Resident Evil Afterlife Review
Written by: FutureSlash
It's important to state right up front two very important truths about the RESIDENT EVIL film franchise. One, it's never been more than tenuously linked to the video game series of the same name, and two, it hasn't been a horror franchise since Part One.
Once one comes to accept these hard realities, it becomes much easier to appreciate the RE series for what it is - the only successful, ongoing action franchise built around a female protagonist. Where dozens of others have failed miserably, Alice (a character invented for multiplexes, not game consoles) has succeeded magnificently. As portrayed by the impossibly stunning Milla Jovovich, this genetically altered, gun-toting beauty is the most enduring and popular action heroine ever to grace the silver screen. Hardcore fans of the games may hate Alice and what she represents, but girls, fanboys, and average filmgoers who have waited their entire lives to see a cinematic heroine who could hold her own with the James Bonds, Indiana Joneses, and Batmans of the big screen world have found deliverance in the superlative form of this lithe, luscious, and totally lethal lady.
Jovovich and her husband, RE producer Paul W.S. Anderson, know that whatever the franchise was intended to be in the early stages of the first film's development, it has become a continuing vehicle for the only true franchise superheroine in movie history. One need only consider the previous two entries in the series, APOCALYPSE and EXTINCTION, to see that this is true. When Alice is not on-screen in those gleefully dumb pictures, the films are largely hollow and listless, despite the presence of numerous monsters and characters from the games. But the moment Jovovich shows up and starts kicking, stomping, and blasting the innards out of anything and everything that gets in her pretty way, they become live-action anime kung fu fests that leave the viewer grinning in spite of him or herself. The fact that former model Jovovich is only a serviceable actress does little to diminish her character's appeal. Alice is smoking hot, and she can kick some major ass, and that's enough to make her downright irresistible.
In the fourth entry in the saga, Anderson and company wisely avoid any APOCALYPSE/EXTINCTION-style moments of lethargy by keeping Alice center stage for the entire film. From the spectacular opening assault on Umbrella's Tokyo HQ to the final battle with Wesker and his THE THING-inspired pet Dobermans, AFTERLIFE is Alice's show all the way. Given state of the art 3D, top of the line CG, and excellent production design to enhance her beguiling looks and remarkable athleticism, Jovovich makes the most of her time in the spotlight. We don't even see a zombie for the first twenty minutes or so of this "zombie movie", yet few in the audience could argue that the first act - comprised largely of multiple Millas in skintight costumes slashing and shooting their way through an army of Umbrella thugs - is anything less than exactly the sort of high-octane, low-intellect ass-kicking they paid to see.
The 3D itself is very effective here, with better depth of field and more stuff flying out of the screen per frame of film than in just about any movie since the recent resurgence of the gimmick. Admittedly, it is neither as awe-inspiring as it was in AVATAR (because this movie's environments are less fantastic) or as deliciously prurient as it was in PIRANHA 3D (because the form-fitting clothes stay on, and the bloodletting here is more comic book than Grand Guignol). But even the most pedestrian locales in AFTERLIFE feel like real, three-dimensional rooms, and the various bullets, blood spouts, blades, babes, and battleaxes that come hurtling toward the camera virtually non-stop all look like they're genuinely going to hit you right in the face.
The great irony of RESIDENT EVIL is that the films themselves deviate so far from the games that inspired them, yet there's never been a film series that felt more like a great big video game than this one. As in most video games, the plots of the RE films are both superficial and secondary to the action and the visuals. The foundation of these movies has always been big, slick, cartoonish battle scenes, bursting with striking imagery and over-the-top violence but utterly bereft of logic, realism, and emotional or narrative depth. AFTERLIFE is not only no exception; it's arguably the most egregious offender in the franchise so far. With the focus on Alice and the emphasis on mind-blowing 3D, the threadbare plot (involving our heroine's attempt to shepherd a group of survivors from an LA prison to a supposed safe haven known as Arcadia) is entirely incidental. Just as Alex Aja paid lip service to the notion of story development just to get enough nubile naked girls in the path of a school of prehistoric man-eating fish for the bloodbath to commence in PIRANHA 3D, Anderson and company construct just enough of a frail skeleton of a narrative to put our comely crusader and her charges in position to open up one MATRIX-style can of whoop ass after another until the end credits roll. Indeed, the "Uh Oh" final scene and a quick insert during the closing titles bluntly testify that what we've just witnessed wasn't a complete story at all, but rather just a series of adrenaline-charged fight sequences and narrow escapes enroute to the inevitable RESIDENT EVIL 5.
There are moments during AFTERLIFE when the numerous close-ups of Jovovich and fetching co-star Ali Larter - with their high cheekbones, "Come hither!" eyes, and full, crimson lips - make the film seem like a great big, post-apocalyptic Maybelline commercial. Not that this should be a problem for most men in the audience, mind you. If I've got to have a fifty foot high, high-definition face in my lap, it might as well be the face of one of the most beautiful women in the world! Maybe Anderson can talk Brooklyn Decker, Marissa Miller, Bar Rafaeli, and Linda Evangelista into signing on to play mind-controlled Umbrella supervixens in the next entry, so every guy who buys a ticket will leave holding his empty popcorn bucket in front of him to hide his obvious appreciation of the film's "special effects".
Snarky quips about the genetically perfect cast and criticism of the one-dimensional writing aside, RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE 3D is the fourth major genre film in the last month or so to completely deliver on its promise. Just as PIRANHA 3D doled out all the grisly guts and bare butts you could hope for, THE EXPENDABLES overflowed with more testosterone than a UFC pay-per-view on HGH, and MACHETE brought grindhouse trash back from the grave with a bloody vengeance, AFTERLIFE takes the slick and unrepentant stupidity of its predecessors to new levels of supercharged, eye-popping comic book action. Haters won't be converted, and newcomers will likely be too lost to care. But those who've stuck with this series up to this point will be more than pleased with this latest outing, and that's really all that matters.