If you read the premise of Extinction and watch the trailer for the new Netflix original movie, you’ll probably think that this is sci-fi “Take Shelter”. It shares a lot of common threads with Jeff Nichols’ 2011 drama: A father has nightmares/visions of an impending catastrophe that impacts his sanity, family and job; nobody believes him, but he is convinced of the legitimacy of his visions; he sees signs of it, no one else sees or acknowledges. Extinction though, is more novel than that; without getting into too many spoilers, Extinction is a sci-fi drama starring Michael Pena and Lizzy Caplan, directed by Ben Young and follows the story of a family man haunted by his nightmares of an impending catastrophic incident. Just to make things clear, this is a movie that is completely reliant on the plot twists and shifts of viewer perception, so I will be very vague in terms of the narrative; if you are extremely sensitive and don’t want to know absolutely anything, then know that my opinion is a positive one. It’s not for everyone and what it does could have been done better, but it’s not terrible and there are worst ways you can spent an hour and half.
For those still reading, Extinction’s biggest pro and con is the narrative; it is its selling point and its Achilles heel. It has grand ambitions and nails a lot of it; it is, at times, poignant and surprising; contemplative and entertaining. However, in a movie like Extinction, which encourages the viewer to think and look back at the movie with new information and new perspective, even the smallest details can hurt your enjoyment; Extinction has more than a few details wrong. The best way I can describe it is like a rollercoaster of liking and disliking the movie; at times you feel that the movie is unfinished and half-baked, then it gets interesting and slowly shows its ambitious nature, only to make you hate it, and then think about it even more, which will leave you underwhelmed or thinking that it was ‘good’. I can’t see someone absolutely loving it, but I can see someone absolutely hating it, which does not imply they “didn’t get it” but it does mean that it’s not for everyone-and even if it is for you, just know this won’t blow you away! That ending caveat is true for everything good about this movie: The visuals are really good, until it falls into the “dark, moody, hard to see sci-fi” group and then they become fine and annoying at times; the editing is surprisingly good, considering the nature of the narrative, on the whole, however it is appallingly bad in the moment to moment edits; the narrative, besides the aforementioned rollercoaster ride, also suffers from a similar issue: I enjoyed the narrative overall, however there are several key issues it eludes to that does nothing with to further explore or contemplate them. Furthermore, thinking about the small details and plot-holes, leads you to understanding that nothing really matches up to the narrative, besides a few key elements, which in turn makes them feel forced to match the overall narrative.
Then, there’s the acting: I like Michael Pena and Lizzy Caplan, I think they are both great actors in their own ways, but in this movie they are bad. They are lifeless and boring to look at and unfortunately, not the worst part of this movie! That has to be given to the irritating kids, who were a pain and a source of frustration whenever they appeared on the screen. Getting kids to deliver stellar performances is hard and rarely happens, but I’m talking more from a narrative perspective, rather than an acting one. However, while Young’s attempt to direct his actors and actresses leave a lot to be desired, his direction in the narrative department gave the saving grace to Extinction; it could have been a disorienting and convoluted mess, but it is not and despite a fair amount of errors, the movie actually flows well enough. I do wish that the action scenes were a little better at being thrilling or suspenseful, but they are adequate at least. My last issue is that, I think the movie’s too short; it raises some interesting questions it has no time to reflect on, the opening act feels rushed and gives no time for the viewer to learn or care about the protagonists, and the movie runs through a lot of situations to end on an underwhelming note.
Despite of all the issues, I do think the narrative ambitions and what the movie gets right are just enough to make me reflect positively on the movie. It’s not perfect or for everyone, and even for those who will enjoy it, it won’t blow them away or sky-rocket it’s way on top of their favorite movie list; like I said there are better and worst ways to spend an hour and half, and Extinction simply gets enough things right and is ambitious and fun enough to warrant a viewing.