Paul W.S. Anderson
Milla Jovovich - Alice
Ali Larter - Claire Redfield
Kim Coates - Bennett
Shawn Roberts - Albert Wesker
Sergio Peris-Mencheta - Angel Ortiz
Spencer Locke - K-Mart
Boris Kodjoe - Luther West
Wentworth Miller - Chris Redfield
Sienna Guillory - Jill Valentine
Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/Action/Zombies/Video Games
Running Time - 97 Minutes
With its fourth film out this weekend, RESIDENT EVIL has officially become the most successful video game franchise of all time. Who knew in 2002 that this video game adaptation would still be talked about, in good and in bad, would spawn a motion picture quadrology? The film really wasn't all that good and left a lot to be desired. It probably didn't deserve as many sequels as its gotten. Yet, here I am again discussing another RESIDENT EVIL flick, this time titled AFTERLIFE.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is a sort of rebirth of sorts for the franchise. For one, it has brought the original director [and Milla Jovovich's husband/baby daddy] Paul W.S. Anderson back to direct and write. It also brings back the more claustrophobic feel of the first film where interior shots take precedence over exterior shots. And it also adds more Resident Evil game characters than ever before, with Chris and Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, the Executioner Majini from Resident Evil 5, and one of the coolest villains, Albert Wesker, all appearing in one film [Leon Kennedy will probably be in the next film at this rate]. But the biggest addition of all is the 3D elements that seems to become the popular thing to do these days, for better or for worse.
If you've read my three previous RESIDENT EVIL reviews, you know I'm not the biggest fan of this franchise. I love the games but the films just make me scratch my head. Still, I find some enjoyment in them and I can see why people love these films so much. I wasn't really eager to see RE: AFTERLIFE. But I felt I had to complete this franchise before my sanity returned and warned me to stay away.
My only wish for the film was that it was better than that stinker, RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. And thankfully, my wish came true. RE: AFTERLIFE is definitely better than its previous installment. Still, the same problems linger and show why this franchise has gone longer than it probably should have.
Continuing four years after EXTINCTION, Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her countless clones have infiltrated the Umbrella Corporation building in Tokyo, Japan. They murder everything in sight, going after Umbrella's head honcho, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). Wesker is one step ahead of Alice, murdering all of the clones in a massive explosion and escaping in a bulletproof plane. Predictably, the real Alice is already boarded on the plane to stop Wesker. Unfortunately, she's too busy getting one-liners in that she is vulnerable to Wesker injecting her with a new Umbrella serum that strips Alice completely of her superpowers, making her fully human. The plane crashes, but both manage to survive.
Six months later, Alice finally arrives at Alaska to find Arcadia, the haven where the non-infected are staying at. But Alice quickly realizes that there is no Arcadia in Alaska. Soon after, she reunites with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who has a spider device on her chest [created by Umbrella] to wipe her away of her memories and control her. Alice removes the device, taking Claire and herself to Los Angeles - now overrun by zombies [or paparazzi, what's the difference?]. They land on top of a building where they meet with more survivors: basketball player Luther West (Boris Kudjoe), TV producer Bennett (Kim Coates), actress Crystal (Kacey Barnfield), and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) who happens to be a cop and also Claire's older brother. The survivors point Alice and Claire towards the real Arcadia, which is a ship in the Pacific Ocean. But before the survivors can get there, they must encounter zombies, Genados infected with the Los Pragas parasite, The Executioner Majini, and a superpowered Albert Wesker himself.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is pretty much the same as the three previous installments. We get the usual lack of logical story. We get the wooden acting from everyone involved. We get decent amount of action. And the direction is what it is. The only difference is that Paul W.S. Anderson actually filmed the film in James Cameron's 3D Fusion Camera System, the same technique used to film AVATAR. And to be honest, this film would be a waste of time without the 3D thrown in. While not great, it does help the experience in watching RE: AFTERLIFE.
To discuss the lack of story and character development would be pretty much pointless. This franchise isn't known for deep, fascinating stories and their interesting and colorful characters. And RE: AFTERLIFE doesn't change that. I should be overlooking this aspect of the movie and praising it for at least being consistent in its "storytelling", but that wouldn't be fair as a reviewer to do that. I could ignore the lazy screenplay if other things in the film compensated for it. But there isn't enough action, visual style, or great acting for me to do that.
The fact is, we're in a fourth film in this franchise and we still have NO idea who Alice is. I will praise Anderson for stripping away her powers, which I had issues with for a while now. It actually makes Alice vulnerable now and gives her a new dimension to her character. Well it should have if he had allowed Alice to deal with the fact that she doesn't have an advantage over Umbrella anymore. But we never get a scene like that. In fact, it's like Alice hasn't changed except that she doesn't use her psychic powers anymore. She survives plane crashes, battles with The Executioner Majini and Wesker, and swinging away from zombies as if her powers never left. It wasn't a really effective plot point at all, even though it was the right move to make.
And then we have the other characters, whose only character development are their names and occupations. The newer characters didn't bother me much anyway because they were zombie food anyway. But Claire still doesn't feel like Claire. And Chris is as bland as they come. And even though the two are siblings, they hardly talk to each other or share scenes together. Some backstory for these characters would be nice. Just throw your fans a bone here!
And Wesker is okay, but he doesn't do enough to really effect you as this major villain. He's an awesome character in the video game franchise, who has a long history with Umbrella and S.T.A.R.S. In the film, he's treated as an Agent Smith ripoff from THE MATRIX. The character deserved better, even though I didn't hate the portrayal all that much. He should have been in the film more to really matter.
I will say that the narrative is a lot simplier now, and it doesn't have many subplots that distract the flow of the film. We clearly understand the goals of the characters and it's followed through pretty much. There's no more experimenting on clones. There's no more moments of Alice's eyes changing to reflect her new powers. It's pretty much kept as a small group of survivors trying to make to a place where they live safely without infection. The story felt closer to tone to the first RESIDENT EVIL, which was kind of refreshing.
I will praise RE: AFTERLIFE for having the best action in the franchise so far. The opening sequence with the Alice clones is pretty cool and ties up that sub-plot as best as Anderson could write it with his capabilities. The ending with Wesker is more of a skirmish than an actual battle, but it was cool to see the Wesker from the video games using his superpowers on Alice and the gang. The best action sequence was the one with the Executioner Majini. That dude is intimidating in Resident Evil 5 and he was pretty imtimidating here as well. I wish they had explained who he was or where he came from, but this is a RESIDENT EVIL film we're talking about. They just supply questions, not answers. Still, I thought the action was handled well for the most part and kept me from being bored, although the dead spots were pretty obvious as the film went along.
The direction by Paul W.S. Anderson is a mixed bag. The pacing is off at times due to the fact that we get massive amounts of action, then a period where characters just talk and walk around, followed by more action, followed by talking and walking, and etc. This wouldn't have been an issue if the talking and walking was shot in a more interesting manner. Also, Anderson loves his MATRIX-like slow motion filmmaking, to the point where it started to annoy me after a while. I don't think this was more worse than during the fight between Alice/Claire vs. The Executioner Majini. There was times during that sequence where I actually felt a bit of tension and suspense, but then Anderson ruins it by filming portions in slow motion. It just ruined everything! Without the slow motion, this fight would have been pretty awesome for a RESIDENT EVIL movie. But it completely takes you out of it. And the way it was framed as well was just awkward. You have to see it to understand. Other than that, the film looks good. The editing was tight. And the 3D, while not the greatest I've seen, is actually very well done. You get a bunch of things flying at you, like weapons, blood, brain matter, and other stuff. I thought a lot of it was very cool and it definitely made the viewing experience a lot better than it probably should have been.
The acting in RE: AFTERLIFE is pretty bad. Milla Jovovich is still bland as Alice, although I will say that this is her best acting performance as the character since the first one. She still does action very well and she was emoting a bit more at times, which was nice to see. I think she was more game for this one since her husband was the director. But I didn't mind Jovovich at all. Ali Larter, on the other hand, is no Claire Redfield. She's a better actress than this but she's just wooden as hell here. I have to blame Anderson for not bringing out more from her, but it wasn't a great performance at all. Wentworth Miller is just as bland as Chris. He tries to be this badass but just comes off looking bad. He doesn't get to do much either. Shawn Roberts was also wooden as Wesker, but he had his moments. And Boris Kudjoe as Luther West was okay as well. He seemed to be more into the film than the other actors.
And stay after the end credits to see a familiar face return to the movie franchise. From the looks of it, I'm kind of interested in the next installment. I can't believe I just wrote that...
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE THROWING THESE WORDS TOWARDS YOUR COMPUTER SCREEN
- Always walk away from a hot girl standing in the rain for no reason. She's probably a zombie. Or thinks she's participating in a wet T-shirt contest. Dead and stupid - not exactly an attractive combination.
- Don't ask Wesker questions. He'll just shoot you in the head. Or make you watch him in DIARY OF THE DEAD. No one deserves either fate.
- Even though she was stripped of her powers, Alice still managed to survive a plane crash without much injury. If only John Denver had his DNA manipulated by Umbrella...
What? Too soon?
- Alice arrived in Alaska, disappointed to find out that Arcadia wasn't there. Well, Arcadia hasn't been around since the mid-80s. She should have known that the members are back in Duran Duran now.
- Chris Redfield was locked inside a cage, saying he knew the way out towards Arcadia. Well if anyone knows how to break out of prisons, it's this guy.
- Alice and Claire took care of the Executioner Majini. The only thing better would have been receiving an achievement or a trophy for 50 GS for sitting through it.
THE FINAL HOWL
If you're a fan of the RESIDENT EVIL movie franchise, then you'll enjoy RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. If you're not a fan, then stay far away. I'm in the middle when it comes to these films. I enjoy them as mindless entertainment, but it's becoming obvious this franchise needs to end sooner than later. Still, it's an improvement over EXTINCTION and I can't say I wasn't entertained. RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is a film I wouldn't mind watching on DVD or cable every once in a while. But I wouldn't spend 18 dollars to see this in a theater, even if the 3D helps the film a decent deal. No movie is worth that much, especially this one. But it was better than I was expecting it to be and I'm pretty satisfied by that.
1.5 Howls Outta 4