We live in the future. Smartphones that are essentially Tricorders from Star Trek, Devices that we can talk to and give commands to which they immediately comply. With the advent of all of this great technology, we also happen to have services that allow us to watch movies and TV shows on demand. There is zero hesitation in serving up this content save for the occasional buffering time. What happens when you set out to make a movie and then debut it on one of these streaming services without clear direction of what type of movie you’re actually making? A Netflix “Original” Movie. And that movie in this instance is “Extinction”.
Where To Begin?
There. I said it. When I sat down to write this review, I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it. The preview instantly caught my attention. I mean, just look at it:
Looks fairly decent right? After watching “The Open House” and the absolute mess of a disaster movie “How It Ends“, I was ready to cleanse my pallet. Later I found that this was not a Netflix Original at all but was simply sold to them. I really hope that Netflix doesn’t turn into the “Direct to DVD” bin of the streaming services. That should always be Crackle. Sorry, that was a shameless dig at Crackle. But Extinction should have been better.
Extinction in a nutshell:
Director: Ben Young
Cast: Michael Peña, Lizzy Caplan, Mike Colter, Emma Booth, Israel Broussard
A father has a recurring dream of losing his family. His nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction. Fighting for their lives, he comes to realize an unknown strength to keep them safe from harm.
I’ve watched Michael Peña in several roles over the years. He’s a solid actor. Same with Lizzy Caplan and Mike Colter. Casting Michael, Lizzy and Mike simply wasn’t enough. It didn’t give me anything I was looking for passed the initial premise. Michael plays Peter, a husband plagued by nightmares and working a seemingly dead end job. Lizzy stars as Alice, an engineer and wife to Peter. Mike Colter plays David, Peter’s supervisor and friend. Honestly, the performances just seemed so…stiff. And not in a way that compliments the story. Speaking of the story…
You have now entered the SPOILERS ZONE:
Like River Song warns, Spoilers. If you don’t want the movie spoiled, skip passed because I’m about to ruin everything. I previously mentioned that the performances of the lead actors seemed stiff and not in a way that compliments the story. When this movie drops it’s bomb of a twist that all of the main characters are actually A.I. driven androids that have become self aware and the “alien” invaders are actual humans, It is a pretty shocking moment. I’ll even give them proper execution of the flashback scene that spins the “It was never a premonition but a memory” trope pretty solidly. But then after that. it All. Falls. Apart.
Extinction took me on a bad rollercoaster ride. It started out as a bit Total Recall-esque, morphed into Intergalactic Red Dawn, spiced in a dash of something out of The Terminator and then dove deep into a live action The Animatrix. Except this is the Dumb Animatrix. At many points, the story seems to be a product of some of the laziest writing.
Three prime examples of lazy writing:
- Earlier in the movie, Peter is working at…wherever it is he’s working at. He has a nightmare/premonition/memory and realizes that he’s shorted out whatever it is he’s working on. See, he’s an electrician and he explains to his David that “the current split and blew up both the systems”. He just replies that it’s nothing and that he’ll fix it.
- After recovering an “alien” weapon that is “biocoded to it’s owner” Peter figures out how to bypass it. How does he bypass it? By grabbing a random wire that is laying on the ground. He has to change the current to make it usable by anyone.
- After Alice is injured and the big reveal happens that they are all androids the whole time… and the “aliens” are humans coming back to try and get the planet back… the human (played by Israel Broussard who’s character is named Miles) explains that she needs an alternative power source. “That means you!”. He then tells Peter to cut open his chest and to connect himself with this little cable tube fiber optic thing so he can give her power (more on this whole sequence in a moment.) but before connecting in he says… you guessed it “By doing this, the current could split and kill both of you!”.
At that point I just threw my mental hands up. I mean, I know we’re talking sci fi and we are supposed to suspend some disbelief here but I just kind of gave up for the second or third time by this point. I feel the last one was a complete blown opportunity in regards to the big reveal.
Speaking of the Big Reveal
Extinction. Oh what could have been. When it is revealed that the alien that is tracking Peter and his family down looks human under his very alien looking armor, it is a bit jarring. “The resistance” captures him and his execution is ordered almost immediately. After noticing that Alice is mortally wounded and the doctors don’t know what to do, the prisoner starts yelling that he can fix her. “I had to learn everything about you people. I have ways”. And then the most ridiculous thing happens. Pena says “DON’T KILL HIM!” And the high level military response is essentially: “Oh… okay. negates all security protocol but… I like the cut of your jib Mr I DON’T KNOW I’M AN ANDROID YET, MAN… but for you.. sure….. he lives. He doesn’t have a tracker on him, probably… it’s fine it’s fine”
He is cleared to perform the surgery and we finally find out that they are Androids. Every one of em. There is a moment where Miles is acting as the writers of the movie. He cuts Alice open, pulls out a tube and says “oh man.. this is bad”. Peter, after seeing electronics and a floating tube where I would imagine Alice’s spleen should be, responds “Wait…what…what is that!? What’s inside her!?”. Miles simply responds with a look. no explanation, just this look.
He eventually replies “You.. you really don’t know what you are?!” to which Peter can only reply with this face:
Here is something that I was hoping they’d do. Peter is told that in order to get his wife the proper power, he needs to cut himself open. Stabbing himself in the chest to begin the incision. When he does, there is the weird staring game that the two men play. We are then treated to the new trendy rotating the camera effect when things get flipped upside down on the character. I was expecting that the human soldier was fooling him just to get Peter to kill himself. But nooooope. The viewing audience is forced to accept the “split circuit” technobabble.
The rest of the movie starts with a flashback to Peter remembering a news broadcast about A.I. becoming self aware, then through flashbacks, we see the A.I. becoming self aware in the most boring way. It also appears that they try throwing in a narrative paralleling A.I. based androids to immigrants and the LGBT community (What? Do we let them marry? Suddenly they want rights? We need to round them up and shut them down by any means necessary, etc). Except they do this narrative poorly.
The final blow
UGH! I wanted to like you, Extinction. I really did. But I just can’t. The rest of the movie showcases how humans were run off the planet during the dumb animatr…. the Android uprising. We fled to Mars (because we can apparently), and the Android freedom fighters that didn’t want the guilt of ruining mankinds Earth Party had their memory flashed. Ultimately they retreat underground because “well be back”.
So there you have it. What should have been a fun ride on Space Mountain ended up being “It’s a Small World”. But hey, it allowed me to use two Arnold Schwarzenegger gifs in one article so I’ll call that a win!