Contrary to what I said on My Take Radio-Episode 58, I actually went and paid full price to get the full experience on this film, considering it was one of the few completely filmed in 3D. I have to unfortunately report that I was utterly underwhelmed by this being in IMAX, however. I guess the effects were just not special enough or the fights not spectacular enough for me to recommend anyone seeing this in IMAX and paying almost as much as they would to own the flick on Blu-Ray in the process. Fortunately, this in no way means that you should not see the film. That decision rides on whether or not you are a fan of the Resident Evil franchise and whether or not you give half a crap about the storyline and characters. In case you are interested but have no idea what the story is, here is some history (taken from the past three films):
BACKSTORY (contains spoilers of the first three movies)
The beginning of the movie tends to confuse things according to the original movie and even according to the video games. The movie has the outbreak of the T-Virus starting in Japan, when it really occurred in Raccoon City, a town in anywhere, U.S.A. The T-Virus is an attempt at a super soldier serum created by the Umbrella Corporation gone horribly wrong. It keeps living cells growing and dividing and maintains the electrical current of the brain which was supposed to keep armed forces going despite severe injuries. It actually works too well, keeping the body going even after death. These undead do not need to feed but do so because of a basic animal instinct. The only way to stop a person afflicted with the virus is to shut down the brain’s electrical current (headshot or severe cranial trauma). This virus started spreading in an underground facility of Umbrella’s called The Hive where the first zombies were “born.” Our heroine Alice wakes up in a mansion above the Hive, not knowing who she is. She regains her memory in time to realize she is a trained soldier working for Umbrella and that she wanted to stop her employer’s horrific experiments once and for all. She escapes the hive only to be captured by Umbrella and have them purposely infect her with the T-Virus.
When she awakens, she is in a hospital in the middle of Raccoon City and a good 80% of the town is undead because the T-Virus is highly contagious. Her only means of escape from the quarantined city is to save a little girl named Angie who is the daughter of an Umbrella Scientist. While searching for Angie, Alice encounters Jill Valentine (RE 1, 3 and 5 games). They also encounter Nemesis (RE3 main antagonist), a T-Virus super soldier armed with a Gatling gun and rocket launcher. Nemesis is programmed to kill any and all S.T.A.R.S. officers (Jill is one) and has Alice as his primary target. In a climactic battle between Alice and Nemesis, Alice discovers he is really her friend Matt whom she escaped the Hive with and he assists their escape via helicopter prior to Umbrella nuking the city. The blast wave makes the copter crash and the only casualty is Alice. Being infected with the T-Virus, she does not die and Umbrella revives her and experiments on her further. She escapes their facility using newfound psychic and psionic abilities and goes off the radar literally for a year.
During this time, the T-Virus spreads world wide and nearly renders the planet devoid of life. A small band of survivors in the southwest US form a convoy and run into Alice, whose powers are so off the charts now that Umbrella has started tracking her again. Alice is reunited with some old friends and meets Claire Redfield (RE2, Code Veronica games) for the first time. Fuel and food are scarce and true shelter is obviously non-existent, so the convoy is at the point of losing all hope when Alice brings news of a place in Alaska called Arcadia that is supposedly isolated from the undead and completely infection free. The convoy is currently located in Nevada and has about 100 miles worth of gas left. So it’s off to Las Vegas which they already assume will be zombie ridden to get fuel. There were no indigenous zombies to be found but Umbrella launched a trap designed to reacquire Alice. The plan is to use her blood to “domesticate” the undead so that healthy humans can return to the surface (Umbrella has underground facilities all over the world). The plan fails when Umbrella shuts down Alice but her mind fights the programming and basically reboots her. She figures since the zombies have wrecked their vehicles that taking the Umbrella escape helicopter would be a better idea (worked so well in the last movie). During this fight, Dr Isaacs (responsible for Alice’s powers and the domestication experiments) was bitten by a zombie and back at the underground facility he injected himself with way more of the antivirus than necessary. The problem was that the zombie that bit him had been injected with Alice’s blood (by Isaacs, no less) and the infection was much stronger than normal. For his utter failure and going over the heads of his superiors, Isaacs was terminated (literally). But instead of dying, he mutated and became what is referred to as a Tyrant (main antagonist of first RE game). He easily dispatched with all human personnel in the facility and tried to get out but was temporarily trapped in the lower levels by the A.I. running the facility. Alice stays behind while Claire gets the survivors to Alaska and has to fight the Tyrant. The White Queen (the A.I.) informs Alice that her blood is the key to a true cure to the T-Virus. Now aware of her clones, she releases one only to watch it die and starts fighting the Tyrant. the battle spills into the clone test area which is familiar to Alice because it has locales from the Hive and the Tyrant almost bests her in the corridor that led to the Red Queen (A.I. of the Hive). The defenses in this room take the Tyrant apart but stop before hitting Alice. We find out that the clone was not dead and was responsible for both Alice’s victory and survival. This brings us up to the current movie because Alice advised Albert Wesker that she was coming for him and bringing some friends, aka several hundred clones of herself.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE
Unlike Extinction, very little time passes from the last film to this one. Alice makes good on her promise and infiltrates the Umbrella Corporation’s Tokyo facility where Chairman Wesker is. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the clones are dealt with and Alice finds herself much more disadvantaged than she was in the past two movies. Ali Larter reprises the role of Claire Redfield and for the first time in the onscreen series we meet her brother, Chris Redfield (various RE games). It’s worth noting that fewer people die in this movie than in any previous Resident Evil, but then again, there are fewer “people” in this movie for obvious reasons. Claire, Alice and Chris must basically lead themselves out of a maximum security prison in Los Angeles and get to Arcadia. Explaining that would be giving a lot away so while I understand that it makes no sense, you would just have to go see the movie. Blocking their path are swarms of zombies. The majini from Resident Evil 5 make their movie debut but in keeping with movie continuity they are unlikely to be parasite infected humans. More than likely they are the result of the zombies that had Alice’s blood. Then there is the “Axeman,” a huge monstrosity similar in design to “Pyramid Head” from the Silent Hill series. Out of all the RE movies, this one has the most fan service. Having three characters from the videogame series and both a mini boss and the final boss of Resident Evil 5 make this the film for fans to watch. Like many video game movies it does not properly follow the story but since the first movie, Paul W. S. Anderson has very creatively created sort of an alternate telling of the tale and for that I must give him credit.
It’s a little bit difficult to be fair when describing the acting in any of the Resident Evil movies. Right off the bat, let me just say that all four movies hit the big screen but just as easily could have been SyFy original films. That alone should tell you something when SyFy has the rights to making Lake Placid sequels. Despite Milla Jovovich having that best actress oscar on lock, she and Ali Larter do have surprisingly good onscreen chemistry. Alice and Claire Redfield go together much better than Alice and Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) or any other pairing that was made in the entire series. Speaking of which, Guillory makes her return to the series in this film and literally steals the show. It was kind of weird to see Jovovich playing somewhat of a secondary character in this movie, especially with her being sorta married to the writer/director. I don’t know if Anderson wrote this movie to be more of a team-up but it seems that fights got started by Alice and were finished by one or both of the Redfields. Whatever the reason, I found myself wanting more from Alice and all I really got was a lot of her talking to a handycam about how bleak everything looks.
Anderson wrote and directed this movie, so the plot looking like Swiss cheese with gunshot wounds from a twelve gauge is really inexcusable. I would sit and ponder “how does one mess up their own vision,” but I would think that is more of a question for James Cameron. In the last movie people had enough trouble getting fuel but somehow Alice can fly a single engine plane from Tokyo to Alaska and then make it to Hollywood before running out of gas. There is the question of where she even got the plane or the camcorder and that doesn’t even touch on the fact that she walks out of a flaming plane crash needing not much more than a band aid and some “Tussin.” I would love to ask Anderson how he felt satisfied with this mess that he slapped together. The one thing that really made sense in this zombie apocalypse movie was Alice’s “hobby” of collecting quarters; that wound up being pretty cool.
It’s one thing to write poorly, but then to also direct as poorly or worse is just awful. It is really difficult to call this an action movie when ninety-five percent of the “action” is slowed down via bullet-time effect. The wire work is laughable and for the love of all that is sacred do we have to see the run up the wall and flip thing again? I’m sure the excuse would be “but we had Claire do it this time instead of Alice!” It’s like this movie’s signature move aside from pulling out dual weapons – and it sucks. There are scenes in this movie that you just want to laugh at because they are so bad. The sunglasses scene; the fact that a ten foot tall bag-headed monster was able to sneak up on three people and of course, the plane crash. I am not letting that one go for a good while. I could probably write a whole story just on the plot holes and “WTF” moments of this movie but I am done bashing it for one day.
Here is the cold hard truth: Resident Evil, not just Afterlife, but all four (and obvious future) movies are for fans of the series only. Whether that be fans of the games, the story behind the games or the movies, no one else should bother seeing this flick voluntarily. Apocalypse was the first of the series that I saw and despite the overall crappiness of the movie I actually like the character Alice. It could also be that I like Milla Jovovich and the way she always remains serious in these horrible roles (see Ultraviolet). The obvious fifth movie better feature more teaming of Alice and Claire and Chris and Claire because those were really the only parts of this movie worth saving. Resident Evil: Afterlife has made $26.7M in its opening weekend on a budget of $60M, guaranteeing that if not at the box office, it will make its money in home video sales. Now here is the interesting part: Extinction was the previous leader in the series in terms of opening numbers with $23.7M the first weekend. However, that movie was not in 3D and was not an IMAX movie. considering a difference of only about three million and the fact that ticket sales for Afterlife are roughly double that of Extinction, the fourth movie is drawing a smaller crowd and maybe Anderson needs to work a lot harder on the next script. I enjoyed Resident Evil: Afterlife when I aw it in theaters because the 3D was well done and I am a fan of both Alice and the overall story; but when I sit and think about it the movie just doesn’t stand on it’s own two feet. If you must see this film in theaters, at least skip the extra cost of IMAX because you will be very disappointed otherwise.