Although hyped as “the third and final installment of the $100 million ‘Resident Evil’ trilogy,” “Resident Evil: Extinction” actually plays less like a continuation of the vidgame-inspired franchise than a throwback to ’80s post-apocalyptic programmers in the “Road Warrior” mode. Unfortunately, the new pic never really achieves maximum velocity as a full-throttle action-adventure opus, despite game efforts by returning star Milla Jovovich, still a lithe and lethal dynamo when it comes to butt-kicking, zombie-slicing derring-do. Genre fans may invade the megaplexes in sufficient number for decent opening weekend B.O. But homevid is where this threequel will score its biggest killing.
Scripted by co-producer Paul W.S. Anderson — who also helmed the first “Resident Evil” (2000) and wrote “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” (2004) — “Extinction” sustains a reasonable degree of narrative consistency while advancing a mythos that, with each new episode, has grown more expansive in scope.
In the original “Resident Evil,” Alice (Jovovich) was the first in her commando unit ordered to eradicate zombies, which were accidentally spawned by an experimental virus in a super-secret Umbrella Corp. underground lab.
Despite obvious budgetary restraints — lead characters spent much of their time traipsing through dank, dimly-lit hallways carpeted with dry-ice fog — the pic proved surprisingly popular, cuing a sequel that raised the stakes and increased the body count. “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” found Alice biogenetically enhanced by Umbrella Corp. scientists.
“Extinction” picks up a few years later. The virus has spread throughout the world, and the hordes of hungry outnumber the bunches of barely living. Alice motorcycles through depopulated wasteland, avoiding contact with other non-zombies — “People have a habit of dying whenever I’m around!” — while dodging satellite surveillance by the Umbrella Corp. masterminds. (Most exteriors were shot in Mexicali, Mexico.)
But the vagaries of fate — and the contrivances of the script — lead Alice to join a motley crew of survivors in a makeshift convoy of buses, trucks and vans.
The good news: Alice has developed super strength and telekinesis. The bad news: An egomaniacal Umbrella Corp. scientist (Iain Glen) is determined to recapture Alice and tap her DNA for nefarious purposes.
Oscar-winning production designer Eugenio Caballero (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) earns major kudos for enhancing the pic’s most impressive set pieces in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas largely reclaimed by the desert. Familiar Vegas landmarks — including casinos and a faux Eiffel Tower — just barely emerge from the sand.
But there’s a dispiriting air of been-there, seen-that familiarity to many of the extended human-versus-zombie smackdowns. Director Russell Mulcahy (“Highlander,” “The Shadow”) gets serviceable work from his stunt crew, but the fight scenes simply aren’t shot, edited and choreographed with enough pizzazz to quicken pulses or spring surprises.
Jovovich again displays more physicality than personality, but that’s all her role requires. The sketchily written supporting characters are defined entirely by the actors who portray them. Standouts include “Apocalypse” returnee Oded Fehr and “Heroes” co-star Ali Larter as convoy leaders, and Glen (recently seen to better effect in musical drama “Small Engine Repair”) as a researcher who wants to “domesticate” zombies for use as a cheap labor force.
Latter plot wrinkle is one of the pic’s few stabs at wink-wink satire. Another clever touch: The chief villain is dispatched with a boobytrap reprised from the first “Resident Evil,” thereby bringing a satisfying sense of closure to the franchise.