Directed by Ben Young Extinction stars Michael Peña who plays a father plagued by dreams of world destruction. The cast also includes Lizzy Caplan, Mike Colter, and Israel Broussard. It’s a reasonably entertaining film but is a casual one-time watch. However, if this was more thought through it could have potentially become the prequel to a very popular trilogy (this is right at the end). Here’s the film Extinction explained. Spoilers ahead.
As always, let’s walk through this plot in chronological order. While it kills the punchline in the film, it’s easier to understand. At some point in the future, the world comes together to celebrate the birth of AI, Artificial Intelligence. Robots are created to serve humanity. Eventually, the robots start becoming aware of the fact that they were built to serve. The world sees this as a threat and feels that they need to be shut down. And by shut down, we mean shot down. Apparently, they don’t have an off switch. Why doesn’t anyone figure a remote turn off on these robots? Anywho, the bots also begin to gain emotions – like love, but also anger. A spokesperson on TV explains how this is a threat to humankind. He also brings up how a synthetic (how they refer to the bots) hospitalized a human. A few do consider this a genocide, to destroy all bots, and the lady on TV explains how a bunch of humans attacked a synthetic with no provocation at all and the bot was defending itself. The world concludes that self-defense is a result of having emotions and that all bots have to be terminated.
Peter and Alice
Now, the crux of the film is that all the characters we are shown in the first part of the film are all robots. Peter (Michael), the bot, is a maintenance bot who works in the same office as Alice (Lizzy) who is a clean-up bot. They exhibit the emotion of love for each other. But soon after, humans give the order for a widescale decommissioning of synthetics. Bots are gunned down, and eventually, the surviving ones retaliate. As always, humans underestimate the bots and end up getting killed in masses. Peter and Alice join the resistance. We’re shown Peter bludgeoning a human with his fist until he’s stopped by Alice. These are early reactions to the emotions.
Who is David?
He is a bot who seems to be one of the leaders of the resistance. Humans have no alternative but to evacuate the planet because now they are the ones who are being terminated.
Hanna and Lucy
Both Hanna and Lucy are bots and were initially owned by a human couple. This could be because the couple were fond of children but didn’t have their own. During the resistance, the couple is killed. Hanna and Lucy are shown crying over the dead bodies of their human parents. Peter and Alice approach them, and Hanna points a gun at them in fear. Eventually, Peter calms her down, and the girls join Peter and Alice.
Where do the humans go?
Mars. Yes, humans get on spaceships and head out to Mars to set up colonies and survive, they survive for 50 years. In the time on Mars, they begin to teach the younger generation about the bots. In the eyes of the humans, they are not at fault at all, apparently. Well, humans. They go on and preach the story of how the savage bots took over Earth and drove the humans out to Mars. The next two generations prepare for retaliation. They study the bots and train for the attack.
Where do the synths go?
They don’t go anywhere, they continue to live on the Earth which is now free of humans. But they perennially fear that the Humans will return. Baring a few bots, the remainder of them decide to programmatically have their memories of the war removed. They also have their memories altered to believe that they are human and the original residents of planet Earth. They do this to avoid living in fear. A few bots like David don’t get their minds wiped to be ready for the day the humans return.
50 Years Later
The bots don’t age, they live with their families and go to work and do everything humans do. We are shown that there is a little coldness in the relationship between Peter and Alice. This is because they are not human and their emotions have not developed to that extent, and also Peter is plagued by dreams. What is also not told is how the bots are powered. Perhaps they are powered by advanced fuel cells which can operate for decades.
The movie begins with Peter leaving work with a narrative that says “Every day, we go about our routines. Work, home, family. But who are we? Who am I? You think you know your beautiful wife, your adorable kids, and who you work for. But what if you don’t? And the truth, once you knew it, would change everything”. Peter has been having dreams about global destruction. While we are made to believe that these are premonitions, but it’s merely him remembering the past. Alice has been advising him to go see a doctor. Peter refuses but says he’ll get off early in the evening and they can spend time together with the kids by the pier. Lucy and Hanna are upset because Peter has not been keeping up his promises. He meets Hanna (who’s playing elevator-operator). Something to observe here is that there is no school. This is perhaps because AI is built keeping in mind that the robots “keep learning” continually unlike humans who have institutionalized learning. So when the Earth was left with just the robots, they didn’t set up schools. Besides, they don’t age so there would never really be grade progressions. That said, they still go to work because work produces outcome, and once again, machines are programmed to deliver a result.
Moving on, David catches Peter fumbling at work. David understands these symptoms and advises Peter to get to a clinic to seek help. Peter is not convinced. He asks David if he could leave early and David agrees and subtly mentions the clinic as compensation. This clinic is set up for all those robots whose suppressed memories are springing back up. This is the same clinic that the bots initially head to replace their memories. At her workplace, Alice has recently been promoted. She too asks to leave early.
Peter leaves work but falls unconscious and has a dream again. He sees the TV spokesperson talking about how humanity will be dominated. As viewers, we’re not told what or who this conversation is about. When David wakes up, it’s late at night. He rushes home, and on the way, he sees lights in the sky. While he thinks it’s in his mind, he’s actually seeing them. It’s the human ships preparing to retaliate. Peter buys himself a telescope. At home, the kids are upset with Peter for missing family time, and when he gets home, he tells Alice that he fainted. Peter feels that what he’s seeing is not just dreams, but forewarnings. Peter has another dream in the night, and this time he sees Lucy and Hanna sitting by two dead people. This leads us to believe that Peter’s visions are glimpses of the future where they will die, but it’s not.
Next morning, Peter apologizes to Lucy. They tactically show that Peter is good with electric circuits as he fixes Lucy’s toy. He calls the clinic and takes an appointment. At the clinic, another patient tells Peter that he too has been having apocalyptic dreams which convinces Peter about his theory of premonitions and he leaves. The other patient, however, is unable to live his life with the visions and goes in to “fix” himself. Peter goes back home to explain to Alice what if he was meant to see these visions to which Alice differs.
Samantha and Ray
These are neighbours and are at the party that Alice has thrown for her promotion at home. Peter is aloof and using his telescope to stare into the skies. A keen thing to note in this party is that there is no food or drinks, it is not what bots do when they hang out. As the party ends, Ray heads to the balcony to join Peter to ask him if he would like to say goodbye.
Just then the sky lights up, and they see objects falling. Peter is glad that Ray can see this too and it’s not one more of his visions. Right after, a sonic boom sends the glass of all the buildings into pieces. They run in for cover. Alice, Peter, and Lucy regroup. Hanna and Megan, Ray’s and Samantha’s daughter, are not around. Ray suggests that the girls must be at his place. An emergency broadcast starts off asking everyone to make their way to the nearest government facility. Remember, there are a group of people who have been prepared for this day, they are the ones broadcasting. As Peter looks out the window, a spaceship flies by and opens fire. Ray pulls Peter to safety. As they step out of the house and down the stairs, they notice that there is now a ground force making sweeps and killing everybody. Peter and Ray open the doors to an elevator and find Hanna and Megan and pull them out.
Peter and Hanna head back home to Alice and Lucy as Ray goes over to his place to get Samantha. Alice confirms with Peter that what is happening is from his visions. While his dreams have similar situations from the past, these events have never been witnessed by Peter, and as a result, he is unable to correlate the current events with his nightmares. However, he does feel that they should go to the factory. This is because the factory is where they fought off the humans 50 years ago and Peter has seen this in his visions. Someone comes busting at their door which Peter barricades with furniture. Alice leaves Hanna and Lucy in a closet to hide and goes to help Peter. Lucy goes looking for her toy. By the side of the door, a blade cuts through the wall, and an alien looking lifeform enters. This is a human in a bio-suit and helmet. But no one, including the audience, knows this. Peter and Alice run to get the girls only to find out that Lucy has wandered off. Bio-suit chap finds Lucy under a table and reaches out to touch her. An essential thing to note here is that this action is not one of violence, it’s more humane, almost if to console the scared girl. By then Alice and Peter attack the crap out of bio-suit and leave him unconscious and make a run for it with his gun.
The Roof is on Fire
The four of them head to the roof and unite with Ray, Samantha, and Megan who are hiding there. From the terrace, they observe how the act is one of extermination. They see a building full of people (these are bots) being blown up by a craft. Their only option is to use a rusted service elevator to go down. They begin to descend, and the elevator soon buckles under their weight, they exit into a middle floor just in time. Peter is tinkering with the gun to get it to work by bypassing the bio-metric trigger.
They agree that they need to take the tunnels to get to the factory, Alice has been working on the tunnels, and she knows her way around them. Just then, Ray gets blown up by a craft. Right after, Megan and Samantha are shot off. Peter gets the gun working and kills his way forward, the surviving four make it to the streets. The training that these people have received on Mars clearly sucks for ground combatants as clusters of them get killed by one Peter. Also, because Peter is a robot, and he’s done this before. But no one knows this, not yet.
On the roads, we can see a few (bots) firing at crafts and getting killed. As they make their way down, Lucy looks at the lights of an approaching ship and freezes like a deer. Alice grabs her and runs to the tunnel opening. As they descend, they get fired at and fall into the tunnel. All is not well, Alice is badly hurt. They begin to head for the factory, and Alice asks Peter if this matches his visions, he says no. Alice understands that she might not make it and asks Peter to protect the kids. By now bio-suit man has traced his gun and followed the four underground. Peter engages in a fight and once again bests him. As he cracks the helmet open, we’re shown that the person inside the bio-suit is a human.
Guy in the Bio-Suit
Alright, let’s talk about this bio-suit person. He’s one of the humans who’s come back from Mars to recall Earth, his name is Miles. Like everyone, he was told that the robots on Earth are savages and ruthlessly killed and drove away all the humans. While he came expecting to fight Terminators like T101, he’s seeing families and children (robots, but still) who he doesn’t want to kill. The bio-suit and helmet is just precaution that humans have taken in case the Earth has become too toxic. This explains why earlier he doesn’t attack Lucy and now is beginning to see the robot’s side of the story.
Alice goes unconscious and Peter forces Miles to carry her at gunpoint, and they head to the factory. When they reach, the door opens and out comes a David who takes Peter and his family in, they also bring in Miles. This group is a bunch of people who never had their memories wiped hence they aren’t surprised to see a human under the bio-suit. An engineer runs diagnostics on Alice which begins to zap her. This engineer is one such with his memories intact. He’s running diagnostics like anyone would on a robot, but it appears to be harmful, from a human perspective, and so, Peter starts freaking out. He’s also confused why David seems like he’s prepared for this event of annihilation. David explains that there is an abandoned train station below them and they will head to a safe-zone to make a plan to fight back.
We Are The Robots
The engineer comes to Peter and says that Alice’s system is shutting down and there is nothing they can do to help her, that they don’t have the required equipment. Miles screams out he can help, he says “I had to learn everything about your people”. Peter sends Hanna and Lucy with David and stays back with Alice to try and revive her. Miles uses a knife to cut into Alice and begins pulling out some tubes. We’re then shown Alice has blue electronic components for her insides. Peter is confused, and so is Miles. He asks Peter “you really don’t know what you are?” as Miles is also beginning to understand that the robots have been living believing themselves to be human. Miles says that Alice needs an alternate source of power and points to Peter.
Miles asks Peter to cut open his chest, and as Peter begins doing this, he realizes that he feels no pain. He opens his chest to reveal that he too is an android. Miles uses a cable to plug into Peter and the other end to Alice to power her up. Peter’s memories come back in entirety, he remembers the war and acknowledges that his visions were actually memories. Alice awaken and she too states that she has all her memories back. Peter asks why Miles is helping them and he replies saying he didn’t sign up for killing children and families (even if they were robots). The humans breach the factory and Miles urges Peter and Alice to leave while he covers for them saying he was alone.
Down below, the last train is set to leave, and the girls are waiting for Peter and Alice to show up. David comes in, picks up the girls, and takes them to the train as they beg to halt for their parents. Peter and Alice manage to shoot their way to the train which stops and picks them up. A cannon on the train obliterates the humans who come following. Peter talks to David to find out that David and a few had kept their memories to prepare for this day and that now everyone’s gonna have to remember, ’cause this is not over. The train leaves and as it passes over the water, the tracks disappear under. The film ends with Peter’s narrative – “I know who I am now and I know my enemy. We’re not that different. Maybe if others can see that we’ll have a future after all”. This is to state that Peter understands that the humans are his enemy but also that humans and robots are actually quite similar. If both sides can see that, then there can be harmony – just like Miles and Peter start off as enemies and understand each other to make peace.
Prequel To A Very Popular Trilogy
The very humans who create AI, attack them and in the process get driven away from their planet. Through the majority of the movie, the audience is led to believe that the robots were actually humans, and initially looked upon humans as aliens. This gave the audience a very cool “robot point of view”. If you have watched two of the animated short stories – The Second Renaissance Part 1 & 2, the premise very similar. The robots in these short stories are powered by solar energy, and to defeat them, the humans decide to scorch the sky to cut off their power but still lose. The surviving humans are all plugged into a Virtual Reality System that gets named – The Matrix. Extinction could have been a prequel to The Matrix, sigh.
Read all about The Matrix and the backstory here, click below:
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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