The third installment of "The Adventures of Alice in Zombieland," better known as the "Resident Evil" franchise, landed in theaters Friday without benefit of press previews. Movie summer may have concluded with Labor Day and official summer may wrap with the onset of fall on Sunday, but the single-mindedly escapist "Resident Evil: Extinction" feels like the real end of summer.
Milla Jovovich returns to her signature role as the zombie-butt-kicking genetic hybrid, Alice, once again separated from her clothing as often as narratively possible and wielding guns, knives and kicks with aplomb. "Extinction" picks up several years after the T-virus from the earlier films has spread around the world, turning those infected into the walking dead, and even zombie dogs and a sky full of zombie crows dot the landscape.
The Umbrella Corp., an international pseudo-governmental agency, has literally gone underground as it works to reverse the effect of the virus it originally unleashed. Iain Glen is once again the lead baddie, Dr. Isaacs, desperately searching for Alice, whose DNA holds the keys to the virus and who has hacked into Umbrella's satellite system and successfully gone off the grid.
Now riding a motorcycle and attempting to make it as a lone wolf because people tend to get killed when she's around, Alice nevertheless hooks up with a convoy of 30 or so souls led by the straight-shooting Claire (Ali Larter) that happens to include "Apocalypse" survivors Carlos (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps). Desperately running out of provisions and fuel, the group heads for Las Vegas, which has been reduced to a giant sandbox with protruding hotels.
"Highlander" director Russell Mulcahy takes the helm for "Extinction," and though this entry is not as high-octane as Alexander Witt's more energetic "Resident Evil: Apocalypse," the screenplay by the series' original director, Paul W.S. Anderson, provides enough continuity to satisfy the flesh-munching cravings of most fans. Only a disagreeable final act brings the action to a thudding halt.
Mulcahy tags "western" onto the genre mix of horror and action, mining the film's post-apocalyptic desert setting for a maximum amount of sweeping vistas and makes visual references to films as varied as "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Planet of the Apes."
The story and characters are surprisingly engaging, with fight scenes and scares effectively placed between plot turns. Alice's encounter with the convoy, however, turns out to be little more than an hourlong diversion to set up her ultimate battle with what can only be described as the Barry Bonds of zombies.
As strange a point as it is to make about a movie that is, after all, about zombies, the ending gets a little silly. Alice's abilities have developed exponentially since we last saw her, and presumably the filmmakers felt it necessary to beef up her opposition, but the climax seems to be out of an entirely different movie. And be forewarned: Though "Resident Evil: Extinction" is billed as the final entry in the series, the film concludes so open-endedly that it's less a finale than a loss of transmission.
"Resident Evil: Extinction." MPAA rating: R for strong horror violence throughout and some nudity. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. In general release.