From left: Lizzie Caplin, Erica Tremblay, Amelia Crouch and Michael Peña in Netflix's Extinction. (Image credit: Netflix)

When it comes to "originals" on the streaming services — be it movie or series, Netflix or Amazon or Hulu — the truly great shows are still few and far between. For every Handmaid's Tale or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel there are dozens of forgettable entries.

There's also that middle ground. The far-wasteland but not-quite-Valhalla space where we can find a number of shows that stand out perhaps not as being great, but certainly as rising above the chaff that gets churned out in this Age of Too Much Content.

That's where we find ourselves with Extinction, a surprise bright spot in Netflix's recommended viewings.

This is another one of those movies that Netflix rescued from the dead, after it had unceremoniously been pulled from a January 2018 release. And like Cloverfield Paradox before it, it's a decent sci-fi flick. Not great, and rushed in its 90 minutes. But one that you can immediately tell at least attempts to stand out in premise, and it overdelivers in execution.

The brightness is brought by Michael Peña and Lizzie Caplan — but also by the young Amelia Crouch and Erica Tremblay, the couple's daughters. There's something wrong with their father — Peña's "Peter" — who keeps seeing flashes of some sort of invasion event and the systematic killing of everyone in their city.

Of course, nobody believes him. Not that it would have mattered.

For a movie you might well have never heard of — and for one that almost never saw the light of day — it's wonderfully shot, and nicely acted. Only the final scene (too spoileriffic to be described here in too much detail) gave the feeling of network also-ran, with CGI that just didn't match with the rest of the cinematography. The almost-painful patience before the aliens are finally seen pays off, and it puts the early focus on the young Crouch and Tremblay.

There are twists, of course. (You knew there were twists.) And the sudden course correction isn't necessarily unpredictable, though you'll be forgiven for not seeing it coming thanks in no small part to the quality of the acting itself. Michael Peña truly is not just the goofy sidekick you see in Ant Man or The Martian.

As often happens with this sort of film, the story never gets a chance to ripen. And the end result (particularly with the resolution) almost gives it the feel of a pilot, which wouldn't be the worst idea in the world — particularly if the cast were able to remain intact. Luke Cage's Mike Colter barely gets utilized and definitely has a story to tell. Israel Broussard (Fear the Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy) does the right thing, but for reasons barely touched upon.

Extinction would have been a box-office stinker. Even another half-hour of running time would have been unlikely to save it. But as an hour and a half of already-paid-for Netflix fare? It's not the worst way to close out an evening.

And it even left me wanting more.

Watch Extinction on Netflix



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