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Resident Evil:

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with an open-ended trilogy and a murder of zombie crows. That, you see, would be the one thing that Resident Evil: Extinction can add to the series, for those long-time harbingers of death have been feeding on infected flesh so long that they themselves have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

If you're new to Paul W.S. Anderson's daring-ish vision of a popular frightening videogame series, no need to worry. Though Anderson turned the directing reins over to Russell Mulcahy, things look pretty much the same and make no more sense than they absolutely have to if pinned against a wall by a skinless dog.

Then again, the videogame series must work pretty much the same way, and one of the hallmarks of Resident Evil is how much it feels like a videogame without being quite as insulting as an Uwe Boll film.

The film opens on Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakening naked in a shower, just as before. Making her way through a truncated series of obstacles seen in the first film, she gets killed in a reasonably clever fashion then dumped in a ditch full of herselves. If you know the mythos, you must understand that Alice has been cloned in the Umbrella Corporation's lackadaisically desperate efforts to find a cure for the T-Virus that has turned most of the Earth's surface into a zombie paradise.

But in the logic of an Anderson script, why the methods employed here are necessary never gets explained. If Alice's blood holds the key, why clone at least 80 versions of her and kill her over and over just so they can get a pint of warm blood? I'm pretty sure the Red Cross could achieve the same effect without the criss-cross lasers, random guillotines or Frisbee machine guns. Then a few days later, the same person still lives to give another warm pint.

Meanwhile, the real Alice rides across the desert on a motorcycle, Mad Maxine scouring for survivors. After a few set pieces that have no motivation but to cause us tension, it becomes apparent that Alice has a psychic connection with her clones. She has also learned to channel Yoda and/or Susan Storm at opportune moments, becoming psionically powerful in case of an attack. Of course, this costs her endurance, and in this post-apocalyptic world, random health blobs have become fewer and far between.

By coincidence, another group of survivors includes her companion from the second film, Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr). He's hooked up with Claire Redfield's (Ali Larter) convoy, fewer than thirty of the last Americans left alive.

So you get your murderous crows, and a strange sibilance every time a character mentions "infected fleshshshshshshshshhsh…" (This stands in for other acting tricks like, oh, acting.) Mulcahy allows for some really great fight scenes between survivors and zombies, though ultimately, it doesn't add up to much, nor particularly advance the plot. In fact, the two major plot goals both end up unresolved, proving that Anderson doesn't know how many films make up a trilogy.

It's goofy, but this never aspired to Romero-levels of cleverness. It's all reasonably pretty people being imperiled by disgusting zombie creatures, over and over, until none are left. Except it doesn't even go there, and it stacks the deck on Alice's prettiness levels, too.

Aside from fighting zombies in some smashing garters, Alice also has been digitally smoothed. Whenever the camera takes a close up, she has no pores. Whether this is meant as a subtle visual cue to her basic inhumanity (she is, after all, merely an Umbrella product), or just a comment on Jovovich's time as a make-up spokesperson seems unclear. Either way, she has fake flawless skin, all the more delicious for a zombie to crave.

Actually, it's a good image for the movie and Mulcahy's directing. On the surface, everything looks like it should be great. It's just sort of strangely smooth for a story that should be rough. But here, nothing really goes more than skin deep, except the tentacles on the level boss' claw.

Derek McCaw

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