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This review was originally published on SPOnG.com on 8 Oct 2007, at:

Resident Evil: Extinction - Movie Review [Oct 2007]



When it comes to making adaptations of video games, there’s always been a stigma about the movie industry. Atrocities such as Alone in the Dark, cheese-fests like Doom and the unwavering resolve of Uwe Boll (Alone in the Dark and, of course, German Fried Movie among others) is enough to give any gamer nightmares about the big screen for a lifetime.

You could say the madness began with the releases of Super Mario Bros and Mortal Kombat. The latter film kick-started the career of Paul W.S. Anderson as one of the go-to actors for game-to-celluloid translations. It would be fair to say that many of his projects have been hit and miss; in fact, that would be more than fair - I quote Event Horizon.

Resident Evil was one of the more respectable video game movies when it was released in 2002. As long as you detached yourself from the Capcom original it was a largely enjoyable, un-embarrassing zombie fest. While the second film, subtitled Apocalypse, was largely rubbish, that hasn’t deterred Anderson from giving it another go with the final film in the Resident Evil trilogy.

So, I found myself in front of Resident Evil: Extinction - da movie.

Unfortunately, while it has its upsides, it won’t exactly restore any faith in game-to-film adaptations. Taking a direct influence from Mad Max: The Road Warrior and Day of the DeadResident Evil: Extinction takes place in a post-apocalyptic planet Earth, which has now become a barren desert wasteland since the outbreak of the T-Virus.

The angelic Milla Jovovich returns as Project Alice, the heroine who has had her DNA fused with the deadly virus in the previous films. Here, she is trying to come to terms with her mutation while trying to help others who may have survived. In helping an armed convoy of thirty or so people to survive in the chaos, she learns of a new virus that breeds the 'Super Undead' (Super!). Think of these as your Crimson Heads mixed with Las Plagas – zombies that have been given a bit of their emotional and cerebral control back, which in turn makes them smarter, faster and more adaptable to surroundings.

Returning characters from past films such as Carlos (of Resident Evil 3 videogame fame) help Alice confront her inhibitions so that she can face Dr. Isaacs. The doctor has inadvertently created the new T-Virus when trying to stop the zombies from killing humans (isn’t it always the way?). Cue a rather (likely unintentionally) funny scene where scientists are training zombies to behave civilly.

Extinction also sees an appearance from some other video game characters, although they are largely underused. Claire Redfield is quite out of character as the leader of the armed convoy. She doesn’t trust Alice, according to the press release I have in my hand, but in the film this is merely represented in a few gruff lines of dialogue in a scene and a half. Worse is the introduction of Albert Wesker, who is relegated from his badass stature to more of a ‘chairman of the board’ character.

It’s not all bad news though. Director, Russell Mulcahy (Highlander and the wonderful Razorback) makes the most of the script with some great visual shots and an overall pleasing use of photography. There are, in fact, a few shocks and surprises that may knock you off guard and are better than the average horror film. Milla Jovovich is always good in the roles she commits to and does a good job as Alice - see the use of 'good' twice there... yeah.

Having heard what the producers and director had to say about the film though, even after post-production, it just seemed like Extinction was far too ambitious for its own good. I kept hearing about how Alice had to shadow the armed convoy and avoid contact with Claire Redfield and crew, but in the film it amounted to Alice ignoring a radio communiqué and then helping the convoy fight undead crows a scene later – not exactly shadowing... But hey!

There were appearances of other mutated creatures such as zombie dogs, but they were rather token in a film that largely focuses on Dr. Isaacs and the Umbrella Corporation. The tyrant is also in the film during a key battle sequence, which leads up to a pretty decent finale of the trilogy, but by and large the film feels like it’s missing something.

John W.S. Anderson claims that bending the rules of the original Capcom story makes for a much more fulfilling movie-going experience. This I can agree with, as certainly there’s no point watching a film of a game you’ve already played and know the ins and outs of. On the other side of the coin, perhaps the key to videogame adaptations is not to take an existing universe and create your own one out of it, but rather work with the game’s canon and build interesting side stories from that.

This is something Resident Evil: Extinction fails to do, in classic Anderson fashion. Even if you can detach yourself from the game series entirely, the film on its own doesn’t stand up to much. It’s an enjoyable watch for those who want a brainless zombie movie set in the desert, but it is just too derivative of other such films, and as such loses any of its own identity.

Resident Evil: Extinction opens in cinemas next Thursday. It’s worth a viewing if you want to finish off the trilogy, but by and large it’ll leave you wanting a bit more from it. For that, you're going to have to wait until Capcom's Resident Evil 5 eventually arrives on a console near you sometime next year..


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