‘Extinction’ by Ben Young

Director: Ben Young

CinematographerAmir Mokri

Writers: Spencer Cohen, Eric Heisserer, Brad Kane

Starring: Michael Pena, Lizzy Caplan, Amelia Crouch

Rating: 35

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‘Extinction’ is another Netflix original sci-fi film that was seemingly released out of nowhere in 2018. I mean, where do these projects come from? Is there some spring in the Mojave desert that produces well below average sci-fi films with the same blend of ugly color palates, bland acting, and ridiculously shallow plot. Extinction, while better than other original Netflix productions *cough* Cloverfield *cough*, still brutally misses on the most fundamental aspects of the genre.

Sure, this film attempts to be that mind-altering, suspense-driven sci-fi picture that makes you requestion our existence, but the execution leaves out those aspects that drive the intrigue.  As we’ve seen with Tau and Cloverfield, these low-end productions that set high standards and fail in every imaginable way are making it tough to even consider turning on another one. It’s another incomplete picture that is missing a soul. This film feels as if it was made by a boring, heartless machine that pumps out films for Netflix and not by someone who truly loves this world and story.

Narrative

However, the premise of this film was intriguing. Intriguing enough for me to give this film a shot, and while the story is not all bad, the actual writing and execution of the plot leave a lot to be desired. The actual dialogue is so contrived and boring. it also bleeds into the lackluster performances as most of the lines are painfully unreal. None of the interactions felt organic, and we learn very little through these interactions.

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Extinction is a giant setup to what’s supposed to be a shocking revelation at the end of the film, but by the time that moment hit after 45 minutes of running and hiding scenes, I totally lost my drive to follow the story. The story also does a really poor job of explaining what’s happening in the context of this world. I spent the latter half trying to figure out who the audiences are supposed to cheer for because the supporting characters were so weakly written.

It also doesn’t help that Michael Pena’s issues that are supposed to drive the action are so mundane, and even more importantly, the story only elaborates enough to get somewhat of an understanding but doesn’t help explain anything. The amount of plot points that are brought up and then forgotten later in the film is laughable in this case.

Performances

It’s hard for me to truly hate on the performances when I know the dialogue made for some awkward exchanges, and watching these actors navigate the script was interesting to watch. Nonetheless, it was arguably one of my least act films of the year. It was severely passionless in what are supposed to be tense moments. I didn’t buy any real connection between the main characters.

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Even worse are the horribly underwritten supporting characters that are essentially used as cannon fodder. None of the performances could save this script, as each character didn’t fit into this world. It’s hard to watch a film that has so many tacts on moments that don’t provide any real engagements. Everything in this film feels distant.

Filmmaking

Now, the standout is the cinematography from Amir Mokri who gave this film a distinct look and feel, at least in the earlier section of the film. The bright, symmetrical compositions of his wide-angle shots created a beautiful look at the world before it turns to a dark landscape. Unfortunately, when it turns to night, the cinematography doesn’t hold up as well. The close-up scenes and lighting in those moments make it tough to follow.

It’s also difficult to make shoddily designed alien costumes look presentable and threatening. Mokri tried different lighting, but it always ended up looking like scuba equipment. The overall drab feel of the set designs and the futuristic architecture that’s just plain walls with little detail contributed to the mundane look of the film. The cinematography helped through strong compositions but couldn’t elevate this to a good looking film.

Verdict

If I’m being honest, I completely tuned out parts of this film. Nothing interested me in the slightest, and I’m usually a Michael Pena fan. Everything was underwhelming. The entire time I was watching I couldn’t take anything seriously because every line of the dialogue sounded awkward and unnatural. The action didn’t mean anything because there was no connection between these characters. It’s hard to care about a twist when that’s the case.

It’s a hard-pass for me and believe it or not, it was not even close to the worse Netflix film I’ve watched this year. Extinction has a bold idea and attempts to reach that peak but is significantly held back by shotty workmanship and a lack of detail.

 


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