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Review: Resident Evil Afterlife

Resident Evil Afterlife
09.10.2010
5 10

PLOT: Five years since the Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus wrecked havoc on Raccoon City, the world is no safer and no less infected. Franchise heroine Alice (Mila Jovovich) travels from Tokyo to Alaska to Los Angeles searching for survivors and battling what’s left of Umbrella and their increasingly evolving infected. Along the way she teams with an old friend, Clair (Ali Larter) and comes across new allies, Chris (Wentworth Miller), Clair’s brother and Luther (Boris Kodjoe), a leader of survivors holding up in an abandoned prison. Together they decide to take the offense in the fight against the apocalyptic horrors Umbrella unleashed.

REVIEW: Walking out of RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE, I couldn’t help but think a better title would be Resident Evil: Afterbirth… In the end what is this installment if not just the odds and ends of regurgitated action scenes we’ve all seen before and a shuffle of cameos from the game series that weren’t already worked into the previous movies? I’ll tell you, in short: nada.

Not being a fan of any of the previous movies thus far, I expected as much of a surprise with AFTERLIFE as I do with my right hand before I go to bed. That is if my right hand grew pointy spikes out of its palm and forced me to wear sun glasses in a dark room, which is more like how the evening with this film turned out.

Along with the lack of genuine scares, CGI that seems to come out of a 32bit video game (appropriate?) and predictable plot, it’s mainly Mila Jovovich’s character Alice that turned me off of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I still haven’t grown out of my FIFTH ELEMENT crush and Mila is as smoking here as she ever was in the series, not to mention the points she gets for having to recite Paul Anderson’s exposition heavy voice-overs with conviction, but Alice embodies how little the movies work in terms of action and horror. She’s a superhero that contradicts the cinematic appeal of the games- that these people can, very easily, die. It’s funny then that the actual movies are more like what we have in mind when it comes to video games; an unstoppable lead with unlimited bullets.

Unsurprisingly, Afterlife is about what you’d expect. No more, no less. Well, probably less if you thought having Paul Anderson back in the director’s chair will give the movie an edge. Immediately we are dug out of the holes Anderson had written himself in four movies on; a returning character gets a convenient case of amnesia and has about as much recollection of the events in the previous films as the audience does and through the power of an anti-virus our dear Alice has lost all of her telepathic abilities and superpowers. Aha, great! They get it! An honest to goodness fragile human to lead us through a zombie apocalypse. Sadly, not a minute after Alice becomes “human” again, she has a full on collision when her helicopter meets a mountain and naturally comes out unscathed… Come on! Now you are just being cruel, it’s like the cinematic equivalent to a dog explaining why eating his own crap is disgusting right before he brushes his teeth with poo.

In other cases it doesn’t even seem like they were trying to make sense of their own continuity, in the last film Alice narrates that “all over the world lakes and rivers dried up. Forests turned to deserts.” Though the Alaskan glaciers and woodlands appear as full and rich as you’d ever see in an IMAX documentary. I guess Sarah Palin knows how to prepare for Z-day. While the last movie tried to be MAD MAX BEYOND RACCOON CITY, Afterlife seems to be just as heavily influenced by THE MATRIX, DIE HARD and countless better action films. Individually these scenes are pretty fun and do add butter to your popcorn but strung together it all seems too on the nose and too familiar to be engaging.

Along with the returning characters we are introduced to a few new faces. Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) shows up at the half way point.  Fans of the games will recognize the name, though along with the liberties taken with the character, not even his name will mean much, as his relationship to his onscreen sister Clair never amounts to anything more than a moment “oh, wow. You’re alive too? Neat…” PRISON BREAK fans will either get a kick out of his familiar introduction or will rolls their eyes. There is also a new band of survivors lead by a once pro-athlete celebrity who goes by the name Luther, played by actual former tennis pro Boris Kodjoe (ok, now I have to ask: is Anderson a casting genius or just unimaginative?) Admittedly, Luther and the group of survivors is the best thing going on in this movie as Kodjoe is pretty damn charismatic and believable as a leader. It also helps that his character is new to the Resident Evil mythology both on screen and in game, so his stakes are high; giving the movie a dose of much needed suspense in that someone likable may not live by the end of the movie.

On the monster side, there is the ”Axe Man” (or the Executioner as he is referred to in the last game). A seven foot tall fellow with nails sticking out of his body that are so thick Pinhead would squirm. I have to give Paul some credit with this guy; he does look pretty damn cool. It’s as if he wandered out of a Guillermo Del Toro fantasy (literally, as his appearance in the movie is given no explanation).  Nonetheless he wobbles’ around scene to scene with about as much grace as the Nemesis baddie in the second movie.

Now comes the 3D… Surprisingly, it’s pretty damn solid. AFTERLIFE is one of the first movies to use James Cameron’s fusion 3D rig since AVATAR. I have to say it is the best use of 3D I have seen all summer. Now this isn’t resounding praise coming from a guy who doesn’t like 3D to begin with but I will admit to having a slight change of heart with the format. I used to categorize 3D as either a photographic killer being post-converted, literally ruining the cinematography of a movie (THE LAST AIRBENDER) or an empty attempt in immersion that adds nothing to the experience (TOY STORY 3). The 3D here is both technically top form and (shamelessly) used to full effect. Anderson has no reservations flinging everything and the kitchen sink at the cameras, even when it doesn’t make a lick of sense (the small dv camcorder Alice uses to document her journey plays back in full three dimensions. Huh. Imagine that).

All in all RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE can be summed up with a resounding ‘meh’. It’s not as claustrophobic as the first, not as campy as the second and not as pretty as the third. Anderson seems comfortably rooted in 3D though. I think his sensibilities are fit for it, going back to the HOUSE OF WAX days: using it as the roller coaster ride it was made to be. If you have absolutely any interest in seeing this I would recommend seeing Afterlife in 3D. At the very least you’ll notice it.

Source: JoBlo.com

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