For what it was, the first Resident Evil movie was pretty entertaining. At the time it came out there wasn't much going on with zombie films, and it provided a fix for fans of the genre. Inspired by the video game of the same name, the first Resident Evil borrowed heavily from the mythology created in George A. Romero's zombie classics, while simultaneously bypassing the intelligence and the relevant social commentary. The sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse used the same formula, only without any of the good parts, resulting in a craptacular mess of epically stinky proportions--as well as some dumb-ass, Rawhead Rex-looking monster. And now comes the third installment in the franchise, Resident Evil: Extinction, which is not nearly as good as the first film, but doesn't suck ass quite as much as the second film.
Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, the mutated ass-kicker from the previous films, who has been waging a one-woman war against the undead and the evil Umbrella Corporation. For those of you new to the story, the Umbrella Corporation is an evil organization responsible for the T-virus, a biological weapon that brings the dead back to life (as well as creates all sorts of bizarre mutants, like slimy dogs with metal teeth). In the first film, the T-virus wiped out an entire underground complex, turning all of the Umbrella employees into flesh-hunger zombies, and by the film's end the virus had broken free to Raccoon City. In RE:A, the Umbrella Corporation fought to contain the outbreak within the confines of Raccoon City. But since that movie sucked so bad, I have tried to erase most of it from my memory. But if memory serves me correctly, Alice, having been the sole survivor of the initial outbreak, somehow becomes some sort of mutated superwoman. At least that's what she is by the time we get to RE:E.
It has been five years since the first outbreak brought the dead back to life, and the entire planet has been decimated. For reasons that only seem to be a plot devices, the T-virus has caused most plant life to die, and bodies of water have dried up. Most of the planet is now a vast desert. In one of the Umbrella Corporation's many underground facilities, the nefarious mad scientist Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) is conducting sadistic experiments on Alice. The big surprise, however (and I'm sorry to ruin this for you), is that he is really conducting experiments on clones of Alice. It seems that Isaacs is convinced that within Alice's blood there is a cure to the zombie plague, which will make the undead more intelligent, and therefore trainable. (This not only makes Isaacs a mad scientist who is nefarious, but also a complete idiot). While Isaacs is trying to domesticate his zombies, the real Alice is tooling around the desolate wasteland that is America. Exactly what she is doing (other than avoiding zombies and the Umbrella Corporation, of course) is never really explained, so it's best to assume that she is on some sort of spiritual quest of enlightenment. Alice has a few zany misadventures involving zombies, zombie dogs, and some inbred, post-apocalyptic rednecks.
Alice, however, is not the only person having zany adventures with zombies. No, there is also an entire caravan of survivors led by Claire (Ali Larter), searching for some sort of safe haven. This rag-tag group of misfits includes the requisite gun-toting ass-kickers, sad-faced survivors of the mankind's downfall, and Mike Epps as a token expendable black guy who is so annoyingly stupid we want him to die sooner rather later. For people who have been surviving on the road for years, with limited food supplies and zombies everywhere, these scrappy go-getters all look relatively healthy and well-fed. Although Alice has been trying to keep to herself, she manages to stumble across Claire and her crew, just as they are being attacked by zombie crows. Yes, that's what I said--zombie crows!!! Because things can't get much more stupid than zombie crows--at least one would hope they couldn't--the action shifts to Las Vegas, now buried in sand after five years, where the survivors are hoping to find enough gas to make the long drive to Alaska, which may be free of zombies. Unfortunately, Isaacs has been able to track Alice via satellite, because she keeps using her massive psychokinetic powers. (Is this one of those things from the last move I'm forgetting about?) In Vegas, Isaacs dispatches an army of slightly-more-intelligent zombies to capture and/or kill Alice. Of course, these more intelligent zombies--made this way by be injecting them with a serum derived from the blood of Alice's clones--are not really any smarter, just faster, stronger and more aggressive. Which makes them either more like bionic zombies, or an element ripped off from other undead flicks like the remake of Dawn of the Dead.
While there are no doubt people who will be entertained by Resident Evil: Extinction, it is important to note that some people are also entertained by smelling their own farts. And if whiffing the flatulence of others is your idea of fun, then you'll likely love RE:E, because it is a lot like smelling the collective farts of all the people involved in making this mess. While director Russell Mulcahy should bear his share of the blame for this garbage, the real guilt party would be screenwriter Paul W.S. Anderson, who wrote and directed the first film, and wrote the sequel. Anderson, whose skills are questionable at best, steals several of RE:E's key elements directly from Romero's Day of the Dead. And when I say steal, I mean that he flat-out rips-off Day of the Dead with absolutely no shame whatsoever. And then of course he also rips-off Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, although that could be considered more of an homage-gone-wrong. But the real sin of Anderson's writing is the way he casually disregards any sort of intelligence. In other words, his script is just plain stupid. And not that the first Resident Evil was a work of genius, but you never got the impression the writer was drooling on himself while picking his nose.
With a cast of characters that seem to have been cobbled together from pieces of cardboard found in a recycling bin, Resident Evil: Extinction barely qualifies as so-bad-it's-good. Sure, there are some moments that kinda/sorta almost pass for entertaining, but those are few and far between. The most interesting part of the film is trying to figure out what is wrong with Milla Jovovich's face. Seriously, if you are stupid enough to go see this film, pay close attention to Milla's face in almost all of the close-up shots. Her skin is so flawless that she almost looks computer generated. It is one of the freakiest things I've ever seen. It's made all the more freaky because her skin is visibly different in medium and wide shots. But check her out in those close-ups, and then tell me she doesn't look like her skin has been enhanced by CGI.
Resident Evil: Extinction is not nearly as bad as the second film in the series, but that is not a ringing endorsement. Mulcahy's direction is stylishly pedestrian, and thanks to Anderson's shit-for-brains script, the film is never able to do more than provide a few frightening jolts punctuated by loud instrumentation. RE:E is the sort of film that wants to deliver entertainment for people who don't want to think, and there's really nothing wrong with that. But there is a difference between providing fun for the unthinking, and being just plain brain-dead.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]