It was a midsummer day in 2006 that Rotten Tomatoes got the call to drop in on production on Resident Evil: Extinction, and what a tantalizing invite that was. Based on our day on set, the third part of the hugely successful, if critically ravaged Resident Evil series looks to once again capture its core audience, fans of the original Capcom video game hungry for the same all-out action and gore that infused the first two films. The addition of a few new castmembers and a beautifully desolate setting (post-apocalyptic Las Vegas) further promise a jumpstart to the RE franchise under director Russell Mulcahy. Plus, who doesn’t want to see Milla Jovovich strap on the guns one more time?
Mexico City in the summer is brutally hot, but just imagine what it’s like in the desert. Thankfully, we had been invited to visit the set of Resident Evil: Extinction right after filming moved from the arid expanses of Mexicali’s desert into the big city complex of Churubusco Studios. Good thing, too, because our group of web journalists might have melted in 128 degree heat.
In our air-conditioned comfort we received a warm welcome from RE3 helmer Russell Mulcahy, the Australian director (his Video Killed the Radio Star launched MTV into pop culture history) perhaps known best for his 1986 fantasy spectacle, Highlander. “I hear you’re going to do some interviews today,” he said as we entered a busy soundstage. After a moment’s pleasantries, he was off to finish a scene.
The production had already completed filming of sequences in the desert heat — zombie scenes, an extensive undead crow attack, and Jovovich performing wire-work stunts while brandishing Alice’s Khukuri knives — but we hung with the crew as they took it down a notch. We watched as they filmed a caravan scene on a soundstage. Sitting inside an army-green truck perched atop jacks, Jovovich, Oded Fehr, and newcomer Spencer Locke (who plays teenage survivor K-Mart) filmed an interior dialogue scene as a crewmember provided the occasional road-bump jiggle. The exterior window shots would later be filled in via CG with scenes of the Mexican desert, substituting for a ravaged and desolate Las Vegas. Mulcahy quieted his rambunctious actors with a “You’re in the moment!” and filmed a hushed conversation between Alice and Carlos.
“Things are really desperate,” unit publicist Kym Langlie whispered. “They’ve just been attacked by crows who have been infected, so undead crows. It’s like Hitchcock goes insane. So the scene that we’ll see today, they’re talking about what [they are] going to do.”
Following the scene, Jovovich sat and talked about the film, still clad in her Alice costume (designed with partner Carmen Hawk, with whom she has the clothing label Jovovich-Hawk). Roles in films like The Fifth Element, Ultraviolet, and the Resident Evil movies have solidified her position in Hollywood as an unparalleled female action star, a label she seemed to embrace wholeheartedly while excitedly describing her knife skills, martial arts training, and some of the major, dangerous stunts she’s performed in the last few Resident Evil films alone. (Stay tuned for our interview with Jovovich, to be posted soon!)
For the uninitiated, Resident Evil: Extinction may seem like your average post-apocalyptic science fiction flick; a band of survivors, on the run from hordes of killer creatures, are making a run for one last outpost of untainted humanity. But this is a Resident Evil movie, so fans of the game (and of the two previous films) can expect lots of backstory about Alice, the outbreak, and the shady entity known as the Umbrella Corporation. The third movie opens years after the second, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, left off. The zombifying T-Virus outbreak has turned most of the world’s population into flesh-chomping undead, and super-powered Alice (Jovovich) has gone her separate ways with old pals Carlos (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps). They have themselves joined forces with a caravan of survivors led by Claire Redfield (Ali Larter); meanwhile, the sinister scientists of Umbrella Corporation are conducting experiments with their very own Alice clones.
Writer Paul W.S. Anderson (who also wrote the previous two Resident Evils) has also infused the third film with surprisingly interesting plot twists that extend the mythology of the Resident Evil games into something much more cinematic. Watch for a killer opening sequence.
“One of the story strands is that Dr. Isaacs, who is one of the most advanced scientists in the Umbrella Corporation, is trying to develop an Alice clone who is better than Alice,” said producer Jeremy Bolt. “So to do that, he is putting her into an environment that she’s already been in. But she’s a clone, so we have sequences from the mansion in the first film, from the hospital corridor, the laser from the first film — we’re recreating those scenes. So you’ll begin the film, and you’ll think, wow this is the first film again, Milla Jovovich in a corridor with the lasers, but actually it’s not; it’s a clone.”
Jovovich herself explained more of the Alice clones and why Umbrella would kill off so many. “They’re trying to get their very own Alice,” she said, “That listens to them…so she’s born in Umbrella, and all she knows is Umbrella and they take her through all the things that my Alice escaped, but each one is different.”
That would explain the pit of discarded Alices that appears in the Resident Evil: Extinction theatrical trailer. “There’s like a whole scene where they’re dumping these clones of Alice,” Jovovich added.
You can also expect to see all new types of undead creatures, such as an homage to Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds that developed into a full-fledged sequence, complete with those infamous computer-generated undead crows. Game loyalists, rejoice — the filmmakers have found an all new breed of dog that will much more closely represent the frightening undead Dobermans that haunted your video gaming nights.
“We actually found a new type of dog,” said Bolt. “It’s called a Malinois, a Belgian-Alsation Doberman kind of cross. The most highly used guard dogs in the world. So we can achieve a lot more in camera than we could before. And they’re phenomenally aggressive. So they’re much closer to the Doberman dog in the game.”
Resident Evil: Apocalypse character Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) is conspicuously absent, and though the filmmakers wouldn’t explain her character’s fate, they have added a few new faces. Orphaned survivor K-Mart (played by 15-year-old Locke) and Nurse Betty (R&B singer Ashanti) are members of Claire Redfield’s convoy. (The Claire character herself comes from the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Code: Veronica games.) Perhaps the biggest surprise for fans of the games is the appearance of Umbrella Corp. chairman Albert Wesker, about whom Bolt had loads to share.
“In the game it’s suggested that he works for Umbrella but it’s never really clarified,” Bolt said. We’re saying, not only does he work for Umbrella, he runs Umbrella. Because this is a few years beyond the incident at Raccoon City. So he’s now running Umbrella, and he will then be in the fourth movie as Alice’s opponent.” That’s right, a fourth Resident Evil. Although production materials for Extinction have called this one the last in the trilogy, Bolt seems assured that a fourth installment will happen. He’s even got some story and character details worked out.
“There’s a very, very big cliffhanger. I don’t want to give it away, but that’s one of the things Paul and I are most proud of, is that each movie we sort of set up the next one. Albert Wesker will be involved in the cliffhanger.”
As for characters, we know a few who’ll be surviving Extinction. “We’re thinking Claire Redfield, Alice, and Albert Wesker,” Bolt shared. “We might go to Alaska. We had this idea: the undead in the snow.”