Judge Patrick Naugle prefers his evil transient.
Our review of Resident Evil: Afterlife, published December 28th, 2010, is also available.
It's a hell of an afterlife.
As sure as the winds blow north and the tide will rise, here comes yet another Resident Evil movie (number four or the fifth, depending on if you count the animated film), based loosely on the best selling Capcom video game series. Star Milla Jovovich is back as the ever suffering Alice, along with her husband (and original Resident Evil writer/director) Paul W.S. Anderson taking back the director reigns. With an attempt to tie together some of the loose ends from the previous third installment, Resident Evil: Afterlife shuffles onto Blu-ray care of Sony Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Following the events of Resident Evil: Extinction, Resident Evil: Afterlife picks up with Alice (Milla Jovovich, The 5th Element) and her clones attempting to kill the malicious Umbrella Corporation's Albert Weskler (Shawn Roberts, Land of the Dead) in Tokyo. Failing in her mission (and finding out Weskler now has the dreaded T-Virus in his veins), Alice follows an emergency broadcast to Alaska to look for her friends from the previous films (including Claire Redfield, played by Ali Larter of Final Destination and Heroes fame). Once Claire is located, both women then take off by air for Los Angeles where they crash land and meet up with a rag tag group of zombie apocalypse survivors holed up in an abandoned prison. Now they must figure out a way to get to a safe haven known as "Arcadia" before the living dead make all of them their final meal.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is a pretty apt name for the movie at hand: this series is chugging along on fumes well past its expiration date. Actually, I wouldn't call this an afterlife so much as I would a prolonged execution. Woe to the moviegoer who goes into this movie without seeing the previous three or four films. Then again, woe to the moviegoer who does go into this movie seeing the previous films because the first three were so vapid and forgettable that you'll have a hard time recalling much of what came before to match up to what's happening in the present.
In the first film Milla Jovovich battled zombies with an elite team of soldiers (I'm pretty sure). In the second film Jovovich battled even more zombies with yet another elite team of soldiers (I'm almost sure). In the third film Jovovich's character was in the desert and battled—get ready for this!—a lot more zombies (um, sure…let's go with that). This time around Jovovich is battling zombies again. Except for a few minor plot points you could shuffle these four movies around like a shell game and it wouldn't matter in what order they landed. All four films start to meld together into one long film that features a lot of sunglasses, hot women doing back flips and more guns than Tom Selleck can shake an NRA card at.
Technically speaking, the Resident Evil movies are all competently made and look good. They are slick action/horror vehicles with all kinds of tricked out CGI, dismembered limbs and exploding fireballs. The main problem is that you don't care about a single solitary character in the film. Everyone down to the lowliest henchman is cut from the stock of every other action movie ever made. Jovovich's Alice has all the personality of a can of paint, only, sadly, less wet and much thinner. Jovovich in particular is just not very good here—while she's a striking beauty, her skills as an actress (especially when talking directly to the camera) are limited at best. The emotion of 'worried' is the same look I've seen on the models in Victoria's Secret ad. On par with the rest of this series, the men are all almost indistinguishable beefcakes (Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke) save for Kim Coates as a slick former Hollywood movie producer who still has a silver spoon stuck up his butt. And don't even get me started on Shawn Roberts, who plays the main baddie as if he was possessed by Agent Smith from The Matrix crossed with Spencer Pratt—it is hands down one of the worst performances of the year.
Resident Evil: Afterlife marks the return of Paul W.S. Anderson in the director's chair, but for all intents and purposes it could have just as well have been Rosco P. Coltrane. The film feels cobbled together and as lifeless as the zombies shuffling through it, almost as if the screenplay had been only half written when the studio green lit the production. At one point a giant hooded madman with an ax shows up but it's never explained (Is it evolution? Science experiment? Disgruntled moviegoer? ) who he is or where he came from during a supposed zombie outbreak. Sure, if you've played the video games this film is based on it may make sense. Yet for the standard viewer this would be the equivalent of watching Goodfellas and seeing Roger Rabbit show up in the Joe Pesci role. I wish Anderson would have worked a bit harder on the screenplay fleshing out the themes and characters before committing any of this to celluloid.
Yet, if that little 13 year old boy in me is to be upfront and honest with you, Resident Evil: Afterlife is entertaining in one of the most brain-numbingly ways possible. It's not good cinema, but if you want to watch slickly choreographed fight scenes and zombies being shot, I guess you could do much worse. Then again, you can do much better. I mean much, much better than this. Resident Evil: Afterlife is the kind of movie you watch, absorb and then once the lights come on you forget what you've just seen. It's the kind of movie where the heroine jumps in slow motion over dozens of bad guys and stands directly in front of a dozen rifles yet never gets hit once. It's the kind of movie that features main characters standing in a line just shooting at zombies for no other reason than they can. Resident Evil: Afterlife is the kind of movie…well, that I'm done talking about.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is presented in 2.35:1 1080p widescreen. Your thoughts on the movie may be hovering around sewage level, but when it comes to this picture you really can't find much fault in Sony's transfer. Overall this is a very good image that creates depth and clarity in even the darkest lit scenes. That being said, one of the downfalls of having such a clear picture is that you can see where the CGI seams are—and in Resident Evil: Afterlife, you can see it often.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 in English. Your brain may glaze over at the stupidity of Resident Evil: Afterlife, but your ears certainly will be full engaged with this rollicking 5.1 master quality sound mix. I have no qualms about recommending this soundtrack as a demo for those of you with surround sound systems. Rear and side speakers are constantly engaged and the thunderous explosions and gunfire will shake your seat to the core. Also included on this disc is a 5.1 mix in French, Spanish and Portuguese, as well as English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Fans of the film get a few extra flesh-crawling goodies, including:
Feature commentary by director Paul W.S. Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt and producer Robert Kulzer, eight deleted/extended scenes (that don't bring much to the table), some outtakes of the cast screwing up their lines or, in some cases, running into walls, some short featurettes ("Back Under the Umbrella: Directing Afterlife," "Band of Survivors: Casting Afterlife," "Undead Dimension: Resident Evil in 3D," "Fighting Back: The Action of Afterlife," "Vision of the Apocalypse: The Design of Afterlife," "New Blood: The Undead of Afterlife" and "Pwning the Undead: Gamers of the Afterlife") all of which deal with various aspects of the production (most of it feels like typical EPK material with talking head interviews and generic behind-the-scenes footage), a sneak peek of the new Resident Evil game "Damnation," and finally some previews for the films Takers, Piranha 3D, Salt, The Social Network, The Virginity Hit, Faster, Animal Kingdom, TV's Justified, Ticking Clock and Game of Death.
Resident Evil: Afterlife isn't the worst film in this series (I think honor would go to the third film), but it isn't all that good. Paul W.S. Anderson's main talent is stealing from other far better movies, and with Resident Evil: Afterlife he's like a thief in the night to entire The Matrix trilogy. All complaints aside, technically speaking Sony has done a fine job on this disc—just planned to be wowed over the transfer, not the story or characters.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is found guilty of being a shameless cinematic repeat.
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