It's very difficult, almost impossible, to say anything of true substance about the new Netflix movie Extinction without risking spoiling the story's big twist, which comes about two thirds into the action.
So we'll keep it short: Director Ben Young's movie stars Michael Peña as a man who works at some sort of futuristic facility, which has all the trappings of modern sci-fi's current vision of the future, with smooth white and platinum surfaces, rounded corners, and archway ceilings. These things matter because for much of the movie, they are the one true indicator that we are in a projection of another time. It will ultimately become very obvious that the movie takes place in a distant tomorrow, but describing it would almost definitely spoil the movie.
Peña's character, Peter, is married to Alice (Lizzie Caplan), who works a more white-collar job than her husband. Their daughters are very cute, and just like Alice, concerned about Peter's unceasing nightmares, which wake him up in the middle of the night, his sudden rousings accompanied by increasing panic. It turns out that his subconscious is producing these haunting images for a reason... but again, we won't spoil it. Instead, here is SYFY WIRE's spoiler-free conversation with Peña, who also spoke about his own nightmares and working on Marvel's latest hit, Ant-Man and The Wasp.
You’re seen having nightmares throughout the first half of the movie. They’re more than just nightmares, as we learn. But I'm wondering if you have any recurring dreams or nightmares?
Yeah, I did when I was a kid and I still do. I don't freaking know how or why, but I have dreams of being on a pirate ship. And now when I look at it, I'm like the only Mexican on a pirate ship, which doesn't even make sense, being a Mexican and being a freaking pirate ship. I'm fighting these other pirates and then I go up to this guy who is the main pirate, the captain, and he slices me in half, and every time I'm still fighting, when I'm sliced in half. I think I pulled myself together. Then I'm like, nice one, and then I go back to fighting.
Interesting. What do you think it means?
Uh, I don't know. I think that's for the experts.
Were you into pirates?
No, not at all. I mean, I lived in a poor part of Chicago. I'm like, there's no pirates.
And you still have the dream?
Yeah, I do. And not only that, pirates are not around anymore and if they are, it’s like — oh, I forget the name, the movie with Tom Hanks.
When the twist pertaining to the dreams struck in this movie, how did you react?
My jaw dropped. Normally I pride myself on the fact that I think I can see a twist coming. I wasn't able to see it, man. I'm like, it came from nowhere, so yeah, I was like, I was mad at myself for not seeing it, but then you know, it's that satisfaction that you get from a mystery.
The ending of this movie seemed like it could set up a sequel.
I thought it was a clear ending. You should talk to Netflix and tell them to give us a sequel. That would be awesome.
Ant-Man and The Wasp was the first sequel you’ve done, right?
I guess so. I didn't even think about it. Yeah.
What was it like returning to a character for the first time?
It was interesting because the gratification of it was a little bit different. I'm just so used to doing movies nowadays where you always have to create a new character and that's what's so exciting about it. And then this one, the character’s already created, so that part of it is kind of done.
When I read the script I thought, wow, Marvel man, those guys are just great with story. I was like, I might have to ask them how are they gonna do that thing where I ramble off on a storytelling — and there was a truth serum. I don't want to mess it up for anybody who hasn't seen it, but kudos to them for doing that.
Are there other Marvel movies you want to see Luis crossover with?
What I think would be great is if Luis did one of the recaps in the next Avengers movie. Like, Thanos is acting, but it’s my voice talking. In order for me or anybody else to get those scenes done, I had to memorize the entire thing even when they're not on me so I had the same cadence. It took two and a half or three days. I mean it's a long time.
I was gonna say, after what happens to Scott Lang in the Ant-Man and The Wasp mid-credits, I immediately thought, what about Luis?
Uh, I can't tell you.
I'm just saying, I was worried about him.
I mean, it's going to be heartbreaking. Some people have their favorite characters in the MCU and it's pretty awesome. [Marve] knows what they're doing. So who knows, man.
What’s the hardest scene you’ve ever shot?
It is definitely, definitely, definitely those Marvel scenes. I think it was like an eight-page monologue. It wasn't all filled with dialogue, you know, there was some stage direction or whatnot, but for sure that those scenes were not very easy.
I want to ask about the Ant-Man and The Wasp scene where Luis finally gets to drive the car, as you're driving through San Francisco — or what it looks like to be San Francisco. How did they shoot it?
We were driving. I mean that's basically it. And then it was on some green screen. I'm driving and it was really funny, man. That's when you feel like, when you're acting, you want to find the truth in things. And when you're doing that you can't help but notice that you are really, really active. You are really pretending. "Okay. And now there's a big explosion on your left!" And you're like, "Ahhh" "And now there's a big explosion on the right!" OK, "Ahhh." On those days, it's hard to keep a straight face. Me and Evangeline Lilly were cracking up the entire time. It was funny.
The set on Extinction looked wild too, you were being thrown around nonstop, explosions everywhere. How did you do that on set, if the explosions were placed in post-production?
It’s actually kind of pretty true to form because when you're filming in Serbia or whatever and you're on the side of something... [director] Ben Young did a really amazing thing where he would do things with light, very practical things that ended up being in the movie. He used light sources so that if a ship was coming by, there would be a very interesting looking light that would look like a spaceship. So you can react to it really well. Like, like what would you do if there was a spaceship? It makes you think of those kinds of things. Like, holy cow, how would I react? I'm like, well you don't have to because it's right there.
Have you ever had someone do that before?
Yeah. But at the same time, even when with Ant-Man, Marvel does it right where some of those sets are just amazing. I hope that they save some of those sets for these Marvel movies, because the set designers really need the credit that they deserve. There'll be this huge set and then you'll go in a drawer and the drawer will have notebooks and things that are exactly right. Even the smallest detail is really looked after in those movies.
Extinction debuts on Netflix on July 27. Ant-Man and The Wasp is in theaters now.