Extinction starts out as an alien invasion movie. As one of the invadees, Michael Pena plays a family everyman. It’s nice to see him as something other than a Hispanic sidekick, comic relief, or a comic relief Hispanic sidekick. Lizzy Caplan plays his wife. It’s nice to see her as something other than a token female playing thankless second fiddle to a male lead. Hopefully I’ll get to see that in a movie soon, but until then, I watched Extinction.
Pena and Caplan have a couple of adorable kids, and some friends, and jobs, and a nice apartment. But then the alien invasion happens, at which point the movie has decisively entered its second act. Aliens shoot up the place. People run for their lives. Pena and Caplan fret about protecting their kids. The CG provides a couple of brief backdrops of the sort of urban destruction that would make parents fret about protecting their kids. So far, so so-so. But then a third act happens, which feels like someone stuck the wrong reel on the projector. Huh. Okay, movie. That’s what you want to do? You’re sure? Interesting decision. Not one I would have made, but you be you.
Director Ben Young’s last movie was a cruel Australian horror movie (is there any other kind of Australian horror movie?) called Hounds of Love. It was a rare “girl locked in a basement” movie that transcended that subgenre’s usual trash because of the performances, especially from a woman named Emma Booth as one of the villains. Miss Booth is also in Extinction, where she demonstrates her ability to look scared of special effects that will be added in post-production.
All the actors are just bland pawns in the service of the high concept sci-fi that you’ll take, whether you like it or not. You thought you showed up for an alien invasion yarn, but you’ll get no such thing. Instead, you’ll be asked to consider what really sets us apart as human beings. Philip K. Dick for dummies. You’ll be walloped on the noggin with a message about tolerance and acceptance and how we’re just like them, and vice versa, so don’t be prejudiced or racist or bigoted or any of those other things. Also, human rights. Also be nice to people in the service industry and cleaning ladies. Extinction would be especially topical if slave rebellions were topical. The movie ends with an underground railroad. A literal underground railroad. No metaphor needed. The writers seem to think the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad that went underground.
With Extinction, Netflix continues to assert itself as the premium provider of sci-fi that’s too awful even for Syfy. This latest in a long string of stinkers strives mightily for high-concept, bending over so far backwards to make its point that it gets its head stuck in an unfortunate orifice. Really, it’s just embarrassing for everyone involved, including me for watching the whole thing. Isn’t the point of Netflix that I should feel free to just turn off a crappy movie because there are hundreds of movies on Netflix I haven’t seen, some of which might not be awful? And yet, I’ve seen the entirety of Tau, Cloverfield Paradox, Anon, Bright, The Titan, How It Ends, and now Extinction. I can only take a few dozen more of these before I get the hint, Netflix.