Netflix's Extinction Review
Netflix's sci-fi bent is still a definite plus
Netflix up their game slightly with the engaging little sci-fi thriller, Extinction.Rumoured to have been groomed for a theatrical release, this is still a modestly budgeted affair, reminiscent of Skyline and its sequel Beyond Skyline, but gifted a few nice invasion effects and the trademark glossy sheen of the now clearly sci-fi dominated streaming giant, Netflix.
It follows Michael Pena's hard-working family man, distanced from his wife and daughters by terrible visions of bloodied hands; haunting nightmares of citywide destruction that are driving him slowly crazy. It doesn't take long for his dreams to come to devastating life, as a massive alien invasion reigns literal terror on the urban landscape, forcing him (and his wife, played by Lizzy Caplan) to engage unlikely hero mode if they want to escape the chaos with their loved ones intact.
A limited budget Die Hard vs. Skyline.
Extinction could have likely done with a better title (anything would have sounded less generic), and could have very easily been slow-burned at the outset to afforded a more ambiguous look at a protagonist potentially going crazy with visions that no-one around him share - which could better be blended with the events of the final act - but instead it goes straight for the jugular, tearing right into siege mode as it sees the family put through the wringer by humanoid assailants scouring the darker corridors to wipe out earth's inhabitants one by one.
It's an ostensibly nuts-and-bolts affair, initially stripped down to the bare essentials of a limited budget Die Hard vs. Skyline narrative and given little room to breathe in its 95 minute runtime, as it tears from one tense situation to the next, before finally giving way to a far more interesting plot beneath that arguably deserves its own movie.
Bathing the entire film in unforgiving darkness mitigates the budgetary restrictions, leaving effects inherently easier to implement with some degree, but also coming at the expense of anything approaching clarity as to what is actually happening when things kick off (even with Dolby Vision working overtime to illuminate the shadows).
Luke Cage's Mike Coulter pops up to further the conspiracy, but twists come towards the end of the second act which don't leave enough time for things to fully gestate, although the ultimate reveal is a gem, reframing much of what has come before and giving the film a late-stage surge in energy which helps (re)define it. Indeed, stick with it past the frenetic first half and it proves really quite rewarding, but only for those who have the patience.
Extinction gets points for delivering a few modestly Twilight Zone-esque concepts.
Nonetheless, Extinction gets points for trying hard and at least remaining focused and coherent (unlike Mute), avoiding predictability and overt cliche (unlike Tau) and delivering a few modestly Twilight Zone-esque concepts, which benefits the final act's revelations no end.
Without a little more refinement it's hard to see how this could have really made for a wide theatrical release, but at least it's finally heading in the right direction towards the standards set by Annihilation, giving hope that maybe the streaming giant isn't content with being just about quantity over quality and may indeed be capable of escaping their reputation for having a benchmark of perpetual mediocrity.
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