When we join the protagonists of “Resident Evil: Extinction“, the 2007 iteration of the scifi/horror/action/video game adaptation franchise, things are not looking too good for the scattered inhabitants of this blue and green cosmic marble we call Earth.
The Umbrella Corporation‘s T-Virus has spread like wildfire across the globe, turning man and beast alike into undead shambling husks. The few people who have managed to stay alive and T-free have banded together and wander the planet struggling to acquire what few resources are left, puttering about in a post-apocalyptic environment which in no way resembles “Mad Max 2” (or the “Road Warrior”, if you are so inclined).
When we first meet our heroine, Alice (the always luminous and awesome Milla Jovovich), she’s been transported back to where we first met her – in the Umbrella mansion, passed out in a shower tray, wholly disoriented yet still fashion forward enough to recognize a good red frock when she sees one. She’s not the only one who’s confused – haven’t we been down this path before? Has Sony royally messed up and pressed me a copy of the first “Resident Evil” by mistake?
All rapidly becomes sort-of understandable when Alice steps through a door and finds herself in the Red Queen’s laser corridor from the Umbrella Hive facility in the first movie – she’s in the evil corporation‘s own version of the X-Men’s Danger Room and those body-cubing lasers are about to dice up like she’s the main ingredient in Alice stew. Evading that trap, and a few others, Alice is eventually caught out by another hidden obstacle and dies, very bloodied in front of us.
What the actual frak? Alice dead at the outset of the film? I call shenanigans!
As it turns out, our scepticism is wholly correct and the Alice whose gut-shot body is duly disposed of by Hazmat suit wearing Umbrella functionaries and tipped into a trench with other failed clones of Project Alice, in a striking image of scientific contempt for failed meat product which also recalls the similar, nightmarish discarded failed clones of Ripley in “Alien Resurrection“. Coinky-dink? With this franchise’s barely disguised worship of the Fox sci-fi series and Warrant Officer Ellen R., I suspect not.
If this all sounds a bit light on revisiting our established characters, you’re not all wrong – it does seem like quite a while into the brief running time of this second sequel before Alice enters the main plot and interacts with old friends and new protagonists alike. Alice, you see, is taking the lone hero route, possessed of the knowledge that Umbrella can track her movements and so choosing to stay clear of the path of their satellite tech so that she’s the only person who could be targeted when they inevitably catch up with her.
Of course, there’s the other compelling issue at hand – Alice’s abilities are developing apace and turning her into a lethal psionic killing machine, which rather precludes having people around you too much.
Fate will out, however, and after some preliminary life-and-death dust-ups with zombie dogs and redneck cannibal rapists (I’m assuming this is their intent – it isn’t particularly well-stated), Alice finds a book detailing radio transmissions received from Alaska which promise a Z-free haven where the infection hasn’t flourished yet, which sets her on a path intersecting with survivor Claire Redfield (the impressively tough Ali Larter) and old mate Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr – still fantastic) and their convoy of kids and bound for the chomp non-combatants.
If the “Resi” flicks wear their influences on their camo sleeves at all times, it should come as no surprise at all that this section of the movie manages to mash-up Hitchcock’s “The Birds” with the aforementioned George Miller sci-fi sequel. What does grate, slightly, is that this set-piece also finds time to bump off the convoy’s red shirts – debuting R&B star Ashanti and survivor of “Resident Evil: Apocalypse“, Mike Epps are dispatched with undue haste in a move which suggests that director Russell Mulcahy and the producers were unaware of just how popular horror cinema is amongst African-American movie-goers and that it might be nice to subvert the irritating genre trope of killing black characters and letting the suburban white kids survive more or less unscathed.
Observing all of these events from his underground lair is Iain Glen, turning in glorious moustache-twirling work as geneticist/suave madman Dr Isaacs, who wants Alice and her blood back so that he can engineer some kind of master race of ass-kicking supermodels (one assumes) to reclaim the earth from the biohazard horde he and his Umbrella colleagues have bequeathed to the planet.
Somewhat peripheral in the second film, Glen really gets to crank up the low-key, deranged villainy in earnest in this sequel, pitching his bad guy as lost between genuinely believing in the horrific science that he’s responsible for, trying to find a solution to the hell his work has wrought and dead-set on vengeance against Alice, the Umbrella I.P. loose in the wild, eluding the furthest grasp of the corporation’s technological eyes in the sky. I really enjoyed his work – he’s a despicable heel of a man who only becomes uninteresting once he gets gnawed on by a z-head and turns into the Tyrant, a gloopy, grossly self-regenerating bio-weapon from the games series.
You’ve got the idea – Alice versus monstrous tendril beast in the climax. You know who’s going to win that fight, so it becomes less than involving.
What is kind of fun is this series’ hallmark – closing on a big final image which drags you back to see the next movie, even if logic suggests that they can’t possibly live up to the promise of that last shot. In this go-round, we see Alice and a newly awakened clone of herself, having bested Tyrant Isaacs, about to wake up a veritable sports league worth of cloned Project Alice subjects and making ready to take the fight to Umbrella’s home territory of Japan, promising once and for all to wipe out series villain overlord Albert Wesker.
That leads us neatly to the next film in the series, “Afterlife”, which returns Anderson to the director’s chair and brings the chairman of the Umbrella Corporation fully into the fight – but I’m getting ahead of myself, that’s for the next post.
This film was a mostly enjoyable exercise in scares (there were cheap ones, but they worked), action (the scene in sand-drowned Las Vegas, with Alice slicing-and-dicing undead forces like a human food processor, all whirling blades and bad-assery) and mythos continuation. It gets a bad rap, which I can’t quite understand, as it’s nowhere near as ropey as the second one was when I viewed it for the previous post in this series.
Director Mulcahy stages action well, works brilliantly with long time series editor Niven Howie and uses locations to considerable effect – this is a horror movie set largely in the daylight and doesn’t get to rely on dark corridors and things lurking in the shadows to unceremoniously jolt the viewer until the end of the film.
I honestly don’t get where the antipathy comes from, other than from knee-jerk horror fan boys who can’t get over the fact that Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt aren’t making the films directly to their blog-post and forum comment specifications. A fun genre pic and fine series entry – best viewed loudly, on the biggest screen available to you.
- Resident Evil: Retribution Review (Kirk Haviland) (entertainmentmaven.com)
- “Resident Evil” week – Alice? What’s The Matter? (fluffrick.wordpress.com)
- ‘Resident Evil: Retribution': Clones, Again (Review) (popmatters.com)
- “Resident Evil” week – “Apocalypse” LOL (fluffrick.wordpress.com)
- Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) (horror-movie-a-day.blogspot.com)