Alice returns to kick some Umbrella ass.
Last night, feeling particularly weary in the head, I allowed myself to be beguiled by a larger-than-life standee of Milla Jovovich’s Alice character into watching the latest Resident Evil flick, Resident Evil: Afterlife, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. You know, I’ve been pretty hard on the RE flicks for one reason or another, though really- I’ve never really given them that much of a chance. I don’t think I’ve watched any of the first three movies in full (only bits and pieces on cable), given that I’ve had preconceived notions against them that prevented me from sitting down and just watching them.
The first movie, Resident Evil, turned me off right away by not including any of the game heroes and instead giving us an altogether new main character in the amnesiac Alice (Milla Jovovich). With few scares aside from the cliche jolts and some stylish kills, this wasn’t my cup of tea then.
The second movie, Resident Evil: Extinction, gave us Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), but clunky pacing and a somewhat cheesy Nemesis turned me off again.
Then there was Resident Evil: Apocalypse, which is usually called the best of the three first flicks, although again I got turned off by the desert setting (Too Mad Max). I did like the action and the inclusion of Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and the flick ended with a cool premise.
And here we are with Resident Evil: Afterlife. Picking up sometime after the last movie, it opens in Tokyo, Japan as Alice makes good on her promise to pay the main branch of Umbrella a visit with some of her ‘friends’… the friends being her army of identical, super-powered clones. Of course, it’s not entirely easy to assault a heavily-armed underground complex headed by Umbrella Chairman Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) himself. By the end of it, all the clones have gone bye-bye and Alice herself has been reverted back to a normal human (albeit still a kick-ass human).
The rest of the movie concerns itself with Alice trying to find Arcadia- a supposed utopia where safety from the infected can be had- as well as her comrades from the previous movie. She’s at least partly successful; she soon finds Claire, albeit crazed and stricken with amnesia care of a weird device planted on her chest (shades of Resident Evil 5). The two make their way to Los Angeles, where they find more survivors trapped by hordes of undead within a prison complex, and what is apparently Arcadia- a ship- sitting just off shore. Of course nothing is what it seems and even if Alice and company manage to escape their deathtrap, something, or someone, even more sinister awaits on the ship (guess who…) ready for ANOTHER final showdown.
So what can I say? Incredibly enough, I kinda enjoyed myself in this flick. As I said, my brain was weary and I was just looking for some dumb, cool and pretty action- and this delivered. Afterlife is easily the most ‘videogame-ish’ of the RE flicks so far, giving us more stuff that you can identify with from the games. You’ve got both Claire and Chris Redfield (Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller) joining Alice in the good fight. You’ve got the Executioner from RE5 that shows up as a ‘sub-boss’ in the movie’s signature action setpiece, although I wonder how this guy made it all the way from Africa to LA (he rode the boat, I guess).
You’ve also got Super Wesker, who may look and act ripped from the Matrix movies as Neo and Smith’s love child, but hey- surprise, surprise- that’s the way he was in the games as well. At the movie’s climax is a cool fight between Wesky and the Redfields which also mirrors the in-game confrontation between him, Chris and Sheva Alomar in RE5.
So what we have is the closest the movies have come to the games- plus Milla Jovovich’s Alice is more likable here than in any of the previous flicks, with the heroine showing a sober humanity and a cool attitude that I found refreshing… even if Milla’s line delivery during her video logs rivals the deadpan plainness of Sam Worthington from Avatar. In any case, I liked her enough to care about where the flick was going, so there.
On the other performers, Ali Larter is always nice to watch. Wentworth Miller’s Chris is off-kilter, pretty much so we’re supposed to think he’s a bad guy at first, which will only work for anyone not familiar with the games. The other cast members are mostly throw-away red shirts, although fellow survivor Luther (Boris Kodjoe) is quite likable. Shawn Roberts’ Wesker is a bit too stiff, but again, all he needs to do is look cool in a long black coat so what the heck.
One thing you’ll notice as well is that the movie looks pretty slick- this is shot and produced really well, with pretty nifty futuristic settings and tech, as well as well-shot action. There’s also an excessive use of bullet-time and slow-motion, but heck… I’ll take that over all the stomach-turning ‘handheld cam’ style of crap other action movies are shoveling us. Oh, and yeah, this flick looks great in 3D.
Despite not straying away too far from the B-movie standard and having a script with more holes than a zombie after getting riddled with Alice’s coin-filled shotgun, Afterlife at least kept any slow parts to a minimum and kept me entertained with some stylish action and some cool monsters. In fact, I was so entertained that I am actually now ready to give all the other previous RE flicks at least a full watch each when I get the chance.
One gripe though is the way they end it- there are sequel hooks that are as big as a Las Plagas tendril, making it quite obvious that like a zombie, this franchise is gonna keep on coming at you. Amazingly though, I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing.
This is just big budget, slickly-produced eye candy action with no pretensions- just hot chicks with guns blowing away monsters. There are far worse things to occupy two hours of your time with these days. Expect no more, and who knows, you may just be surprised to walk away entertained.