Written by Renee Jones
Netflix dropped an original sci-fi thriller over the weekend, and as people scramble to watch Extinction, it has been receiving mixed coverage. After the streaming giant’s previous attempts at the genre with Spectral and Annihilation, many die-hard sci-fi fans were left with an itch that needed to be scratched.
Extinction follows the story of Peter (played by Ant-Man’s Michael Peña), a working-class man married to Alice, who is expertly played by the talented Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls, Now You See Me 2). Together they have two girls.
Peter is plagued by recurring nightmares of an alien invasion that leaves him wondering if they are prophetic, and his family questioning his sanity. Likewise, you might also be questioning your own sanity while watching the numbingly calm start to the film, with its clean, sterile future.
As the story ambles along, mostly from Peter’s perspective (no spoilers here!), the way new information is dropped is designed to create intentional confusion, and you can decide whether or not being purposely confused is your cup of tea.
The pace of the film finally picks up and becomes interesting when the invasion hits, even if it seems a little familiar in its delivery. But again, you will be asking yourself, are Peter’s visions prophetic?
About an hour in, there is an exciting plot twist, which ends up having its ‘oomph’ diluted by all the mediocre ones preceding it. All the same, there are more twists, and some of them even good, before wrapping up all the loose ends in an oddly satisfying way.
Extinction does provide an original take on alien invasion, which is one of the more refreshing elements of the film, and like most good science-fiction stories, it holds up a mirror to our own society. It questions the implications to some of our choices about technology in an interesting way. Does Extinction present a glimpse into the way it could all end someday? Perhaps.
To the film’s credit, there is a great supporting cast who make the sometimes cliché plot twists more palatable, and emerging Perth director Ben Young takes the mixed bag that is Extinction’s script and arguably delivers Netflix’s first decent sci-fi movie. One wonders how Extinction might have fared, however, if it hadn’t had Oscar-nominated co-writer Eric Heisserer, the mastermind behind The Arrival, a brilliant modern sci-fi film, working behind the scenes.
Visually, Young masterfully captures the eerie calm of an advanced society seen through the eyes of a middle-class family, before propelling us through the violence and drama of an invasion. He builds suspense with a Hitchcock-like perfection and makes the most of the talented cast.
It’s exciting to see a talented Aussie director be given the support of a giant like Netflix. The 36-year-old has been honing his skills over the years, directing music videos for icons like John Butler Trio and more, creating short films, and directing episodes of Prank Patrol. Despite his immaculate credits on smaller projects, it’s clear blockbusters are where his true calling lies.
Should you watch Extinction? The answer is a yes. The movie is slow to progress and hits the usual sci-fi story beats, but it’s good to see that Netflix is taking original ideas and scripts and providing sci-fi audiences with more viewing options.