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Extinction – Review


Release Date: 27 July 2018
Director: Ben Young
Writer: Spenser Cohen - Brad Kane
Cast: Michael Peña - Lizzy Caplan - Mike Colter



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Posted August 12, 2018 by

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Extinction – Review

Peter (Peña) is a family man, trying to keep his life from falling apart in Extinction, the latest Netflix original film. Haunted by nightmares that keep him, and his wife Alice (Caplan), up at night, he decides to get help after passing out while walking home one evening.

In his visions, Peter sees death, destruction and possible extinction, but just what are these nightmares trying to tell him? Before he has the chance to find out, the city is attacked and faceless invaders barge in, killing everyone in sight. Peter and Alice are on the run, desperate to keep their two daughters safe – but help and hindrance come in unlikely forms. Unknown to Peter, life as he knows it will never be the same again.

Extinction Review

Netflix’s original English-language productions have been middling fare off late, and unfortunately Extinction does not question the status quo. The plot is unoriginal as is the action on display. Much like every other disaster film since the dawn of the genre, we follow one family’s travails through the events of the film. This leaves us with little feel for the world of the film, which is only revealed to us through flashbacks.

I love the choice of Peña as the film’s lead, simply because it is still unusual for a science-fiction film to have a Latino hero, but also because Peña doesn’t quite fit the regular Hollywood idea of action star. This isn’t Peña’s best performance but he delivers an authentic and touching dramatic turn as the caring Peter caught up in circumstances beyond his understanding. Unfortunately, Peña is the extent to which Extinction satisfies Netflix’s attempts at being ‘woke’. Caplan is given a thankless role as Alice, a character so devoid of personality or charisma she might as well have been played by an extra. Alice is the embodiment of ‘The Wife’ trope that we have discussed before, but it is egregious to see this kind of role in play in 2018.

Equally troubling is the lack of any other significant female characters in the film, especially the glaring absence of women of colour. Mike Colter is the only other main character of colour with an arc, but no other actors of colour are given any significant screen time. The two daughters, played by Amelia Crouch and Erica Tremblay could easily have been played by young actors of colour, thereby making the central family multi-racial and dynamic, but again Netflix plays Extinction as safe as possible. We are well passed applauding half-baked attempts at representation, and a film like this could have really pushed the boundaries, especially on a platform like Netflix.

There is a definite Matrix-esque vibe to Extinction, what with its eerie artificiality and stripped down world-building, but the ethos of the film is reminiscent of The Cloverfield Paradox, a film we enjoyed but which suffered similarly from lacklustre scripting. This film has top-notch visuals and cinematography but, without a sense of originality, the audience has only spectacle rather than substance to enjoy.

Extinction, like Paradox before it, was picked up by Netflix and then released as one of its original productions. I am guessing this strategy is working for the studio financially, but as a consumer it feels like Netflix is sacrificing the quality of its content in an effort to flaunt its production values and gain access to the big leagues. It is a near-sighted ploy that will lose them fans in the long-run – they have some excellent foreign-language series that diversify their content, but the studio has to create quality content from the US, its biggest market, if it is to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive entertainment streaming environment.


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Lestat de Lioncourt
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