Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.
Release Date: July 27th, 2018 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Ben Young Actors: Michael Pena, Lizzy Caplan, Amelia Crouch, Erica Tremblay, Alexander Shrapnel, Emma Booth, Lilly Aspell, Mike Colter, Israel Broussard
very day we go about our routines …” narrates Peter (Michael Pena), who goes on to say how people are used to the knowledge – and the comforting certainty – of knowing who they are, for whom they work, and all about the members of their family. These bits of information help to define humankind. Without such gauges for normalcy, people would fall apart. Peter thinks he has these things figured out, believing in the details of his wife Alice (Lizzy Caplan) and his children Hanna (Amelia Crouch) and Lucy (Erica Tremblay).
Soon, however, strange dreams begin to plague the government factory worker, though Pete is just as bothered by others’ assumptions that he’s suffering from sleeplessness and stress. Surely they’re worried over nothing. Nevertheless, his boss David (Mike Colter) insists that he visit a clinic called the Whole Life Wellness Center, which should help to straighten him out in no time. Peter is understandably reluctant, as the recurring visions of what appears to be an extraterrestrial attack not only involves his family but also sounds like the kind of nightmare that’s all in his head. “Something’s coming …”
The mystery of Peter’s visions doesn’t last long. Rather than toying with audiences or revealing steadily larger sequences to paint a more complete picture, an attack from outer space suddenly begins, causing significant destruction and unleashing murderous, robotic conquerors to stalk survivors through the darkened corridors of Peter’s housing complex. This isn’t the type of film to prod viewers into guessing at the truths; they’re revealed with action and violence, like a sci-fi thriller boilerplate.
The setting is lightly futuristic, particularly with architecture and technology, but not with clothing or household items, which aids in generating a familiarity that grounds the over-the-top events in a hint of reality. Once the mechanical monsters show themselves in brighter shots, and the invasion/extermination is fully underway, audiences are already comfortable suspending their disbelief. It also helps that the cinematography is better than expected; “Extinction” is a sharply photographed film, even if its plot and cast are of the B-movie variety.
Some of the computer-animated sequences aren’t as convincing, however, especially in comparison to the sci-fi adventures the picture resembles – such as “Impostor,” “War of the Worlds,” and “Cloverfield.” But the action isn’t bad, especially since the shootouts and assaults possess the scariness of the unknown; motives and intentions are mysterious and frightening. Unfortunately, to counter the forbidding locations and the unrelenting invaders is the problem of the annoying little child, who repeatedly runs off alone, ignores her parents, freezes during the middle of escape attempts, and blubbers continuously when her stupidity results in harrowing scenarios. “Daddy, I’m scared!”
There are some surprises, which twist the premise into an engaging message about concerns for the near future (and a parallel for today’s societal issues, such as xenophobia). And the clarification of flashbacks poses an interesting shift in the narrative, changing up the protagonists and antagonists to a significant degree. But by the end, “Extinction” feels as if it would work better as a pilot for a television series – perhaps chiefly because the conclusion is a mere setup for further tales in this speculative world.
– Mike Massie