There’s no point in expecting anything new in this third installment of the video-game-based franchise. “Resident Evil: Extinction” features some more of what the first two movies offered—Milla Jovovich, as superwoman Alice, fighting zombies created by a terrible virus (though she’s too often clothed in a coat and baggy scarf this time around to suit some of us)—but there’s actually less of that than you might expect. To me the result is even more boring than it was the first couple of times, but obviously there’s an audience out there that disagrees and will probably lap it up.
Once again, the script is penned by long-time “R.E.” fan Paul W.S. Anderson, who continues expanding the territorial compass of the mayhem. The first movie was mostly set in an underground sewer beneath the nasty Umbrella Corporation’s labs, and the second (subtitled “Apocalypse”) moved the action to the whole of Raccoon City, the place where the facility is based. Now “Extinction” makes the infection a worldwide phenomenon, though most of the movie is set in the Nevada desert, where there are endless shots of a ragtag caravan of survivors with whom Alice joins up—among them some old friends like Carlos (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps), along with newcomers like Claire (Ali Larter), Betty (Ashanti) and Mikey (Christopher Egan)—speeding across the dunes. Intercut with these outside sequences is the sinister side of things inside the underground Umbrella installation where the evil Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) is trying to domesticate the zombies via experiments using blood from Alice clones he creates and then sends out to fight his specimens. So the picture comes off as sort of a cross between “Mad Max” and “Day of the Dead,” though markedly inferior to both.
Another difference, apart from the broader canvas, lies in the directors. The first effort was directed by Anderson himself—and very poorly (he also oversaw “Mortal Kombat,” “Event Horizon” and “Soldier”). The second found one Alexander Witt in the driver’s seat, and he proved no better. This episode is guided by a man with a real eye—Russell Mulcahy, who helmed the initial “Highlander” movie back in 1986—far from a good film, but very stylishly made—and then the silly but visually flashy thriller “Ricochet” (1991) with Denzel Washington and John Lithgow. (To be sure, his career has been in a slump since the Hollywood bombs “The Shadow” and “The Real McCoy,” but his music videos have been classy.)
Unfortunately, Mulcahy’s presence makes little difference. He gets to show off in a few places—an opening tussle between Alice, some thuggish human survivors and a pack of zombie dogs; a desert set-piece in which the caravan is attacked by thousands of infected crows (which proves that Hitchcock did this sort of thing much better forty years ago, especially since the effects here are distinctly third-rate); an extended fight in a Las Vegas returned to its desert roots; and a final showdown between Alice and Isaacs, who’s been transformed into a mutant that looks suspiciously like Swamp Thing—but for the most part he has do make do with endless scenes of people cautiously moving down darkened hallways searching for zombies, who inevitably jump out into the frame in typical “gotcha” moments that are likelier to cause yawns than shivers. Mulcahy isn’t helped by the dull, grainy cinematography by David Johnson, or by Charlie Clouser’s uninspired score.
Nor by the cast. All Jovovich ever offered in this role was her figure and her agility, and she still does, but the effect isn’t quite as impressive as it once was. Fehr and Epps are no better this time around either, and Glen’s Snidely Whiplash routine seems phoned in (the actor also looks very unhappy encased in his heavy last-act makeup). As for Larter, one could wish for something from the “Heroes” star beyond the strutting machismo she exhibits here. It’s nice, though, to know that despite all the difficulties of the survivors’ situation, Claire is still a fashion plate—she sports cute little earrings though she seems to forego makeup.
This is supposed to be the last installment of the series, and though the ending leaves room for a fourth episode, by this time even the most rabid fan must be losing interest. Like Claire’s caravan of trucks, “Resident Evil” has really run out of gas, and Alice, like Ripley before her, should retire undefeated.