Monday, February 28, 2011

Short Thought: "Resident Evil: Afterlife"

"Spoilers." Just imagine Alex Kingston's smile here, okay? Thanks.

I rather feel that this thumbnail review is a bit pointless. I mean, it's a Resident Evil movie, right? What do you think you're going to get? You're gonna get zombies, more zombies, something weird and genetically mutated, more zombies, guns, bombs, knives, grenades, and, if you're really lucky, a nuclear explosion. Oh, who am I kidding: you just have to be patient for the nuclear explosion. You'll pretty much always get one!

In other words, this is pretty much what you get.
There isn't a lot of point in rehashing the story for this one 'cause -- there isn't one. There's an attempt at creating some kind of suspense with Alice attacking an Umbrella base in Japan in the opening moments of the film -- one of the best action sequences in the film; it's a bad sign that it comes so early. The actual opening of the film with a long overhead shot down into a busy pedestrian crossing in Shibuya is really lovely. It's a rip-off of so many other films it makes me kind of tired to think about it, but that doesn't stop it being very beautiful. The Resident Evil films have always had a nice feel for shots involving water -- rain, pools, flooded places, whatever -- and this one is no exception. Not quite sure why that is, but there you have it.

See? Water.
So Alice attacks the base; meets the next-gen T-cell infected superhuman; supposedly gets shot up with an antivirus that should make her "human" -- hands up if you believe that one -- and then, yeah, wave goodbye to that storyline because you're not seeing it again any time soon. Don't get worried about Alice being less then superhuman 'cause she's never going to be human again. The rest of the movie goes back to the "safe place with no infection" storyline that the third movie introduced: now it's a town called Arcadia. Alice goes looking for it, hoping to find the rest of the group that she shipped up there almost two years before. No town, but she does find Claire -- except Claire's been shot full of Umbrella tech and remembers nothing.

Once Alice has knocked some sense back into Claire's head, the two of them head off down the West coast, aiming to look for survivors, and end up finding a small enclave holed in a max security jail in LA. They think our two heroines are a rescue team sent from the Arcadia, a massive cargo ship docked in the harbor that they think has been sending out radio signals for almost a week. The next step seems simple enough: go to ship. The complication in this nice, simple plan is that the jail is surrounded by pretty much every undead in LA: they may be dead, but they're not stupid and they know where the nearest food is.

The sunglasses are not his.
So there, I did do a story rehash despite my determination not to. Look, if you've enjoyed the other Resident Evil movies, then you'll enjoy this. There's nothing here you haven't seen before except for the creeping sensation that the whole thing is getting very tired. There are some great action sequences: notably the first Alice incursion into the Umbrella base and the fight as the jail goes down. Wentworth Miller does a reasonably good job as the new character for this film and manages not to die which was considerate of him; if the series is going to consider, we need some new blood.

Called "Flower Mouth" apparently.
The new creature for the film (those little charmers over there on the left) are cool lookin', but not explained or  described at all beyond being self-evidently "zombies whose mouths open in four directions." Well, yes, but it would be nice if you told me why. I mean, the rest of the zombie population is just drying out and getting increasingly cranky, not turning octopoidal.

There's an attempt at the end of the movie to broaden this idea and apply it to our old friends, the zombified Dobermans. (You remember these little fuzzies from the first movie, right? They were fun back then.) It doesn't work well. It just looks top-heavy and fake.

But, really, there's no fun to be had by pulling this movie apart. You can do it so easily it's barely fun at all: the story is non-existent; character development just...well, it never showed up and someone else ate its doughnut at the catering table; and the fight choreographer just gave up at some point and phoned in a description of Neo's fight with Agent Smith from the first Matrix movie.

Afterlife is shiny, high-speed, and, like the rest of the R:E franchise, addictive like cheap, sweet coffee. You think you can give it up -- but you find yourself sneaking back for more. So just give in,  kick back and enjoy.

Because you're watching it for her and you know it.


annajcook said...

oh, yes. Alice and Claire all the way. I keep meaning to go find the slash ...

KarraCrow said...

@Anna: Eh. They're not wildly interesting as a couple. Although...I'm sure some author out there has put way more time and effort into this thing than anyone reasonably should and has made it absolutely fascinating.

Personally, I think KMart is underused. If there's a 5th movie, I want more her!