REVIEW: Resident Evil: Afterlife [2010]

“Star Power, Bitches”

Is it bad to say I think Paul W.S. Anderson gets a bad rap? This guy has been getting David S. Goyer type flack for years now, but while Goyer can write great work for other directors, saving himself the drivel, Anderson has seen a pretty solid slate of work. I think both Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon are vastly underrated and the first Resident Evil was a fantastic mood piece/sci-fi/actioner. After marrying muse Milla Jovovich, however, he took a back seat by writing the next two installments, watching Apocalypse capture a lot of the atmosphere of its predecessor and Extinction completely jump the tracks. Thankfully, deciding to step once more behind the camera for some zombie fun with Resident Evil: Afterlife, Anderson also chose to tone down the comedic bit players he had infused the plots with and take it all back into the locked down isolation necessary for quality suspense/horror. Realizing how asinine his idea was to create hundreds of Alice clones to end Part 3, we are ushered back into Umbrella Corporation with a large fight, giving us our bearings while also ridding the rest of that failed evolution and Milla overload.

Well, overload as in poorly superimposed doubles and triples onscreen at the same time, not in terms of her prowess at kicking butt remorselessly. Still on the journey to take down her former employers for their T-virus testing, apocalypse causing, continued research into why her DNA meshes so well with the synthetic cells nefarious dealings, it appears her mission is completed once taking out Japan’s headquarters and Shawn Roberts’s almost comically stiff Albert Wesker, the last corporate-level Umbrella villain with a pulse. Alice’s escape from this early fight has yet to be fully understood by my simple mind, but what comes next finds the series going back to its roots in so far as a group of survivors trapped in an enclosed space (this time a correctional facility) trying to figure out an escape from the zombies surrounding the perimeter and infiltrating through the sewer system. It’s an eclectic mix of characters, all at the mercy of the script on when to die, infused with a case of amnesia (Ali Larter’s reprisal of Claire), a wrongfully(?) imprisoned for murder military man (Wentworth Miller’s Chris), and basketball star turned guerrilla general (Boris Kodjoe’s Luther) to go the distance with Jovovich.

With Kim Coates’s egomaniacal movie producer Bennett willing to throw everyone under the bus for a taste of freedom on the ever-elusive Arcadia—a haven of uninfected humans with plenty of food and supplies, heard about through an emergency radio frequency—the group of survivors have their work cut out for them. The ensuing action sequences are most definitely the key ingredient to this series as watching an amped up Alice battling fifty infected dead alone is fun. Throw in Kodjoe, Miller, and Larter to help out and you’ll see that Anderson knows what plays. And while I do appreciate his use of Cameron’s 3-D process for the smooth, all-encompassing effect, the shoddy computer graphics do show limitations. Watching a piece of glass rotate towards me crisp and clear is one thing, but when it looks like a cartoon drawing superimposed on real-life scenery there is a problem. I could also have done with less slomotion freeze-framing and camera movements around characters, as well as a complete removal of all gimmicky objects thrown at the audience. These things add nothing to the story or the action and only help show how fabricated it all is.

But I did really enjoy the simple story of staying alive while the friends around you get eaten or blown up. Isn’t that the point of the videogame too? You need to get through the turmoil without any bites or missing limbs to ready yourself for the inevitable sequel. It’s a popcorn flick for a reason—fun, blood, action, and special effects. I’ve talked about the last three, but the real success here is a return to fun. We all know Miller lacks a certain charisma in his performances (anyone who has watched “Prison Break” can attest to it), but that earnestness works in a genre film of this ilk; the mysterious, deep rasp of his voice doing its best to add tension. And Roberts really does go way overboard with his antagonistic Wesker, only a moustache twirl away from the broadest show of villainy possible. Even Coates loses some of his edge from “Sons of Anarchy” in order to play a bit more over-the-top. But we need this stuff, especially since it all has to complement Jovovich’s seriousness throughout. She is on a mission and never relents except to help her friends, showing the kind of compassion lacking in her creators.

Once you look past the cinematography’s abundant use of ‘jump scares’, you’ll appreciate the cold, metallic style utilized along with tomandandy’s industrial beats pulsating on the soundtrack. A bathroom fight scene between Larter and a mammoth hooded monster wielding a two-ton axe in the gorgeous mist of water drops falling from broken shower poles, the opening credits with a waltz of text and umbrellas, and the climactic brawl against a pristinely white walled room set to the instrumental remix of A Perfect Circle’s Outsider are the most memorable exchanges to go with automatic weapon fire mowing zombies down. In fact, if I was surprised by anything, it’s with the almost second-thought use of the infected flesh-eaters so prominent to the mythology of the series. Used in a couple mob scenes and as convenient ways to kill the extra baggage, this tale is really all about Alice versus Wesker and the hope of finishing Umbrella’s evil ways forever. The most unsurprising aspect: a blatant grab at a fifth installment with an ending consisting of more set-up than resolution. However, a mid-credits glimpse at a certain returning beauty in the role of Jill Valentine makes it easier to take.

Resident Evil: Afterlife 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

photography:
[1] Ali Larter (left) and Milla Jovovich star in Screen Gems’ action horror RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. ©2010 Constantin Film International GmbH & Davis Films/Impact Pictures Inc. All rights reserved.
[2] Wentworth Miller stars in Screen Gems’ action horror RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. ©2010 Constantin Film International GmbH & Davis Films/Impact Pictures Inc. All rights reserved.
[3] Shawn Roberts stars as Albert Wesker in Screen Gems’ Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

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