Little Life Left in Resident Evil
After her latest run-in with the Umbrella Corporation in Asia leaves her bruised, battered and most of all 100-percent human again, the T-virus completely removed from her cells, Alice (Milla Jovovich) heads to Alaska to see what happened to fellow survivors Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and K-Mart (Spencer Locke). What she finds is an eerie and empty landing filed filled with empty planes, no settlements and zero survivors, the lone woman beginning to wonder if sheís the only human left on the planet.
Ali Larter and Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: Afterlife © Sony Pictures/Screen Gems
Thatís not true, of course, otherwise why else would Resident Evil: Afterlife even exist. Claire is indeed alive (sheís just lost her memory), and after the pair decide to fly to Los Angeles they discover more survivors, including the amnesiacís long-lost brother Chris (Wentworth Miller), all of them held up inside a maximum security penitentiary legions of the undead outside the gates hungering to get in.
Whatís interesting here is that writer and director Paul W. S. Anderson (Death Race, Event Horizon), returning to the helm for the first time since the 2002 original, offers up easily the best moments of the entire series from time to time here. Whatís even more so is that fact that he also offers up some of the very worst (which is saying a lot considering just how terrible Resident Evil: Apocalypse was). This fourth sequel is so wildly uneven that fact makes it almost charming, and for every awesome scene of carnage or destruction you can count that within in milliseconds youíll have an equally disastrous one that will make you slap your forehead in discombobulated disbelief.
Forget the script. Andersonís attempting to set the stage for another potential trilogy, but all he really does is play with some really cool technical toys in order to offer up a lot of Hong Kong-inspired CGI-enhanced mayhem that looks neat in slow motion. The whole movie, other than a brief respite of heavy narrative explaining whatís already known, is one chase-escape-fight right after the other. Itís a lot of whiz with very little bang, and by the time the forgone cliffhanger conclusion rolled around I was teetering on the edge of boredom so fully that the incredulity of the last scene didnít bother me near as much as it should have.
I have to admit the early scenes of Alice up in Alaska, as brief as they end up being, have a rather subtle eerie quality to them thatís suitably spooky. There is also a great fight sequence between Claire, Alice and a gigantic creature (who admittedly looks like he just stepped off the set of Silent Hill) in a prison shower room that I quite enjoyed. Sure Anderson uses way too much slow motion during this sequence but I still got a kick out of it, and if any sequence in the film made my heart race even just a little bit this was definitely the one that did it.
But the stuff that stinks here is almost beyond belief. Forget the fact that the coincidence of Claireís brother being inside the very place she and Alice find refuge is too silly for words, or the laughable fact that Miller is essentially reprising his know-it-all stalwart hero from ďPrison BreakĒ in order to play him. Donít worry that Andersonís script is filled with so boneheaded move after boneheaded move, or that the supporting players are nothing more than stereotypical grist for the gore mill.
No, the real problem is that by this time there is no practical reason for this film to exist or for audiences to care. How much longer can Alice and Umbrella keep going head-to-head? In a world overrun by ever-evolving zombies where does the company keep getting its seemingly never-ending supply of both resources and manpower? And, more importantly, why does any of this actually matter?
I get it. This is a B-movie series based on a video game, after all, and I donít have to be a rocket scientist to realize these films are playing as far down towards their viewerís basest wants and desires as they possibly can. Heck, I like the first film, Iíve watched it a good half-dozen times. I was even relatively okay with the last sequel, Resident Evil: Extinction, because as stupid and brain-dead as it was for whatever reason I was able to go along for the ride without too much problem.
This film, though, this one I have way too many problems with to be able to go along with the lunacy quite as easily. Anderson, no matter what all those fanboys out there like to say to the negative, does have some talent as a filmmaker. He knows how to create tension, has an ability to set up suspenseful sequences that get under a personís skin.
But heís also a hack most of the time where it comes to narrative, and for every good idea he has he also has so many terrible ones theyíre pretty much guaranteed to derail any filmís potential that he touches. With Resident Evil, while both sides of his personality were on display the movie still managed to work in a giddy rollercoaster sort of way that for genre fans was more or less appealing. He attempts to strike the same balance with Resident Evil: Afterlife failing to do so, proving that mining the same well isnít easy especially when faced with scenarios that have become increasingly laughable as timeís gone by.
Film Rating: ÍÍ (out of 4)