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Thursday
Sep162010

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is a mindless 3D slow-mo shockfest (review)

Rating:  (Passable)

If you think you've seen it all, hold on to your colostomy bags, because Resident Evil: Afterlife is about to blow you away! Not only is Paul W.S. Anderson--the series writer and helmer of the 2002 original--back to direct, he's brought a horde of upgrades to the series! Check it out!

It's got:

  • Big outdoor cinematic shots
  • Tons of bullet-time shots, circa 1999
  • An Emilia Earhart plane
  • Upgraded "Las Plagas" (Progenitor) zombies with fangy faces ala Blade II
  • Digging zombies
  • A 10 foot tall axe-hammer zombie
  • Boss fights
  • Wentworth Miller trapped in a prison cell (poor guy)
  • A mind-controlling chest device (RE5)
  • 3D!!!!

With gimmicks like these, who needs anything else? Resident Evil: Afterlife is more a series of zombie-defying 3D scenarios than a real movie, but is anyone complaining? 

As good as it gets

It's difficult to fault the Resident Evil series. Now in its fourth iteration, it's still about as good as the video game franchise it's based on. There have been a few lulls (Resident Evil: Apocalypse comes to mind) and few standout moments, but the video game series isn't blowing anyone's mind either (save for RE4); I'd call it a wash. So where does that leave us? Oh, about where Resident Evil: Extinction left off.

If you remember, at the end of Extinction, Alice (Milla Yovovich) has super powers and finds a bunch of clones of...herself in a laboratory. You see, the Umbrella Corporation--the evil super company that released the T-Virus on the world and turned its inhabitants into mindless zombies--hasn't gone anywhere. Despite lagging resources and the growing desolation of the Earth, Umbrella continues to run tests and play around with the infected masses, safe within its massive, city-sized underground bases. They must have been one helluva tax write-off!

As the film starts, we're deep within the company's Tokyo headquarters (a nod to the Japanese origins of RE). Albert Wesker, the main antagonist from the video games, is head of the evil corporation. He's not a nice guy. During our heart-pounding intro, hundreds of Alice clones rush the facility and try to destroy him. He escapes, only to come face to face with the real Alice (she has shorter hair), who tries to kill him. He's quicker than he looks, however, and jabs her with a antidote gun that takes away her magic powers (though she is no less acrobatic after). After that, there are a bunch more explosions and then the intro credits roll.

It only gets nuttier from there. Later, Alice meets her new crew (they're restocked every movie). This time everyone is trapped at the top of a maximum security prison with thousands of zombies surrounding the gates below. Sound familiar? The setup is a lot like the Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004, which had a group of survivors trapped in and on top of a mall. It's clear that Anderson has seen Dawn of the Dead, and is here to have fun. The gang even toys with the idea of breaking out in an armored truck.

But wait, there's more!

There are obvious lapses in coherency. I still wonder how the human population seems to survive as zombies, years and years after infection. They may be crazed, but they'd die from lack of food at some point, wouldn't they? I suppose I'm assuming these zombies are like those in 28 Days Later. Clearly they're not. They aren't really like the zombies in the original Resident Evil either. Some have the ability to dig like lightning fast moles while others are somehow able to appear inside a closed room without so much as a peep despite being three times the size of a Milla Jovavich. 

Jovavich shares the screen with some decent actors, but the true stars of the film are 3D and slow-motion. Remember those slow wavey bullets from The Matrix? They're back and in 3D. I haven't seen a film use this much bullet-time in years. I can't say it detracts from the experience but I'm not so sure having your audience openly comparing shots to The Matrix is any director's dream.

But I can say that, as a mindless shockfest, it works. Afterlife manages to keep things fresh enough to keep the RE series going, and after four installments, that's an accomplishment. From the chatter, a fifth movie is on the way. It's sad that this is the longest-running, best movie series based on a video game, but hey, it could be worse.

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