to Bob Seger in his underpants. So why bring him back for Resident Evil: Extinction?
Capcom's Albert Wesker (Above) / Paul Anderson's Albert Wesker (Below)
From holding Barry Burton's family hostage and doing all manner of wicked things within the Umbrella Corporation in Resident Evil, Wesker is now the Chief Executive of the rather shady provider of bioweapons, bizarre laser-traps and clones of Milla Jovovich, who they dress only in a shower curtain. And it's one of these clones who opens the film, quickly swapping the shower curtain for a little red dress and a pair of biker boots. Within a secret facility, she once again fights the creatures who gather outside. The T-Virus has turned most of the population of the planet into mindless zombies. Feasting on infected flesh, even the animals have developed a blood lust while the T-Virus has made the Earth barren, drying up the rivers and lakes. Nothing grows any more and only scavengers eke out a living in this wasteland, the real Alice (Jovovich) being one of them. It is within this desert that she meets with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who leads a convoy of fellow Raccoon City survivors Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), LJ (Mike Epps), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), Mikey (Chris Egan) and Nurse Betty (Ashanti). Living on what scraps they find in deserted motels and truck stops, they get by, led to Alaska by a handwritten journal that Alice carries with her. In Las Vegas, a city now buried under sand, they stop to search for supplies but don't realise that Umbrella have a secret underground facility nearby, one in which Dr Sam Isaacs (Iain Glen) has created a new breed of zombie, one faster, stronger and more aggressive than that which has gone before!
None of which would seem to do the Umbrella Corporation very much good. When I was last playing Resident Evil around the time of Nemesis and Survivor, the Umbrella Corporation was still on the up and up and, I suspect, were keeping their shareholders more than satisfied. However, the world of Resident Evil 3 presents them living in underground shelters far away from the zombies overhead, which is surely the sort of thing that any multinational business intended on deliberately releasing the latest strain of their virus. Even without a business degree, I can't see how that would have boosted revenues or achieved anything like what Umbrella must have hoped for the T-Virus, certainly not when all of their potential customers are shambling through the streets in threadbare clothing and chowing down on anything still vaguely alive. Their stock holdings, much like the cities on the upside, are crumbling and, in their weaker moments, probably jumped from the high-rises over Wall Street into the zombie-filled streets below.
In my weaker moments, of which there are many, I rather like the films of Paul WS Anderson. I wouldn't trust him with a film of my life story but, then again, my thirty-five years on this Earth have been largely absent of monsters, ghosts, aliens and zombies so I doubt he'd be interested anyway. He does his thing of the shambling undead as surely as he did in Resident Evil and its sequel but Extinction moves the story on a little. Whether or not Anderson took the criticism of the earlier films on board isn't something he makes clear in the extras on this disc but it's certainly a bloodier movie than Apocalypse, choosing to take the action off the city streets, out of the darkness and into the bright sunlight of the Mojave desert, where the bloodshed, bone and brain tissue stand out all the better. They also appear to use less CG, which makes for a more impressive set of fights and while Claire Redfield is no Jill Valentine, she's spared dressing in the costumes of the games, something that Anderson refused Sienna Guillory in Apocalypse.
But it's no smarter a film. In a reprise of Romero's scientists in Day Of The Dead, Extinction's toss a zombie a puzzle in a search for intelligence, however dimly it might burn. Romero had his zombie ponder the use of a razor blade but Anderson and Mulcahy throw theirs a child's toy, which is much more fitting a puzzle for their movie. And yet, like the two earlier films, it's quite proud of how daft it is. The irony in Resident Evil is that it's perfect audience would be the zombies it portrays on the screen. There is no more need for thinking it through than to watch it naked but I don't ever imagine that Anderson wants it too smart. The fight scenes are as inspired by The Matrix as they were in the first film and the effects have gotten a little better but any prompting of the new have surely come from the games rather than Anderson. The super-zombies owe more to how the games appear to have developed - being from an over-the-shoulder view of Resident Evil 4 and the trailer for this year's Resident Evil 5 - than any decision made by Anderson independent of Capcom while the very first Resident Evil plays its part in its crows and the Tyrant. Even Code Veronica is even raided for its bringing back Albert Wesker, previously seen vainly attempting to persuade an angry Tyrant but somehow rising through the ranks to take over the entire corporation. For a man who fashioned himself after Val Kilmer in Top Gun, that's not half bad.
What Resident Evil: Extinction has in common with the DVD releases is that looks great. The picture, brighter than it was in the earlier films, is clear, sharp and puts plenty of detail on the screen, most obviously in the zombie fight in Las Vegas. When a zombie finds his brain getting an airing courtesy of a shotgun, even the splatter that hits the lens is welcome while the sight of Carlos riding an oil tanker into an Umbrella facility surrounded by zombies is much sharper than one would have expected of it, certainly when comparing this to the two earlier films. Speaking of which, the CG and live-action is much better integrated than it was before - a couple of clips from Resident Evil really show this up - and the DVD shows this off with a very sharp image. The only problem is that Milla Jovovich appears to have been airbrushed throughout, looking more fake than the zombies she's fighting.
The DD5.1 audio track is slightly less impressive than is the picture, not using the rear channels as much as one thinks it ought to. There's far too much snarling of zombies from the front speakers and while there's a little spooky ambience from the rears, there's not enough of zombies jumping (or stumbling) out from behind the viewer and while there's very little wrong with the audio, it's not that great either. Finally, there are English subtitles throughout.
Commentary: Jeremy Bolt, Paul WS Anderson and Russell Mulcahy are the contributors for the commentary on this DVD. While there will be many who say that the world could have been saved from many a shit movie had a neurotoxin, a small bomb or, indeed, a zombie been sneaked into the room in which they were recorded, in the interests of keeping the Highlander, Resident Evil and AvP franchises going, Bolt, Anderson and Mulcahy appear to have been recorded separately and edited together to create a single commentary track, much like how the heads of major corporations and governments journey apart from one another. One dreads to think what might have happened to the three of them had they been together. Films might, when taken as an average, suddenly have gotten a whole lot better.
To be fair, the editing together of this commentary is pretty good and it took a listen-and-a-half to say that they weren't together. Although, even then, I might be wrong and perhaps the commentary was filmed on an off-day between them when they weren't actually talking to one another. However, they don't say a great deal. There's some pointing out of movie references (Mad Max 2, The Birds and the first Resident Evil film) and how the film ties into the game but Anderson seems to be the only one of the three who's played the games, talking about where this film fits into Capcom's series and how one connects to the others. However, there's not much else that's interesting about it, largely, I suspect, because Bolt, Anderson and Mulcahy aren't together. Mulcahy does mention Duran Duran, though, which is alright of him.
Deleted Scenes (8m28s): There are eleven deleted scenes, which fall into two categories, those set in the desert that feature the cast talking a lot but doing very little and those with Ian Glen making do with zombies in the underground Umbrella lab. There was quite enough of both already in the film and these would have added little to it.
Making Of... (31m05s): In a series of on-the-set interviews, Russell Mulcahy does make the occasional appearance but not half as many as Paul WS Anderson, which gives you some idea of from whom the creative juices are flowing. No matter that Anderson praises his director somewhat - "Umm...I liked Highlander!" is the be all and end all of it - it's the writer who's on the set talking about the games, about the movie and how his zombies have developed from the shambling undead of the original to the super-undead of Extinction. This look behind-the-scenes talks a little about the games but given that the movie bears so little resemblance to them, it's more a half-hour in which Anderson talks about what little he's fitted in from the games and why. The cast appear to complain about the heat and makeup during the shoot, although not much is heard from the extras passing out underneath their prosthetics, and there's some bits of the visual effects at the end but this isn't very much more than Anderson and some glimpses behind the scenes. And very little Mulcahy.
Finally, there are a few trailers/previews, including one for the CG film Resident Evil: Degeneration (1m01s), which doesn't look to be any better than the FMV included with the videogames and possibly even worse than the Resident Evil 5 preview, and a bunch for other DVD releases including Zombie Strippers, 30 Days Of Night and the video games Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and Devil May Cry 4.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 00:39:09