Resident Evil: Afterlife Review

poster from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

Even with very popular franchises, like Indiana Jones or Star Wars, by the fourth installment the teat is starting to get pretty chaffed from all that milking. Resident Evil: Afterlife is the fourth installment in a film series based on a nine installment videogame series. By now the cow is dead, and they’re reduced to recycling old milk that wasn’t very tasty to begin with. Resident Evil: Afterlife has essentially the same plotline as all of the other films:

A genetically engineered superwoman meets up with a bunch of survivors of a zombie apocalypse caused by the evil Umbrella Corporation and tries to keep them from getting killed.

… and yet people will watch it. It will make money (it is making money – it’s at the top of the box office this weekend) and there will be a Resident Evil: Some Other Random Death Word, just like Resident Evil: Afterlife rather arrogantly assumes there will be. I’ll admit to liking the first Resident Evil movie, and to not completely hating the first sequel, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, but enough is enough already!

If you insist on seeing Resident Evil: Afterlife and (like me) you haven’t seen the third movie (Resident Evil: Extinction) be aware that your movie won’t start until about 15 minutes in. First you have to sit through a completely pointless and confusing action sequence about a bunch of clones with swords hacking up everything in a secret underground lab trying to get to a weird guy in sunglasses and inappropriately tight leathers.

Wesker in his chair from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

I’d get up to fight you myself, but my pants are too tight.

This weird guy, whose name is Wesker (Shawn Roberts) escapes (naturally), stabs our hero, Alice (Milla Jovovich), in the neck with a needle (which supposedly takes away her superpowers but actually does nothing to her at all) and we can start the real movie. The real movie is about Alice trying to find her friend Claire (Ali Larter) at this secret base that’s advertising itself over the radio as “virus free.” She does find Claire, but Claire’s got a convenient case of amnesia and the base in Alaska is empty. They end up going to Los Angeles instead.

los angeles from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

it was destroyed by zombies like six months ago but is miraculously still on fire

Alice and Claire find the obligatory group of survivors that consists of Luther (Boris Kodjoe) and some other people who won’t be around long enough to care about. The survivors are, ironically, taking shelter in a maximum security prison/condo tower thing which apparently has so much fuel just lying around in it that they can keep the whole thing torch-lit every single night.

prison from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

said prison is conveniently located in downtown L.A., no doubt to drive away those pesky tourists and their money

Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller), the main character from most of the Resident Evil games, is also trapped in the prison with them and writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson has to weave a ridiculous and implausible back story about soldiers using the prison as a base to explain his presence. I can see why he chose Wentworth Miller for the role. In a nebulous way, he really does look kind of like Chris Redfield (minus the tree-trunk biceps).

chris redfield from Resident Evil 5 and from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

I think it’s the ears.

Less clear is why Wentworth Miller, an actor with actual skills, accepted the role. Maybe after the success of Prison Break he vowed to only take roles where he had to escape from a prison. And escape from prison they must, if they want to get to the special safe place where there are unicorns and chocolate fountains and no zombies. They need to get to this place so they’ll be safe from the evil Umbrella Corporation, which for some reason still wants to capture people and experiment on them, even though there are approximately zero possible uses for biological weapons in a word populated entirely by zombies.

zombie from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

See, this banana-faced zombie person will pick the fruit from the orchards we had to plant to feed our enormously oversized research department

The Umbrella Corporation’s reasoning may be retarded, but that just helps it fit in with the rest of the movie, which is frequently stupid. There are some brief moments of intrigue surrounding Arcadia, the mysterious safe haven, and some neat stunts, like when Alice lands her plane on the prison roof.

landing the plane on the roof from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

duck now, Luther

But mostly the movie fails because it tries to be complex. If there’s one thing zombies are not, it’s complex. They shamble, they eat, the end. Being eaten is enough of a threat to support a movie, but the Resident Evil people never understood that. They always have to throw in revenge and medical experiments and monsters and superweapons and ruin it.

axe monster from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

RAR! Zombies aren’t scary enough, so they sent me: random bag-headed axe monster! RAR!

One thing they do not throw in, however, is love. I think even Anderson realized that they couldn’t possibly pull it off. For one thing, most of the males aren’t around long enough to form attachments with anyone. And for another thing, their lead female characters are somehow simultaneously blank and confused. This is good for pseudo-mystery plots that involve a lot of shooting, but not for generating chemistry.

claire and alice from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

beep boop. Even Wall-E had more emotional depth, and he really WAS a robot

With all the unnecessary baggage that Resident Evil: Afterlife is carrying around, you’d expect it to be too long, but you’d be wrong. Even with the extra “overlap” scenes that link the movies together in the beginning and end, and even with all the fight scenes depicted in slow motion to show off the completely unnoticeable 3D element (so much for the James Cameron technique), the movie is still only an hour and a half long. This is only slightly longer than the cut scenes in some video games.

alice throwing stars from the Sony Pictures film Resident Evil Afterlife

slower… slower… slower… dammit, these are the only 3D things in the movie, let’s show them off a bit

And that’s just what Resident Evil: Afterlife feels like. A giant cut scene. A video game without the playability. Exposition, shooting, revelation, repeat. I’d say this is a movie only fans of the game should see, but they’d probably hate it because they don’t get to play and superhero Alice isn’t a game character. So who would like it? Well, if you’ve seen and liked all three of the previous Resident Evil movies, and you wish you could watch them again but have them be slightly different this time, then you’d probably like Resident Evil: Afterlife. Everyone else: don’t bother.

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