Saturday, September 11, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Overall verdict: 5/10

The Good: Avatar-style stereoscopic 3D, intense action scenes, stylish cinematography, contains a lot of elements from the games, excellent creature effects

The Bad: no character development, erratic paced story, over usage of slow motion, "borrows" shamelessly from other action movies, not scary as a horror film.

Current Availability Status: In Theatres NOW

It really is funny how the titles for the Resident evil film franchise are almost self-descriptive of the movies themselves. Though the first film featured none of the game's characters, it captured the intense thrill and fun of the game. Then, like the apocalypse in its title, the second one was messy, chaotic and brought on the wrath of fans who hated that their favorite game characters got sidelined for the franchise protagonist, Alice. Extinction saw the franchise like the last of its kind on a dying planet, desperately trying to stay alive by scavenging parts of other movies (like Day of the Dead and Road Warrior) but at least it went out in a blaze of glory. Now it seems the Resident Evil Franchise has not been a good boy, and we all should know where bad boys go. Thats right, the powers that be saw fit to send Resident Evil Afterlife straight to hell.

Paul WS Anderson returns to his franchise baby with a new toy. Amazing stereoscopic 3D the likes of which was used in AVATAR. And like any kid with a new toy, he goes overboard sacrificing all substance for all style. The silly excuse for a story begins immediately after Resident Evil Extinction left off. If the movie was truly a video game, Alice would be that idiotic hacker who got her hands on every single cheat code. She got "GODMODE", "AIMBOT", "/KILLALL" and even a cheat for "Allied NPC Spawn". For the benefit of non-gamers, this just means that Alice gots superpowers and a super-powered clone army too. Within the opening minutes, Alice and clones stage a daring incursion into the Tokyo facility of Umbrella corporation, causing chaos and ultimately facing down the T-virus powered chairman, Wesker. The writer, also Paul WS Anderson, must have known by now how quickly the movie would be over since Alice could just pop the guy's head like she did in Resident evil Apocalypse. So through some stupidly convenient plot device, Alice is superhuman no more and all her clones are gone. Now on the run, she proceeds to Alaska in the hopes of reaching the last safe haven where her friends fled to, a place named "Arcadia".

The mystery thickens when all she discovers is an empty landing field and a deranged Claire Redfield (Ali Karter) under the control of some weird biomechanical device. After saving Claire, the duo proceed to Los Angeles where they encounter another group of survivors holed up in a prison. With zombies all around and a new dangerous giant axe/hammer wielding threat heading their way, Alice, Claire and the survivors must find a way out ASAP. Their last hope may rest with a prisoner named Chris.

It all sounds a lot better than it turned out. Story-wise, this seems to be a very standard action movie narrative with maybe only one good twist. The characters are the main problem. Anyone who is not Alice is relegated to being a one-dimensional stock character common in zombie apocalypse movies. You have a conniving asshole in a business suit, a damsel, a rough-n-tough soldier, a big strong African American guy and a token Asian dude. Claire Redfield takes over from Alice's initial appearance in the first movie as the amnesiac who slowly regains her memory and conveniently reveals the plot twist. As for Alice, the only thing that set her part from the other characters in the past was her mysterious developing powers. Now that she has lost them, she has possibly become one of the most boring action chicks in movie history

Paul WS Anderson, the baby with the 3D, must have spent so much time making his wife look good on screen that he forgot not only to write a good story but to direct good action. He blatantly rips off The Matrix trilogy, Dawn of the Dead, and possibly Ninja Assassin. And by "blatantly" it means lifting whole scenes to the point where it should usually be considered a copyright violation. Almost 90% of the combat scenes are in slow motion, easily reminding one of Uwe Boll's "House of the Dead", complete with painful over usage of 360 degree panning and other matrix bullet time effects. As a resident evil movie, Afterlife commits the worse crime possible by having more humans fighting humans than Zombie killing action. The very sci/fi-ish set up, the CGI cityscapes, lack of Zombies and Milla Jovovich doing Gun Kata makes this feel more like "Ultraviolet 2" than a Resident Evil film.

Perhaps the one redeeming factors is how the franchise is trying its damnedest to move back on track with the games. There are numerous references especially to Resident Evil 5 and Code Veronica; the Executioner, Wesker's appearance, even that P30 bug thing just to name a few. A real pity that no explanation is given for their appearances; is the Executioner a mutated zombie or the latest Umbrella corporation bioweapon? Where did the P30 bug come from? When did Wesker start having superpowers? Anyway, Alice no longer dominates the screen as Game characters like Chris and Claire get their fair amount of time to shine. No doubt the fan-boys might be more pleased than usual about this. Oh yes, and there is Avatar-style 3D which just shows how weak the movie would be without this gimmick.

Like a shambling zombie, Resident evil Afterlife now plods through the movie underworld. A sad Frankenstein's-monster pastiche of past films with an erratic pace and no soul left in its shell. It has got action, lots of it, which when coupled with the slick 3D would no doubt please the millions of simple-minded adrenaline junkies populating this planet. It would find warm reception too perhaps from fans who desire something closer to that of the games (compared to past movies), and maybe existing fans of the Resident evil movie franchise. With the promise of a sequel, one wonders how much lower can the franchise go now that its already all gone to hell.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you have an idea about the Resident evil film franchise and expect the stylish but extremely shallow, action heavy product that you are going to get. Also if you have played the REsident Evil 5 game and want to see some of the mutated creatures in live action form.
Avoid it: if you expect something that exceeds the standards of the previous resident evil movies or any form of emotion closure for the characters.

Entertainment: A-

Story: C
Acting: B+

Characters: C-
Replay value: B-
"Brains": D+

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