Published Jul 30, 2018Michael Peña and Lizzy Caplan have both turned in some truly outstanding supporting performances over the years, so it's about time they each had their breakout moment as a lead. Extinction, the new sci-fi feature that suddenly landed on Netflix this week, isn't it. For such talented actors, these are truly deplorable performances.
The basic premise is compelling enough: years in the future, Peter (Michael Peña) is a family man whose disturbing dreams about an alien invasion cause him to neglect his wife Alice (Lizzy Caplan) and daughters Hannah (Amelia Crouch) and Lucy (Erica Tremblay). Eventually, he has his "I told you so" moment when the attack happens as he envisioned, and the family fight to make their way to safety.
The morose opening scenes stumble through a series of repetitive visions of lasers firing down from the sky, followed by Peter's family being upset that he's being so withdrawn. It simultaneously feels like too much exposition and not enough — these glum scenes quickly become redundant, and the whole thing drags, and yet the characters are so completely devoid of personality that we don't get to know them at all.
The dialogue is clunky and generic, and Peña and Caplan give flat performances without a shred of chemistry. Director Ben Young doesn't draw any charisma out of his stars, and the whole thing is so awkward and rigid that it feels like a student film with a Hollywood budget. It's almost fascinating how this combination of stellar actors resulted in such a joyless, off-putting mess.
Things don't get any better after the attack, as the characters make a series of pointless and illogical choices against a backdrop of corny CGI. In particular, Lucy's sole personality trait is that she wanders directly into danger at every possible turn. Sure, she's a little kid, but her character's lack of a survival instinct quickly becomes comical.
The closest we get to a halfway compelling on-screen presence is Mike Colter (Luke Cage), who plays Peter's boss David and gives it the old college try despite the painfully stilted dialogue.
Close to the end, there's a surprisingly stellar twist, as we finally get some insight into these otherwise boring characters and their dull lives. Had the build-up been better, it could have been a Sixth Sense-worthy revelation; instead, it's too little too late to save this clumsy sci-fi stinker.
Extinction was originally owned by Universal, and was supposed to arrive in cinemas early this year, but the release got cancelled and the film went into limbo. The fact that Netflix picked up this crap and unceremoniously deposited into onto their service is an insult to anyone who pays their monthly fee.