September 10, 2010Paul W.S. Anderson
Paul W.S. Anderson
Paul W.S. Anderson
Milla Jovovich as Alice
Ali Larter as Claire Redfield
Kim Coates as Bennett
Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker
Resident Evil: Afterlife picks up where Resident Evil: Extinction left off. Alice (Jovovich) heads to Umbrella’s Tokyo headquarters to take vengeance upon the zombie-making, T-virus-distributing mega-conglomerate. After an action-packed extravaganza in which she destroys their headquarters, she ends up on an escape plane with Umbrella head Albert Wesker (Roberts, picking up from Jason O’Mara). Wesker manages to fight her off and injects her with a serum that removes her powers… before the plane crashes into a mountain.
Alice, in one of quite a few moments that make one wonder exactly what were and were not superpowers in the first place, survives the crash and heads out in a plane to find Arcadia, the place near Alaska where survivors were headed in the previous installment. When she gets there, she finds only abandoned planes and a feral, memory-wiped Claire Redfield (Larter) with a metal bug on her chest. After removing the bug, she takes Redfield with her to hunt for more survivors.
As the duo fly over Hollywood, they come across stranded survivors, a hulking mega-zombie with a combination axe/hammer, and the truth about Arcadia.
Since Resident Evil was released a little over 8 years ago, an interesting progression has occurred. In the original, the story was very much a horror story based on action set-pieces. In the sequel,Resident Evil: Apocalypse, it was apparently decided that comic relief was necessary (this is the weakest of the four). The third film Resident Evil: Extinction suddenly shifted and became primarily an action film with some horror moments. It also cribbed a dangerous amount from the Matrixseries, giving Alice, among other things, some form of an EMP pulse she could cast with her mind. This fourth film, however, drops all pretenses of horror. Right from the heavily Matrix-inspired beginning of Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D, it is an action movie. Are there zombies? Yes. Is there at least one jump scare? Yes. But there is very, very little in this movie that would make anyone scared.
To some, that’s going to be a deal-breaker. These movies are, after all, supposed to be based on the most popular survival horror video game franchise of all time… horror would seem fairly important. But, interestingly, as the series has incorporated more plot elements and ideas from the games, they’ve gotten LESS horror. The first film had no relation to the game, save the names “Racoon City” and “Umbrella Labs”. The later films have included more elements of the games (Extinction being the exception) while telling their own separate tales. The films have also introduced characters from the game universe to fight alongside and against Alice, who never appeared in a “Resident Evil” game.
It’s weird to see that the more game adaptation “pieces” there are, the less “scary” the films get. In fact, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D is the closest the series has come to FEELING like a video game. The plot basically runs “Tutorial/Action Sequence/Initial Boss Encounter -> Story -> Action Sequence -> Miniboss -> Story -> Boss -> Cliffhanger”, almost like going through levels of a game. The boss fights, with the exception of the first, are a bit abbreviated as a result of the pace.
If you can handle the lack of horror, however, there is a fair amount to like in Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D. The 3D effects work well (this one was filmed fully in 3D, not up-converted), though it does lead to a bit of an over reliance on slow-mo. The action sequences, as anticlimactic as the boss fights tend to be, are still fairly well done and tense. The gore and video game-inspired zombies are decent (some violence is great in 3D), and the performances of Miller, Kodjoe, and particularly Roberts are brilliant. The plot and story also flow very well and dovetail nicely with the previous film.
Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D is not perfect though. Milla Jovovich’s Alice is good… but only when she isn’t acting alone/against herself (meant many different ways). Her deliveries in video diaries and in a monologue moment are a little off. Also, this movie has a fetish for killing people completely out of nowhere. Half of the team of survivors basically die with absolutely no build-up at all, which can get extremely annoying and distracting. Similarly, some characters are introduced for no reason at all, the Axe-Hammer Zombie being a prime example. In addition, this being basically an action movie now, the film drags considerably between the initial action sequence and shortly after Alice finds the survivors, given that there really isn’t a strong action scene (including Alice’s harrowing plane landing) between them. Finally, and most importantly, Sony? You had a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY to end this series cleanly, and, instead, you randomly appear to have tacked on a cliffhanger as a near-afterthought. STOP DOING THAT!
So, as an action movie and a general film, Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D is imperfect but fairly entertaining. As a live-action video game, it’s surprisingly immersive. As a blockbuster movie or a 3D movie, you could definitely do worse with your money. As a horror movie… it’s as scary as a bowl of oatmeal.