Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Extinction Is Dreadful Science-Fiction Fare That Puts Dumb Twists Before Everything Else (SPOILERS)
I assume Extinction is the result of two people having very different ideas for science-fiction thrillers, with one idea being about a guy who sees's visions of an impending disaster and the other concerning a family trying to survive an alien attack. So taken away with both of these ideas, the two people decided to merge them into one movie without figuring out first if the two separate ideas would actually work together properly as a singular property. Turns out, mushing these two concepts into one movie, along with shoving in a nonsensical climax overstuffed with big twists, results in a total dud of a movie, one that just gets worse the longer it drags on.
The storyline about a man named Peter (Michael Pena), having visions of a horrifying future alien invasion get the bulk of the focus of the first twenty minutes of Extinction and this is where the film shows the most promise, though even here cracks in the ointment can be found, most notably in how Peter's two daughters basically have no personality beyond one being found of a talking monkey doll named Herman and one having an affinity of elevators. The shallow nature of these two characters and the cast in general becomes a crippling flaw once it's far too quickly revealed that Peter's visions are coming true as alien invaders begin to take over their town.
Now it's a race to survive as Peter and his family run around their apartment complex and try to avoid the clutches of evil aliens in high-tech ships in the Skyline remake nobody was asking for. As the aliens begin to invade, the low-budget nature of the proceedings get reinforced by drab sets and the cheap looking outfits worn by the aliens, director Ben Young really shows no creativity in managing to create something visually pleasing on a low-budget. Anna Rose Holmer had no problem executing numerous moments of inventive camerawork and unique imagery on a much lower-budget with her 2016 feature The Fits, so a low-budget does not mean you have to sacrifice visual ingenuity, meaning there's no real excuse for why Extinction looks like a SyFy original movie
With the characters being a snooze and the whole thing having all the visual splendor of an abandoned brick wall, Extinction becomes pretty tedious by the half-hour mark and we've still got an hour to go! Once Peter's wife, Alice (played by Lizzy Caplan, God, why can't we get her better movies to be in?), suggests they go through the cities tunnel system (Alice's sole defining trait is that she knows about the cities tunnel system) to get to a safe haven, the plot twists begin piling up as a way for the movies writers to attempt to distract you from how unengaging the main story and characters are. The first big twist is that the alien invaders are...humans??? Wow, the real enemy was man, really makes you think, huh?
This is revealed by way of one invader taking pity on Peter and his family and helping them get to the safe haven. Here, he reveals he knows how to help a mortally wounded Alice, which leads to the other big twist of the whole thing. Peter, Alice, their two kids and everyone else on Earth is a robot. Yes, this is really where Extinction goes with its plot. Suddenly, an extended flashback sequence that goes on forever bends over backward trying to make this abruptly introduced story element make any sense at all. Whereas the best twist endings build upon previously established plot details, Extinction just introduces the entire concept of robotics, as well as the idea of robots being a stand-in for disenfranchised communities and the fact that humans moved to Mars, in the home stretch of its story.
Good twist endings need to have a bigger point to their existence beyond just being twists, they need to serve to enhance the characters and story at large. Extinction just dumps a whole bunch of sludge in the face of the viewer in lieu of any greater depth, a dismal storytelling decision that, on top of everything else, leaves the viewer with big twists that don't make any sense at all. Like, we see Peter and Alice discover their robot daughters right after a big human vs. robots war fifty years ago and they're the same age then as they are in the present day segments of the movie! Even if the robots got their memories wiped to make them think they were human, wouldn't it be suspicious that these two kids haven't aged in fifty years? Did anyone think this through on the most basic level? Why can't we find better movies for Michael Pena and Lizzy Caplan to headline? Why does Extinction end with a bizarre scene of good guy characters overtly preparing for war with the humans only to immediately follow it up with sappy narration from Michael Pena about how "I've met the enemy and he isn't so different from me?" Extinction leaves one with so many questions to ponder and they're all related to just how bad this science-fiction thriller is. At least the dreadful Skyline had the decency to deliver one moment of fun in a lead character smashing an aliens head in with a cinder block as operatic music played.