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Extinction, a Good Universe production and recently released Netflix film, presents the story of Peter (Michael Pena), the father of a family faced with the “extinction” of the human race following an alien invasion, or at least, that's how it's advertised. This high science fiction thriller wastes no time getting into the action, initiating the movie with a nightmare from the viewpoint of our protagonist as aliens invade Earth. Anyone intrigued by the idea of an alien invasion movie with more than one consciousness blasting twist should stop reading this review and go watch the movie with a safe assurance from your common man that this is a movie worth watching twice. So...I think between stellar acting, a few good reveals, and a plot that I can enjoy twice, we're giving her a five out of five!
It's worth noting that I may be a bit biased, between my love of science fiction and of Michael Pena. However, the idea behind this movie, its look at the struggle of unsuspecting soldiers (something you may not expect at first glance), and the structure of humanity and what it means to be human, is awe-inspiring. Let's get the big fish out in the open, this is not a movie about an alien invasion, it's a movie about a triumphant return from the victim's point of view. There are several hints at what's to come as the invaders are introduced, and this serves to make it all the more believable. The nightmares that plague Peter (no surname given) lead into what could have been a stress-induced psychosis thriller, a family drama story, or the forthcoming “I told you so” invasion. But, Peter isn't the point of reveal in Extinction.
No, Extinction's point of reveal begins shortly after the invasion does. The aliens, once dispatched from their ships, share a lot in common with native earthlings. At least, they have two legs, two arms, stand upright, have five digits on each appendage and carry guns with bayonets strapped to the end that, as Peter points out, function similarly to human guns. When the first alien breaks into Peter's family's apartments and stops just before killing his young daughter Lucy, favoring studying the girl and very nearly embracing her before Peter rescues his daughter, one might gather that not all is as it seems. It's at this point that I put forth two possible outcomes in my head, “It was the Russians” or “Humans that moved to Mars.” Well, there was a third, more skeptical viewpoint which was, “What are the odds that two species on two different planets developed the exact same body types?” But, that was obviously the wrong course.
What is later revealed is that the man behind the mask is human, but we can kind of expect this. After being forced to help Peter's wife who was critically injured during their escape (the alien speaks English!) it is revealed that the “alien” is not, in fact, Russian, as he offers an opportunity to save the critically injured lady-love, because he “had to learn everything about” our kind. The ensuing sequence reveals that Peter and associates are, in fact, synthetic humans, artificial intelligences, who for the most part have had their memories erased to forget the tragedies of the past and try to lead a normal life. The nightmares that Peter has been suffering, and apparently a few other citizens based on his visit to the whole life health center, are revealed to not be visions of the future, but rather surfacing memories from a hidden past, a past where AIs were threatened by fear-ridden humanity and had to run their would-be extinctionists off-planet.
There are a couple of hints sprinkled throughout the nightmare sequence, kudos to the director for such perfect details, and to those sharp observers who picked up on these details. For starters, the humans in Peter's flashbacks are wearing fairly standard looking combat garb, granted it favors a detail-less riot suit with a solid black biker helmet, but this heavily contrasts with the yellow gas-bubble coated space suits of the invading humans. Additionally, most observers will notice that the job Peter is fulfilling in his flashbacks seems decidedly less-substantial than the work he does in his current position. Don't get me started on how you might pick out that Alice (Peter's wife who I haven't named until this point) is not dressed quite as well as her present self and is cowering near a custodian's cart. These are mostly details you can only appreciate on a second viewing though, or at least retrospectively once it's revealed that his nightmares are memories and not visions.
All in all, I don't think I could have been more pleased with this glance at a potential post-apocalypse apocalypse. I only hope that everyone on Earth gets the chance to observe this movie before the synthetics do start populating most of our workplaces. Perhaps we will be able to live in peace, but hey, Mars also sounds cool!