Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, Resident Evil: Afterlife is initially your typical, mindless action flick, which is fine in itself, but the thing that really gets my goat is how horribly close this film (and the Resident Evil film series, in general) follows the formulaic “good guys-bad guys” system, and the method they use to do it. Resident Evil: Afterlife is a 97-minute long show, starring Milla Jovovich as Alice, Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield, Ali Larter as Claire Redfield and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker. And if it’s your thing, the film also features a 3D version, though I didn’t touch that feature.

Probably the best place to start is the director: Paul Anderson. If the name rings a bell it might be because of films like Soldier, Event Horizon, Alien vs. Predator or the original Mortal Kombat. Then, if you’re like me, the first two names will warm your cockles and bring back fond memories, whereas the latter two films will bring back cringes and wild outrage. The directing style for Resident Evil: Afterlife follows fairly closely to the original Resident Evil or Alien vs. Predator: Anderson will force characters into would-be heroes fighting for their and everyone’s humanity. This forced role-play is unfortunate since it screws with the survival-horror concept the film tries to draw from.

The film begins well enough, a rainy day in Tokyo ends with a Japanese businessman getting mauled by a zombie. There’s a small recap for those in the audience who haven’t bothered to waste their time by seeing the previous two films. And then the action starts in earnest when a bunch of Milla Jovovich clones attack an underground complex. Those wearing high-heels in the attack die off first, which I find acceptable, but the ridiculousness of a bunch of clones running around is pretty hard to shake. The Jovovich clones all have psychic powers and swords and things, which just add to the ridiculousness. But then you’ll eventually hit a scene where a platoon of armed guards is taken out by the single Jovovich. In itself not a bad thing, but having her run around slow-mo, jumping around pillars is a pretty cheap thrill. It should look familiar to people because it was used back in 1999, when The Matrix came out. Eventually all the Jovovich clones get blown up by some sort of black-hole device, with the real one and Shawn Roberts (as the evil scientist) escaping, but not before he stabs Jovovich with an anti-virus thereby taking away her superpowers. With a tear in her eye, Jovovich thanks him for returning her her humanity, right before they crash.

Inexplicably, it goes on to show Jovovich flying up to Alaska, displaying beautiful views of the ocean and snow-capped peaks. It’s with heavy-handed sarcasm when I say that I love seeing these beautiful features. Especially in a post-apocalyptic world, where a virus has transformed humanity into flesh eating monsters, and survival is paramount. Beautiful vistas are exactly what I thought I signed up for when I started to watch this film. Afterlife is forced to sweep up after the last movie, which was just as – if not more so – atrocious, by picking up one of the vague, useless characters and flying them both back to a desolated Los Angeles.

Eventually, these two find more survivors and an apparent salvation that, naturally, becomes a trap. Most of the survivors die; our heroes defeat the bad guy and save humanity. End of story. There isn’t much more to say about Afterlife. There is perhaps one or two decent shoot outs before the end, although I should say that I am incredibly grateful that Jovovich doesn’t fist fight the big bad monster to death (a la Resident Evil: Apocalypse) in the end. Likewise, you’re treated to the glorious return of the useless character K-Mart (played by a mute Spencer Locke).

I’d call this crime of a film a fitting end to an atrocious series that has butchered the honorable Resident Evil mantle, but this isn’t the last film. Apparently a fifth film is in the works.

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