The onslaught of new Netflix movie content continues with the release of the Sci-Fi drama of Extinction. There were high hopes at the end of last year when the company announced that over seventy new movies would be released on the platform in the coming year. The anticipation has been flattened somewhat as each film is released and the response has been less than enthusiastic. It’s doubtful that Extinction will buck the trend.
Set in the near future in an apparent settled city based society, a father (Michael Pena) is plagued by apocalyptic nightmares. In his dreams he sees the end of everything with mysterious aliens swarming over the city leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake. The lack of sleep and worry are affecting his relationship with his wife and children. Urged to seek professional help, he agrees but before he takes this on the nightmare becomes a reality.
The film starts really well. The main character feels a disconnect from society due to the invasive and worrying dreams he has. His sense of isolation is mirrored in the overly pristine and ordered city in which he lives and works. There is a keen sense of alienation that Michael Pena is able to convey to the audience. We are following his character at all times so the guts of the story or the explanation behind his issues is not explored in any great detail. This allows the character to be developed and the world to be introduced in an efficient manner.
It is a shame that the remainder of the film does not live up to the initial promise. With such a leisurely pace in the first third, the rest of the film feels rushed. The story would have benefited from being a little more drawn out which would have suited a mini series rather than a movie. This is all too apparent in the final act where there are large chunks of the run time dedicated to exposition when there should have been a bit more action and drama.
The is really poor use of characters here. Apart from the main protagonist the remainder of the cast appear to be there for plot reasons only. His wife, played by the talented Lizzy Caplan, seems to have the sole purpose of talking about the underground passageways in the city that will play an inevitable part in the middle act. His children are treated even worse. Their whole reason for being there is to be our guide to the mood of the main character and then to be the plot device that spurs him on to actions that he didn’t think were possible. For his whole family to be only there to move the story on appears to be poor storytelling at best.
The film was made on a very limited budget and in the main it pulls it off. There is minimal effects work with CG used to enhance the surroundings in a subtle way. There is one effects shot that stands out though for its clunkiness. Without going into plot details it is a shot involving a speeding train. It is so poorly rendered that it looks about fifteen years old in terms of effects technology and wouldn’t be out of place in a movie made for the SyFy channel. It is really that bad.