SAN DIEGO — When the beloved "Resident Evil" video game series exploded onto the silver screen in 2002, it was the first true zombie flick in nearly two decades. During the half-decade since, audiences have faced diseased zombies ("28 Days/Weeks Later"), running zombies ("Dawn of the Dead"), ill-conceived zombies ("House of the Dead"), funny zombies ("Shaun of the Dead") and grindhouse zombies ("Planet Terror"). Paul W.S. Anderson is intent on mixing things up again with September's "Resident Evil: Extinction," a post-apocalyptic flick he's calling the final installment of the "'Resident Evil" trilogy (see "Hated 'Resident Evil 2'? Jovovich Promises Third One Is Rad").
" 'Resident Evil' was really the first zombie movie made for about 20 years, so we were the first out of the gate," Anderson told MTV News recently. "But there have been a lot of movies that have come along since then that have done the same kind of thing."
Since most zombie films deal with the final days of human life, the next adventure of the now-superhuman Alice will aim to break the mold by picking up the action on, well, the day after the end of days. "We've gone with a new setting, and I've also gone with a real post-apocalyptic vibe," said Anderson, who's engaged to his (pregnant) leading lady, Milla Jovovich. "We felt it was so important with this one to pay off the trilogy, to end the trilogy, to really up the ante and do something fresh."
Part of that freshness also comes with the casting of Ashanti (see "Ashanti Hopes Her Bloody 'Buffy' Background Helps Her In 'Resident Evil 3' ") and red-hot "Heroes" star Ali Larter, two newcomers to the franchise. But although Larter's Niki/Jessica is fearless on the primetime show, she thought "Evil" would be a good series to join since she can't bring herself to watch the movies. "I don't even go to see [these films] in the theaters," she admitted. "I get scared. I don't watch them.
"This is going be huge and massive and amazing," Larter added.
After upping the ante, Anderson decided to lay his bets on a new setting: a soulless Sin City. "To me, what makes ['Resident Evil: Extinction'] fresh is we've moved the action from the traditional setting, which is an abandoned city with new zombies running around," he grinned. "We've moved it into the desert, to an abandoned Las Vegas."
So after two movies overflowing with dark rooms, tight spaces and those beloved zombie dogs, what can we expect from a battle in the sand? "The imagery is very big-event movie imagery," Anderson explained. "We do a lot of the scary scenes in broad daylight and they're scary — that's a real change."
"I think there's quite a few really cool moments in this one," series star Jovovich said, mentioning her favorites. "It's either going to be the zombie birds or it could be Las Vegas like half-buried in the sand."
"This one's really beautiful," Larter added. "We shot in Mexico, on the dunes, and it's about a post-apocalyptic world, and we're in a traveling caravan. It's dark — and we kill zombies really, really well."
"There are also some cool clone sequences with like a hundred different me's," Jovovich added proudly. "There's so many [good scenes] to choose from."
And although she might still be too scared to ever see "Resident Evil: Extinction," Larter does respect the Anderson aesthetic that made strong characters out of Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez. "There are strong, bold women and female characters," Larter said of the series. "The fact that Milla has this unbelievable franchise, and that they asked me to come in and be a part of it is amazing. Usually they don't even put two girls in a movie!"
Anderson, who has taken a great deal of flak over the years from "RE" purists, admits that mistakes have been made. Still, he hopes that fans will withhold judgment until "Extinction" can fully wrap up the series as he's envisioned it. "When I was making the first movie, I always envisioned we'd make a trilogy," he said. "The first movie was imagined as a prequel to the world of the video games, the second one was intended to take place during the world of the video games and the third one I always saw as a post-script."
It's the director's hope that "Extinction" effectively mixes zombie flicks and post-apocalyptic classics like "The Road Warrior" or "A Boy and His Dog," thus creating his own powerful hybrid — much like the Umbrella Corporation did with its T-Virus. "As much as I loved the [George A.] Romero movies when I was growing up — and the Lucio Fulci zombie movies — there was another genre of movies [I loved], which was the post-apocalyptic film," Anderson said. "So just as we were ahead of the curve with the first 'Resident Evil,' hopefully we're ahead of the curve again by being the first movie out of the gate to really show a devastated world — to be the [new generation's first] post-apocalyptic film."
And when Anderson conjures up destruction, he doesn't play around. When the flick opens September 21, even Alice faces extinction. "We've carefully crafted characters that you really care about over the three movies," Anderson laughed. "And now we get to pay everything off by killing them all."
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