Director: Ben Young
Screenplay: Spenser Cohen, Eric Heisserer, Brad Kane
Starring: Michael Peña, Lizzy Caplan, Mike Colter, Lilly Aspell, Emma Booth, Israel Broussard
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Extinction is another placeholder blockbuster that was initially set to be released in theatres by Universal in the January dumping ground schedule. That's never a good sign anyway, especially for a genre picture with a notable actor such as Michael Peña at the centre of it. But as with so many recent studio productions originally destined for low key cinema releases, it seemed more profitable to sell on to Netflix than to risk dropping it onto audiences - and it finds its home just fine amongst other middling filler fares of the same ilk.
Set at an undisclosed time in the near future, Peña plays a father who has a recurring dream of losing his family to an apparent alien invasion. His nightmare turns into reality when the planet is invaded by a force bent on destruction. Fighting for their lives, he comes to realise an unknown strength to keep them safe from harm.
It's about as conventional a setup for an alien invasion/end of the world yarn as they come, but it hurts more because director Ben Young who debuted with the excellent Hounds of Love last year finds nothing visually interesting in this situation.
There are plenty of faux-Spielberg visual elements at play at first - in fact, the entire first act feels like it's aping War of the Worlds in its elemental components (lighting strikes, malevolent spacecraft attacks seen from a ground level POV) - but it doesn't invoke a tone or atmosphere. Instead, we get a film where everything's action heavy, but it's unimaginative you staged and just exists for the sake of filling time.
There's nothing interesting going in beyond following the family trying to escape from rooms in buildings, which only exemplifies the budget restraints and the repetitive dialogue of "What's happening?!" and "Stay close to me!". It's all very monotonous as it plays out with a straight face while trying to hold back the big narrative reveal; a narrative twist seen coming a mile away that strives for the existentialism of Philip K. Dick, but reveals that the rest of the film doesn't really stand for any greater function than supporting a weak narrative 'gotcha' moment.
Extinction is unoriginal, boring and dumb at points. Peña sleepwalks through the whole thing with droning narration and a needlessly stiff performance, Lizzy Caplan is wasted yet again and it drags out a plot that might have been better suited to a short film.