Resident Evil: Afterlife
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson
Milla Jovovich as Alice
Ali Larter as Claire Redfield
Kim Coates as Bennett
Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker
Sergio Peris-Mencheta as Angel Ortiz
Spencer Locke as K-Mart
Boris Kodjoe as Luther West
Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield
Sienna Guillory as Jill Valentine
Kacey Barnfield as Crystal
Newest in the “Resident Evil” franchise completely lacks intelligence, falls in neither horror nor action genres, but is a shining example of 3D spectacle.
Paul W.S. Anderson brought us the intensely eerie space-horror movie Event Horizon in 1997, followed by a number of forgettable directing efforts. Horror and action fans often dismiss him with disgust or amusement, much as they do that purveyor of schlock, Uwe Boll. Anderson, however, did make the original Resident Evil in 2002. That movie brought the much-loved horror game to life on the big screen, which thrilled gamers and horror fans alike. After that, directors Alexander Witt and Russell Mulcahy took over the franchise and made Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction, respectively. The movies are silly, action-packed gorefests. They feature toned women being hardcore in bondage-style costumes, and who can resist that?
Anderson is back in the director’s chair for this weekend’s release, Resident Evil: Afterlife. In this installment he’s directing his original star and recently his wife, Milla Jovovich, as Alice. The fourth film opens with a cursory explanation of the other movies’ content. Alice used to work for the Umbrella Corporation, which accidentally released the T Virus from their headquarters at Raccoon City. The T Virus killed almost everyone on earth, but as Alice says, “the problem was they didn’t stay dead.” Alice herself is infected with the T Virus, but rather than making her an undead flesh-eating machine, it makes her a superhuman, ultra strong anomaly. She’s spent the last three films living in a post-apocalyptic world infested with monsters, obsessed with her mission of destroying the Umbrella Corporation. There have been secondary characters, male and female, but Alice and the zombies are the constant—just as they were in the game.
Resident Evil: Afterlife begins with an excruciatingly long, leisurely zoom into Tokyo, where raindrops splatter in slow motion onto a sea of umbrellas and patter off the silver credits as they roll. After a short explanation sequence, the fourth movie picks up shortly after the third left off: Alice stayed behind while her friends Claire (Ali Larter) and K-Mart (Spencer Locke) flew to Arcadia, an apparent haven from infection. Alice tracks down Arcadia, but finds nothing but a deserted airfield and an amnesiac Claire. The two then fly to Los Angeles. The City of Angels is a smoldering ruin—one imagines this was cathartic for Anderson, whose ridicule for Hollywood may equate theirs for him—but Alice finds survivors sequestered in the Citadel Correctional Facility and surrounded by a sea of the undead. The survivors include naïve Victoria Beckham-lookalike Crystal (Kacey Barnfield), ripped ex-basketballer Luther (Boris Kodjoe), former movie producer Bennett (Kim Coates), and ex-Army man Angel (Sergio Peris-Mencheta). Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller, playing possible criminal Chris, is (wait for it) imprisoned in the basement of the correctional facility. None of these characters have any sort of depth, but one thing can be said of Resident Evil: Afterlife: it doesn’t discriminate. Three races and both genders represent here, and everyone is equally hardcore.
In a surprisingly smart move, the Resident Evil movies put a special emphasis on Jovovich’s femininity contrasted with her strength. Her costumes are a sort of S&M chic that one imagines would be a mite constricting for the kind of fighting Alice does, but certainly accentuate her figure. When she flies over the prison, the characters atop the building make a point to call the pilot “one crazy son of a bitch,” and wonder what he is doing (because of course anyone who can fly like that has to have testicles). Later, Alice drops a load of quarters on a tabletop, muttering offhandedly that “a girl’s got to be prepared.” However, Alice and Claire are by far the strongest characters in Resident Evil: Afterlife, and that’s rare and refreshing in modern cinema, and especially in horror and action. The fact that her strength was injected in her system by an outside (distinctly masculine) force is fodder for another article.
In horror films, stalker-cam has become the norm, and audiences are almost always aware of danger before the protagonist; what better technique to build suspense? The problem with the Resident Evil movies is that our protagonist is superhuman, so the audience never has a leg up on her. Nothing is particularly shocking, which detracts from the kind of anxiety the movie could build. However, like in any good horror film, the enemy is constantly shifting and changing. From zombie dogs to tentacle monsters to an enormous hooded monster reminiscent of Silent Hill’s Pyramidhead, the Resident Evil creatures are nothing less than satisfying.
Though it’s closer to action than horror, the movie doesn’t quite fit that genre either. Pauses in the midst of chaotic explosions and slow-motion combat take away some of the frenetic pleasure of action films. Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and Dawn of the Dead utilized half-speed fight techniques to their fullest, but Resident Evil: Afterlife editor Niven Howie can’t quite get the pacing right. Dialogue and meaningful glances are timed incorrectly, and scenes that should move quickly creep along. Granted, the picture is ultra sharp and even the digitized backdrops aren’t distracting. When the action starts in earnest, it’s hard not to appreciate the visual effects. Resident Evil: Afterlife is an exhibition of appealing graphics, through and through.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is releasing in 3D, and in this movie 3D works. Everything from throwing stars to bullets come flying out of the screen at the audience, and that’s what 3D should be: sheer spectacle. There’s absolutely nothing smart about Resident Evil: Afterlife, but it features tough female characters, utilizes great creature effects, and offers a good example of 3D technology. If that’s what you seek in a film, by all means go. Otherwise, you probably won’t regret waiting to Netflix it.