By Nick Manteris · 0 Comments · Leave a Comment
Resident Evil is back with another installment of zombie apocalypse. Resident Evil: Afterlife is written and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (just like the first movie of the series) and it was filmed in 3D. That’s right: filmed in 3D. (I’m pretty sure this is the first live-action 3D film since Avatar that hasn’t been converted from a 2D source.) There’s no fake 3D “dimensionalization” with this movie. Yay. The past Resident Evil films ranged from disappointing to utter absurdity, so I wasn't expecting much (at all) from this one... the real 3D aspect was the only glimmer of hope that I had.
The story picks up right where Resident Evil: Extinction leaves off and – I have to admit – the first fight scene is pretty cool. Anderson has been known to borrow pretty heavily from other films, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this sequence owes a lot to the Wachowski brothers and, specifically, The Matrix. It owes a little bit to The Matrix: Reloaded as well, though I'm not sure why they went that way. The added dimension helps to distance the movie from the other films that it is mimicking and it also provides a more immersive experience overall. There are some cheesy moments (for example, the bad guy with the sunglasses looks like a douche… and he acts exactly like he looks,) but, on face value, it’s very entertaining. Try to go any deeper than that and you’ll quickly realize that you’re watching one group of people trying to defend themselves from another group of people and there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. The battle is nice to look at, but we don’t know why it’s happening or – really – which side we should be rooting for. There’s still no story yet. At the end of this act, Anderson lingers a little too long (eliciting laughter) in a moment of frozen time right before an explosion. And then after the explosion, one character just walks away, almost like nothing happened. Whaaa?? The plot hasn’t shown up, but unrealistic is ready to party.
The next segment of the film could be from a completely different movie altogether, but it picks up the Claire Redfield storyline from Extinction. Alice (Milla Jovovich) ends up filming herself with a minicam in order to give the audience some extra exposition when there’s no people to have conversations with or monsters to fight. Then, Anderson seems to borrow from Guillermo del Toro’s Chronos with a little, metal bug thing that is attached to another survivor that she encounters. This device is briefly touched upon later in the movie, but no explanation is given. Additionally, the timelines for the films, as I understand them, are all completely off as well: Extinction said that civilization had been gone for five years, this film puts the events from the previous movie eighteen months back and says four years ago for the outbreak itself. Whatever the timescale though, L.A. has been burning steadily the entire time…since there are multiple fires burning across the city when the characters arrive.
In L.A., some more characters are eventually introduced (or else characters can’t get killed off) and a location is borrowed from The Walking Dead. Anderson almost introduces some characterization by giving Alice a “hobby,” but it’s only a set-up for a series of later events. My favorite new character gets killed in an unrealistic scene where zombies show up suddenly and without warning in a place where that could never really happen. Some of the zombies have mutated into creatures that have tentacle-faces… like the mutated vampires in Blade 2. (For those keeping track, that’s also a del Toro film.) One of these tentacle creatures gets a laugh later on in the movie. At least, I think it was the creature that got that response…only because it’s kind of inappropriate to laugh when a hero gets killed.
Basically, major events from this film are cobbled together without any real thought, but the action scenes themselves seem to be well choreographed. There are all kinds of unexplained bits like giant, axehammer-wielding executioners (maybe this was in one of the games I never played) and cryogenically frozen people or just character motivations in general. From a visual standpoint, there is a lot to like here, even though you’ve already seen different versions of some of these things in other films. If you want a plot, though, you’ll have to find another movie. There are essentially three separate “parts” of Resident Evil: Afterlife and the only thing that holds them together are the characters. The other films were like that as well – it seems to be a Paul W. S. Anderson trademark – but he managed to keep out more of the ridiculousness this time around. (Not the zombie dogs though, they have extra ridiculousness in this film.) I expected this movie to be really bad and I’m almost embarrassed to say that I liked it, but I did. And there was one part at the end – right after the characters shout, “Run!!” – that was simply delightful.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is easily the best movie of the series (which wasn’t a difficult task) and it’s also the most entertaining film that Anderson has ever directed, (which also wasn’t very difficult.) I’ve always said that Paul W. S. Anderson is a great filmmaker, but he’s a terrible, horrible, dreadful writer that should only be allowed to direct movies written by other people. I stand by this belief, but now I’m really curious to see what he will do with The Three Musketeers.