Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Resident Evil: Extinction

Now, I wasn't expecting this to be good. But I did really like the first RESIDENT EVIL, which when removed from the eponymous video game it was based on was a stylish bit of zombie headbanger fun. And if nothing else, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez were easy to look at. There was even a cute German zombie with big, sad eyes.

And while the second one was bad, it did have its moments. Unfortunately, the moments consisted of absurd disregard for internal logic, such as having an airborne virus reanimate a graveyard full of desiccated corpses (not to mention having the living characters -- caught in a mass resurrection of the dead -- take a unclear-on-the-concept shortcut through said graveyard).

RE: III takes the muttonheaded moments of the latter and makes them shine in retrospect. This is one piss-poor excuse for a zombie flick. Mostly because zombies have almost nothing to do with the narrative. The living dead on display here serve mostly as background as unconnected vignettes unfold in the foreground.

Oh, wait... rewind. Did I say narrative?

The only sign of a story here is a low-rent MAD MAX convoy driving around the desert in circles, in a futile attempt to find some sort of a plotline to follow.

Seems that when the deadly T-virus that causes the living to go dead and come back all bitey exploded from the bowels of the Umbrella Corporation research labs, it also inexplicably caused all the water on the surface of the planet to dissipate. And since Aussie director Russell "Highlander" Mulcahy is at the helm, that means that the Australian post-apocalyptic mode is in effect: a spaghetti western featuring SUVs loaded with junkyard armor, roaring back and forth across a dustswept outback.

The sad thing is, they didn't even bother to erase the tire tracks from the previous takes, so that the vehicles seem to be following their own trail. An apt metaphor, I suppose.

Meanwhile, some mad scientist (you know right away that he's mad because he looks like a button-down version of David St. Hubbins from SPINAL TAP) under the employ of the ubiquitously evil corporation is cribbing scenes from George Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD as he trains zombies how to answer cellphones. Failing that, he trains them to be zombie berserkers. Because having damn near everyone in the world already zombified isn't enough for evil corporations.

While all that nonsense is unraveling, our Mad Maxine (Milla Jovovich) is back in her fetish gear, tricked-out this time for the desert. After periodic set-pieces that serve no narrative function, she joins the vagabonds to see if they've found a plotline to follow. They haven't, so she helps them fend off a flock of badly-rendered CGI zombie crows instead.

Unfortunately, if a digital zombie crow attack looks as primitive as the super-imposed analog from 1963's THE BIRDS, all that shows is that no one is even really trying.

Then it's back to driving around the desert again, although this time (about halfway into the 95 minute movie) they decide to go to a CGI version of Las Vegas.

Yay! Something's bound to happen in Vegas!

Um, no... Vegas is empty. Apparently whatever happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas. Seems that the zombie crows ate everyone left there, which is the biggest disappointment here... if you're going to have a zombie post-apocalypse set in Las Vegas, then you damn well better kick down with some zombie showgirls and a zombie Elvis or two. And a zombie Wayne Newton, damn it!

But no, none of that. So since there's no zombies in town, Dr. St. Hubbins loads up a cargo car full of hyper zombies and has a helicopter drop it down in the middle of our road worriers. Why? Damned if I know. I suppose since there's no plot, everyone has to resort to their own initiative... even if it doesn't make a lick of sense.

So Milla walks up to the cargo container, sticks her ear up against the door... and then the door drops down, unleashing a swarm of sprinting zombie clowns. Well... not really zombie clowns. But the amount of zombies that spills out of the container reminded me of the infinite number of clowns that jump out of a tiny car at the circus. Although they seemed more like timewarped zombies from NIGHTMARE CITY than what you'd expect to encounter in the Resident Evil series.

During this big zombie attack things almost get exciting, but unfortunately every damn one of the zombies in this flick are sporting so much latex and facial prosthetics that they sort of look like Halloween bobbleheads. It's hard to maintain the creeping dread with zombies that look like they're ready to bust a move from the THRILLER video. They could have saved on the budget by buying zombie masks off of eBay. All in all, it would've looked about the same. Actually, probably better... the makeup was pretty silly looking.

It doesn't help matters any that all the blood effects are done with really unconvincing CGI. You just don't do CGI blood in a zombie flick... it's just plain wrong.

But then, this is one CGI-happy movie. Even Milla's face gets the CGI treatment when they go to a close-up... she looks so airbrushed that her face should be on the side of a cruisin' van, not a movie screen. Every detail and contour is so washed out that it looks like her eyes, nose, and lips are floating in a placid pool of translucent skintone.

Finally, Milla gets fed up because the movie is almost over and they still haven't stumbled across a plotline, so she sends off what's left of the vagabonds to Alaska to see if there's one up there.

And then things get really silly, but then movie is almost over so it doesn't really matter. But if there's another sequel, the writer really has their work cut out for them.

Double damn.

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