Title: Resident Evil: Afterlife
Directed By: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller, Kacey Barnfield, Norman Yeung
Thanks to Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Extinction, there are no high hopes for the franchise’s fourth installment, Afterlife. Even the promotional material highlights the fact that this is going to be just more of the same and sure enough, more of the same is exactly what we’re getting. There’s tacky dialogue, underdeveloped characters, poorly constructed plot points and utterly ridiculous stunts, but Milla Jovovich is back as Alice and just like in Resident Evil, Apocalypse and Extinction, even as the film crumbles around her, she’s still captivating.
Resident Evil: Afterlife kicks off right where Extinction left off; Alice (Jovovich) has gotten acquainted with her clones and now she’s making due on her promise to destroy the Umbrella Corporation, the company responsible for the creation of the T-virus, the substance that causes the infection. After devastating Umbrella’s underground Tokyo facility, the real Alice attempts to reunite with her friends from Extinction, Claire (Ali Larter) and K-Mart (Spencer Locke). The problem is, upon arriving at the supposed safe haven, Arcadia, Alaska, Alice finds only a field full of abandoned planes, a barren beach and a rather maniacal and memory-less Claire. Claire somewhat comes to her senses while she and Alice fly aimlessly looking for, well, anything.
While soaring over Los Angeles, they catch a glimpse of a group of people calling for help on the roof of a prison. After a risky landing, the duo receives a briefing and ultimately learns that Arcadia isn’t a place; it’s a boat. In fact, they can see the boat in the distance. The trouble is, they’ve got no way of reaching it for the prison gates are swarming with undead.
Afterlife’s multiple Jovovich opening is quite impressive. Half the fun of these films is seeing Jovovich pull off impossible stunts while annihilating hordes of zombies. Multiply that by about a dozen Alices and you get a fantastically deadly sequence. The sad thing is that once the Umbrella raid comes to a close, Afterlife turns into a completely different movie.
You’re instantly detached from everything that happened in the opening once Alice arrives in Alaska and, minus a minor scuffle with Claire, the film is basically devoid of action for quite a while as well. In fact, up until this point, save for a brief introductory show-and-tell during which a woman indulges in human flesh, we’ve yet to see a zombie. Things start to look up as we find ourselves in a new situation involving a group of survivors who’ll ultimately be killed off one-by-one. If only those characters weren’t so generic, perhaps that initial excitement would have had a lingering effect, but no.
In addition to Claire and Alice, we’re trapped in the prison with a cliché stuck-up film producer (Kim Coates), his loyal intern (Norman Yeung), a buff basketball star (Boris Kodjoe), a wannabe actress who, you probably guessed it, wound up waiting tables (Kacey Barnfield), an expendable character who’s quite obviously the first to go (Fulvio Cecere) and an incarcerated Wentworth Miller. This is easily the worst portion of the film not only because there’s zero fighting, but because the characters are so weak and some of the performances are downright laughable. Much of the time in the prison is spent chatting and when you’re submerged in conversations involving uninteresting characters, odds are, what they’re discussing is just as mundane. Miller makes for a fine action hero, but when the guy attempts to display emotion, whether it be that of a potentially dangerous killer or a loving brother just reunited with his sister, he either takes it way too far or falls flat entirely. Even worse is Shawn Roberts’ comically over-the-top portrayal of Umbrella’s #1, Albert Wesker
It isn’t until the safety of the prison is threatened that we finally get some of what drew folks to the series to begin with, zombie killing. Well, actually, I don’t know if they quite classify as zombies anymore. Now we’re dealing with mutations, mutations with tentacles coming out of their mouths. There are a handful of notable sequences the best of which involve Alice jumping off the roof with flying zombies decorating the background and a battle between Claire and some massive axe-wielding beast that’s thrown into the mix with zero explanation. Of course leaping off of walls, jumping a ridiculous amount of feet in the air and swimming underwater for at least five minutes is utterly absurd, but when it’s at the expense of some action, it’s easily digestible.
While these moments are enthralling and impressively choreographed, they’re still not enough to offset the irrational plot. Everything is just so poorly developed. Afterlife feels as though it’s three different movies mashed into one. You’ve got Alice’s battle against Umbrella, the jail element and a third portion of the film, which I won’t spoil, and they’re all just thrown together as though they’ll naturally flow without an effort. Sure, using tomandandy’s quite appropriate booming score gets you pumped moving from one part to the next, but all it takes is a moment of second thought to realize that what just happened, didn’t make a bit of sense.
After the film I spoke with a few people who are familiar with the videogame and apparently, Resident Evil: Afterlife is more of a gamer’s movie than the last three. Seeing characters and beasts from the game pop up on screen is likely exciting for diehard RE players, but when there’s zero explanation with the references’ arrival, they’re just confusing to the rest. Looking at the plot alone, Afterlife is a massive failure, however, there’s no denying that the film holds your attention. The dialogue-heavy moments drag quite a bit, but between the pounding score and effect-heavy action scenes, Afterlife passes as an entertaining Jovovich show and gory bloodbath.
By Perri Nemiroff