Extinction Is the Best Movie in the Franchise

Only recently, I wrote about the Resident Evil film I like the least. So — it’s only fair to balance that with the one I like the most, right?

Resident Evil Extinction isn’t very Resident Evil in much the same way the rest of the series isn’t. It misses the mark while oaying arbitrary lip service to the games. But the choice to make Extinction embrace what the film franchise had been all about makes it stand out.

Razorback and Highlander director Russell Mulcahy took on directorial duties for Extinction. The tone shifted once again in a franchise that didn’t like to settle on one, much like it didn’t like to be cohesive from a narrative stance. The live-action Resident Evil franchise is like a cat that can’t decide where it’s going to nap for the next couple of hours, so it wanders around the house meowing like a little weirdo.

But it looks most snug and content in the sandpit, Resident Evil Extinction. In the aftermath of Resident Evil Apocalypse, the T-Virus has run riot through America. 5 years on, a band of survivors — including Carlos Oliveira (Oded Fehr) and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) — travels in a caravan through a destroyed Nevada. They then come into contact with Milla Jovovich‘s super-powered heroine Alice. Together, they seek to head for Alaska in hopes of a safe haven.

Since those fateful events, Alice has been traveling alone, seeking out what’s left of Umbrella. But she is drawn into the lives of the survivors during a spectacular attack by zombie crows in Las Vegas. It’s genuinely one of the best action scenes in any of the films.

Before that, Alice falls into the trap of a leery bandit family, but gains swift vengeance. It’s a shame the desert wasteland apocalypse doesn’t get any further outings than this because the series struck gold with a Mad Max action horror movie template (The Road Warrior was naturally a big influence). This scene is undeniably goofy, but it sells the idea humanity has gone down the toilet in the wake of a zombie apocalypse far better than later films.

A Good Day

Credit: Screen Gems

A lot of what occurs in Resident Evil: Extinction can be traced back to another film. George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, is also a third entry in a zombie saga. Extinction shares many similarities with Romero’s doomiest, gloomiest of Dead movies. Nowhere is that more apparent than in a subplot about trying to domesticate zombies. They even replicate that movie’s scene with the zombie ”Bub” using a telephone (”Say hello to your Aunt Alicia!”).

I’m pretty fond of that film. Considering how many awful Day of the Dead remakes and sequels there are? Extinction is the best of the lot in an unofficial capacity.

One of the strengths of the live-action Resident Evil movies in this saga is that they have some undeniable visual style. Maybe only in fits and starts, but it’s there. In Extinction, the desolate desert wastes of Vegas have notable landmarks half-buried in sand, and the film’s color scheme is enough to make you feel a little thirsty looking at it.

The crew certainly felt that way as the heat on the shoot reached highs of 130 degrees, causing dehydration to be a regular problem.

As the film reaches its climax, it starts to fall apart. The introduction of what is essentially a Tyrant is one to add to the extensive list of disappointing Resident Evil monster debuts on the big screen. It threatens what the series will become. But this wobble doesn’t quite upset the runaway minecart.

Like many other Resident Evil fans, I have a complicated relationship with the films, but one thing has remained steadfast over the years: I really like Resident Evil: Extinction.

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