I feel like I should just copy and paste my review of any one of the other three Resident Evil movies because, folks, I know it’s shocking, but Afterlife represents more of the same. Franchise producer Paul W.S. Anderson may return to the director’s chair after being absent for two pictures, but the incoherent story, the abundance of clunky action, and the basic players are all still present. Basically, we get a video game adaptation that forgets the adapting part of the equation, the equivalent of watching two friends play the source material for 95 minutes without a controller of one’s own. Oh, and in case you weren’t already working up a headache, this time everything’s in 3D.
But I actually shouldn’t be so harsh. Unlike its immediate predecessor—which I only remember as being completely worthless because I paged back and saw I gave it a zero-bucket review—Afterlife is not agonizingly painful. There’s a pretty cool action sequence towards the end in which the characters escape zombies – probably the best thing Anderson has ever constructed as a filmmaker. That’s a whole 15 minutes of solid fun. Not to mention, Milla Jovovich and especially a brunette Ali Larter are hot as ever. (Yes, the world has ended and society has crumbled, but plenty of makeup and hair products are still readily available.) Given what I’ve been conditioned to expect from this franchise, I was more than happy for these small favors.
If the first three films failed to leave any kind of an imprint on your brain other than that they weren’t very good, then, like myself, you’re probably in the majority. This means that Resident Evil: Afterlife’s first 15 minutes won’t make a lick of sense to you, but then again, does anything else in the movie? The first sequence begins as Alice (Jovoich) raids the evil Umbrella Corporation with an army of clones, squaring off against bad guy Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), and ends with her jumping from an exploding helicopter after regaining her humanity from Wesker… or something like that. Then she jets a personal plane to Arcadia, Alaska, a supposed zombie-free refuge location she planned on escaping to with her compadres in the last movie. Turns out Arcadia isn’t much of a paradise; in fact, it’s uninhabited except for a disoriented Claire Redfield (Larter), one of said compadres.
So Alice does what common wisdom tells any survivor of the zombie apocalypse to do: head south. Amidst the rubble of downtown Los Angeles, she and the now lucid Claire spot a group of survivors taking shelter in a prison, a wealth of flesh-hungry zombies lurking outside the gates. These survivors inform the Alice that Arcadia is not a city, but a ship they can see in the distance. (This revelation is so corny I half expected them to tell her she actually got the wrong Arcadia, meaning the real zombie safe-haven is the suburb of L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley, not the one in Alaska.) With that, the movie’s thin plot comes to fruition. Once again, it’s time for our heroes to kick some zombie butt so they can reach a momentary oasis before the next sequel, in which they will inevitably do the same thing all over again.
Among the new team, the only interesting member is Chris (Wentworth Miller), who was found locked up in the prison. The others err on the side of caution and keep him in his cell, despite his claim that he was an Army soldier sent to release prisoners to fight the zombies, only to be mistaken for a guard and locked up by escapees. The menacing Miller ensures that Chris, who we later learn is Claire's brother, always makes for a captivating presence, even though he brings little of consequence to the story. But like I said when discussing the movie’s other pros, small favors seem huge when the movie is Resident Evil: Afterlife.
Deferring to my criticisms of the previous pictures on the rest, the only new part of the equation left to talk about is the 3D. It’s notable because the film was shot natively with an extra dimension on the Pace Fusion Camera, the piece of technology pioneered by Avatar. Like that visual milestone, this film might serve as a pretty cool Best Buy demo-real for 3D televisions, but it’s probably better as a 2D experience. The image is noticeably darker with the glasses on and the depth of field seems artificial. I’ve always been firmly in the anti-3D camp and Resident Evil: Afterlife does nothing to change my mind. In fact, I would argue the only time that the new 3D really works is the same one the old red-blue cellophane glasses kind did: when, as in the case of the recent Piranha 3D, the intention is to cheapen and cheese up the material. Resident Evil: Afterlife was already too cheap from the second it was green-lit. Like its predecessors, this is a movie only for carpel-tunnel afflicted gaming addicts whose weak hands don’t allow for all the seizure-inducing action they crave.
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Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, USA). Produced by Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Don Carmody, Berndt Eichinger, Samuel Hadida, Victor Hadida, Robert Kulzer, and Martin Moszkowicz. Directed and written for the screen by Paul W.S. Anderson. Starring Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe, and Wentworth Miller. Distributed by Screen Gems. Rated R, with a running time of 95 minutes.