Why 'Extinction' Feels Familiar and Different All at the Same Time

We talked to director Ben Young about the movies that influenced his sci-fi epic.


Extinction isn’t exactly an original story. The new Netflix film borrows heavily from other sci-fi epics to tell an intriguing new tale with a classic message about humanity’s place in the universe. But in an interview ahead of the film’s release, director Ben Young tells Inverse that his inspiration went far beyond the typical sci-fi classics. Here’s a spoiler-filled look at some of the stories and aesthetics that inspired Extinction.

Warning: It should be pretty clear by now that this article contains Extinction spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.

If you’ve already watched Extinction, you know the movie is all about artificial intelligence. As we learn in the big reveal about two-thirds of the way through the story, all the main characters are actually man-made robots fighting off a human invasion (rather than humans fighting off aliens, as we’ve been led to believe). In a series of flashbacks, we witness a failed attempt to destroy the robots, forcing any human survivors to flee the planet entirely.

To create this robot-inhabited world, which needed to feel both familiar and coldly different at once, Young says he looked to a few sci-fi classics like Gattaca, Her, and Minority Report. He also took a lot of inspiration from one sci-fi movie in particular because of the way it balances entertaining the audience with delivering a deeper message.

“To me, if you’re telling a science fiction film, you need to comment on the world now,” Young said. “One that did that was District 9. It’s a really fun film you can sit back and enjoy, but you can also go deeper.”

Young and his team also looked beyond sci-fi for inspiration in an effort to set Extinction apart, especially when it came to designing the human invaders in a way that would feel alien at first but still makes sense once we learn who they actually are.

“I didn’t use a lot of sci-fi films as visual aesthetics,” he said. “As an audience member, I feel like I’m just seeing the same thing rehashed again. We were looking more at classic movies. We were looking at the insect world and older fashions throughout human existence.”

The result is a movie that looks both familiar and distinct. Perfect for a story full of classic sci-fi tropes that still manages to surprise you with its unexpected twist ending.

Extinction is streaming now on Netflix.

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