Friday, September 10, 2010

'Resident Evil: Afterlife' is best since original

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller, and Shawn Roberts
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

After destroying Umbrella Corp's headquarters with an army of clones, the sole surviving Alice (Jovovich) goes in search of Arcadia, the one place in the world where the zombies don't prey on the living. But Arcadia won't give up its secrets easily.

"Resident Evil: Afterlife" is, as some critics might say, a spectacular thrill-ride. The quiet moments in this film are few and far between, and even when they happen, they are pregnant with the promise that violence, mayhem, and bloodshed is about to erupt all over again. It works both as a video-game adaptation--like in previous installments of the series, you can feel the story progressing through "the levels" and this one even has obvious "boss encounters" along the way--and as an over-the-top action film.

Although I think this is the best film in the series since the original, it's not a horror movie; that's one aspect the first film had that this one doesn't. This is an exciting action film that's full of zombies... and even has a few scary moments here and there.

While I was entertained and engaged throughout the whole movie, nothing in it quite topped the opening sequence with all the Alices storming Umbrella HQ... for once, a "Resident Evil" film not only acknowledged but also lived up to the promise of the sequel hook at the end of the previous film. Some of the sequences came close--like Alice and Claire's fight against an axe-wielding super-zombie, and Alice's running battle with a hoard of zombies consisting of half the population of Los Angeles--but Anderson really gave the best the film had to offer in the first few minutes. (Or maybe I just feel that way because I've been hoping for that sequence for the past three years.)

Character-wise, there isn't much to say. Milla Jovovich is really the only person who has an opportunity to act in the film, even if it generally just consists of being a bad-ass. She is in nearly every scene, however, so it says quite a bit about her charisma and presence that she can carry an entire movie like she does here.

Of course, the gimmick of 3D also helps, and it's a gimmick that's put to full and complete use in virtually every frame of the film. Some uses are subtle, some are funny, and some make the film's couple of "boo!-gotcha!" moments even more startling, but they are all very effective. I still don't like 3D--I had to move to another seat because the runner lights on the theater steps were reflecting off the glasses, and I once again ended up with a mild headache at the end--but I have to say that this is probably the best 3D movie I've yet to see, and it has managed to weaken my hostility ever-so-slightly.

If you liked other "Resident Evil" movies, if you like Milla Jovovich in her bad-ass comic-book warrior chick mode, and if you like the 3D gimmickery, I'm certain you'll love this movie.


  1. I agree with most of your assessments of Resident Evil: Afterlife, Steve. This is indeed the best of the series since the first and I maintain that it is because Paul W. S. Anderson directed both of them. His visual style really helps to sell the fantastic elements of the story.

    I think you underestimate the characterization of the film. Like most films that rely on physical action to drive the plot, the characters must display their depth in the brief interludes between the action. We get just enough of these scenes to understand their motivations, if not their deepest thoughts.

    This was the first film I have seen in the new 3D process, and I have to admit I was impressed. Not enough to see every film in 3D, but certainly the ones like Resident Evil that rely on visual action. I've heard about the headaches and I'm thankful that I didn't experience any discomfort from the 3D. I still think that without 3D Resident Evil: Afterlife is a visual feast and look forward to buying it on blu-ray.

    This was a good and fair review of Resident Evil: Afterlife, Steve. I look forward to reading more of your film reviews in the future.

  2. Fritz, thanks for the kind words, and welcome!

    I see what you're saying about my comment on the lack of characterization in the film. I sorta feel that even during those interludes, there was no acting/characterization going on. I'm not saying to slam the film--I'm not wearing my French beret right now, nor sipping a latte at Starbucks while discussing the misogynistic subtext in Alfred Hitchcock's body of work--but more by way of observing that I had the sense that the only actor who had more to do in the film than one of the props was Jovovich. No one of the film seemed stiff or bad, but this was a movie that was almost exclusive about the action.

    But I will keep your comment in mind if I see the movie again. I might well have missed something amidst all the swirling 3D and zombie blood.