originally posted on Row Three
It’s a little bit pointless to review Resident Evil: Afterlife, which is why I didn’t even bother seeking out the Rotten Tomatoes score or any other reviews before rushing off to see it opening night. I mean, this is the fourth Resident Evil movie, with basically the same team behind all of them, though directors have changed a few times. You pretty much know what you’re getting into when you buy a ticket for this. If you expect much more than Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter looking hot and kicking zombie ass while spouting ridiculous dialogue in a series of loosely tied together scenes, you’ll probably be disappointed. If not, enjoy it for the even sillier-than-most B movie it is.
Resident Evil: Extinction ended with classic sequel bait, with Alice (Milla Jovovich) promising to find Umbrella Corp bossman Wesker in his underground Tokyo lair and wipe him out, with the help of the army of clones Umbrella had been building to try to find a cure for the T-virus. Resident Evil: Afterlife picks up the story right there, with an all-out attack on Umbrella Tokyo. But Wesker gets away, destroying the facility behind him, and Alice (re-humanized by an injection that neutralizes the T-virus in her) sets off to find the rest of the Extinction group who had left to find Arcadia, a promised infection-free haven. Things don’t go as planned, Alice and Claire (an awesomer-than-I-expected Ali Larter, almost upstaging Milla a time or two) end up with another small group of survivors and eventually face off with Wesker again.
It’s all pretty standard go-here-do-this, wait-do-this-other-thing-first storytelling that betrays both its video game roots and the rather unimaginative writing of Paul W.S. Anderson, but we’re not here for story. Which is good, because a lot of it is really dumb. I mean, there’s a radio transmission promising a place with no infection, where there is safety, food, and water, and it doesn’t even OCCUR to anyone in the group that this could be a trap? Not to mention all the times that things happen without explanation, motivation, or logic. (Where did the giant hammer-wielding monster come from? One can only assume an offshoot of the Nemesis project from Resident Evil: Apocalypse, but there’s no real basis within the film for that assumption.) Or all the times when they’ve been working toward one thing and then just move on to some completely different plan. But there’s a point at which such earnest silliness in storytelling ceases to matter and almost makes the film more fun. I’m not putting Resident Evil among the class of films like Plan 9 From Outer Space or Troll 2, but I will say that it makes it a lot more fun to think of it that way when you’re watching it.
I do wish the action sequences, since that’s what I was there for, had been a little more intense and extensive – there were very few sequences that felt like they had any stakes, only a couple of Alice fighting her way hand-to-hand through a zombie onslaught, and most of them had too little build-up and were over too quickly. I think part of this might have been because of the 3D, actually – the fight choreography wasn’t nearly as intricate even as in the earlier films in the series. I watched it in 2D, so I can’t vouch for the 3D, but based on 3D films I have seen, fast-moving action scenes with lots of choreography might not work as well since it’s so much harder to focus quickly. (And yes, I will quite possibly go back to see it in 3D next week sometime.)
So yeah, it’s not a very good movie, but if you’re a fan of the series, or of Milla Jovovich, it’s not going to matter. You’re going to see it, and you’re probably going to enjoy it. If you’re not a fan of either of those things, you’re better off spending your money on many other things. If the screencaps and trailer alone are enough to get you pumped, this is a movie for you. If not, don’t bother reading my words. This is not a movie about words. Personally, I had a great time watching it, and will watch it again, but I can also pick apart what was wrong or could’ve been better about almost every scene. It’s a critical conundrum, but one I’ll live with.