On Friday, Netflix quietly released the best science fiction film of 2018. ‘Extinction’ is a genius, unique take on the alien invasion genre. It initially provides a refreshingly well-executed invasion plot before turning the genre on its head in a mind bending way.
The first half of the film brings fear back to the alien invasion story. It does this by using a Lovecraftian fear of one’s own insignificance.
The central idea behind horror works of H.P Lovecraft was that we are ineffectual in the grand scheme of things. There are far greater forces at work in the cosmos and we are at their mercy. This is certainly at play here.
That fear of the unknown really comes through in the intro. The narrator explains society as a mundane slog along a preordained track.
This is visually represented by an aerial shot of morning commuters. They seem to be following predictable patterns, moving as one like a hive of bees. Michael Peña’s Peter also treks miserably to work like an obedient worker bee. He marvels at the architecture, the product of the collective’s combined efforts.
The utopia is soon shattered by the alien invasion. This build-up makes the attack all the more effective but after the movie’s massive twist, the symbolism takes on whole new meaning.
That is what is so extraordinary about the storytelling. The symbolism and foreshadowing means one thing and then the twist makes it a hint to something totally different.
For example, there is a scene in which Peter breaks from the crowd on his way to work. The majority are following the same pattern, marching to work as usual but he is going against the grain.
Initially this seems to be an indication of his unwillingness to conform. Just like Lovecraft’s characters, Peter is ostracised and labelled mentally ill because he is a harbinger of the coming down. The scene appears to be an indication towards this until the big reveal, after which, the population’s pattern of behaviour has a deeper reason.
The visuals help to foreshadow the big reveal just as much as the writing. The invaders have a truely alien design in some ways but they have a humanoid shape. The design of the visuals was really creative as a whole. It is a departure from the tried and tested representation of a cataclysm.
There is a great piece of symbolism in the final escape. After finding out the shocking truth of the world he thought he knew, Peter picks up his daughter’s teddy bear. The bear represents his humanity in the face of what he has learned about himself.
Overall, this is a really creative sci-fi story with great performances from Peña and Lizzy Caplan.
I apologise about the rambling nature of this review. Hopefully my other reviews are usually more structured. Despite how impressive ‘Extinction’ was, it is really difficult to write about. It is essentially two stories in one, changing entirely after the twist which I have tried hard not to spoil.
‘Extinction’ is on Netflix right now, it is only one hour thirty five so you have no excuse. Go and check it out.