With silly season well and truly under way out there at the moment, it feels like half the country, and city, is away or planning to get away, even as all kinds of blockbusters try to lure remaining citizens into the nearest multiplex.
It’s also the perfect time for dumping-ground content to get released, with Netflix currently busy heavily plugging another ‘hot property’, Extinction (Cert 15, 95 mins).
It’s another high-profile acquisition for the streaming giant, following similar deals over other films which were also originally made for theatrical release, until spooked studios grew nervous about them and sold them on to Netflix instead.
Thus, while we should all have seen Extinction on the big screen, here it is on our little screens instead, providing another ‘big’ Netflix acquisition that many of us will be watching on holiday.
However, just as with the hilariously bad (but mostly just awful) The Cloverfield Paradox, and the brainy-but-boring Annihilation, Extinction soon shows why it got kicked from the big screens to the little.
Everyman dad Peter (Michael Pena) goes to work, haunted by disturbing dreams of death and destruction – to the annoyance of his wife, Alice (Lizzy Caplan).
With their two girls to think about, she’s fed up of his blackouts and nightmares, and much like his boss, she wants Peter to get psychiatric help to put an end to his ongoing dazed daydreaming.
(Un)luckily for Peter, things soon take a dark turn when a chaotic alien invasion begins, echoing his dreams.
That’s the start of the main narrative thrust of the family have to somehow escape from their tower block (which is itself being attacked by invaders, floors below) and escape to a hoped-for sanctuary, blocks away.
But first, there’s the small matter of the invasion, high-tech killing machines, and a persistent alien invader on their tail to deal with …
And that’s it. That’s yer lot: ‘Scared family versus alien invasion’ neatly sums up most of the film – most of it, anyway, as sharp-witted readers may be wondering what Peter’s prophetic visions had to do with the plot.
It may be no surprise to hear that the film is leading towards ‘a twist’, two-thirds in, which suddenly explains a lot more about what’s really going on, who the terrifying invaders in this near-future world are, and potentially frames the family in a very different light.
The film doesn’t seem to grasp that perhaps the twist, and its insight into its Peter and Alice’s earlier lives, runs the risk of turning them into potential villains (if you really, really think through their character arcs), making the aliens potentially more sympathetic.
That’s a narrative weakness I found hard to ignore, despite the best efforts of the mostly solid cast, and possibly one reason why this film got swerved onto Netflix instead.
Still, it’s easy to see why Netflix was interested to acquire Extinction.
After all, it’s unchallenging sci-if with an action focus; family-in-peril films generally resonate well with audiences, and it’s intellectually lightweight fare that should easily while away some time off on summer holidays.
It left me cold, however, and I couldn’t help rooting for the invaders after the twist popped up.
With some jarring final shots hinting at a possible sequel, here’s hoping that the studios exterminate any such Extinction move.