Netflixable? “Extinction” asks the sci-fi question, “Apocalypse Again?”

 

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Peter is having nightmares — unexplained air attacks on his corner of futurecity, bloody beatings delivered to some unseen threat.

His children are worried. His wife?

“Please see someone!”

His boss, David? “There’s this clinic…”

But these dreams, maybe they mean something. Maybe they’re a warning. Maybe he’s not crazy, just driving his wife crazy with his visions of the coming apocalypse.

“You see that? That light?”

“Extinction” is about The Day the World Ended. Again.

And it’s about that paranoid feeling that someone — something — is watching you, even though you’re arguing that this isn’t just in your head.

“It IS just in your head!”

Peter’s not alone, but meeting somebody else who “can’t sleep” just shows him how paranoid he looks.

Michael Peña stars as a maintenance tech in a high rise near future, one of the few “crazy” people having nightmares about the attack that — twenty minutes into “Extinction” — comes.

But when it comes, objects dropping from the sky, weird craft strafing and bombing everything and everyone, can Peter tell it’s not just another nightmare? And will he have the chance to tell his wife (Lizzy Caplan) “I TOLD you so!”

“Is THIS what you saw?”

What is attacking them? Tentacled flying machines, glimpses of buggy looking helmeted soldiers, insectoid space suits, armed with with long bayonets.

Peter’s quest is as simple as it gets — finding his kids, finding his wife, getting out of a high rise that’s under-assault and gutted, with scattered panicked survivors and unknown attackers keeping them from “the factory” where he works and where his dreams told him they might be safe.

“Extinction” features convincing mayhem, reasonably realistic panic, a global assault rendered personal by the myopia of focusing on this family and some neighbors, fighting to survive.

It’s generic “aliens invade” fare, another “Skyline” or “The Invasion” with smoky ruins,  tracer bullets and brawls, but also dream interpretation and a fun twist on the family dynamic. Wife Alice is the sane, smart one, the tougher one  — the one who picks at Peter’s memories, gets him to dissect his dreams to see what they can do that might save them.

And then there’s that invader that Peter (mainly Lizzy) bested in a brawl — unseen behind his cracked helmet visor, disarmed because Peter has figured out how to hack the ID on this personalized assault rifle so he can use it — an invader for whom hunting them down is personal.

That’s not smart. Anything that stops or slows the forward–motion in a movie like this is bad, because the moment we have a time to daydream, we ponder this whole tedious business of invading, shooting victims one by one, building by building, floor by floor. Why would anybody go to the trouble?

Aliens? Their superior tech makes resistance futile, and lop-sided in the extreme. Why wouldn’t they just bomb or vaporize the works?

Terminators? Our own machines? Why wouldn’t they just electronically shut down civilization and monitor our dying out?

The reveal here is surprising enough, but anticlimactic in the extreme. A downer. Everything after it? Exposition, over-explaining. This is no “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Why pretend it is?

Peña has made a fine living, sucking up the lion’s share of “Latino supporting player” roles in comedies (“Ant Man”), action films (“Shooter”), cop pics and war films and everything in between.

He was good as Cesar Chavez in the bio-pic that offered him a rare solo starring role.

Here, he’s bland, under-emoting in the face of terror and fronting a middling actioner that isn’t as thought-provoking as its creators expected, as surprising as they think it’s “twist” is and isn’t smart enough to get out of its own way.

1half-star

MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence

Cast: Michael Peña, Lizzy Caplan, Mike Colter

Credits:Directed by Ben Young, , script by Eric Heisserer. A Good Universe/Mandeville/Netflix release.

Running time: 1:35

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3 Responses to Netflixable? “Extinction” asks the sci-fi question, “Apocalypse Again?”

  1. beas1987 says:

    Did you watch the film? The twist was original enough, the motives behind not simply obliterating the planet from orbit also present. Granted, as with all sci-fi, a measure of suspension of disbelief is needed to get past certain tropes, but isn’t that half the fun? Wondering what If things really were this way? Bigger budget movies have been guilty of far worse and given better reviews. Unfortunately this review comes across a little snobby and dismissive. A shame.

    • God save me from wags who think “Did you watch the film” is a proper response to a movie review they disagree with. “Fun” doesn’t enter into it, does it? Or “Did you watch the film” yourself?

  2. Justin says:

    Under-emoting? He’s playing a robot that wiped his memories after the humans were driven away. How exactly would you expect him to emote?

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