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Resident Evil: Afterlife

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is part 4. Series writer-producer Paul W.S. Anderson returns as director for the first time since part 1. I really like how each chapter seems to be completely different from the previous ones, and this is no exception. The new style may be in part because Anderson hadn’t directed a RESIDENT EVIL in eight years (having only directed ALIEN VS. PREDATOR and DEATH RACE in the interim), but I think a huge part of it is that it was shot in 3D with the cameras developed for AVATAR. Not since STEP UP 3D have I so regretted not having seen a movie in 3D. It’s carefully composed with steady camera moves, lots of depth, with numerous scenes of acrobatic fight moves and projectiles coming toward the audience, many times in slow motion. Bullets, knives, swords, tentacles, people, raindrops, quarters, blood, pieces of bullet-ridden walls and shards of glass are among the things that fly out of the screen. You can just tell it would look really cool in 3D, and luckily this is a style that also looks good in 2D. Anderson has a reputation as a hack, but at least give him this: he is in a very small group of directors who actually put in elbow grease to use the 3D medium well.

As is the RESIDENT EVIL tradition, the opening is like a short film unto itself. There’s a security breach at the Umbrella Headquarters in Tokyo, which makes The Hive look like the FIRST BLOOD police station by comparison. A small army of security troops surround the elevator waiting for the intruder to emerge, a drawn out sequence playing with our anticipation for what Alice promised at the end of the last one.

Sure enough Alice appears, not in the elevator (which is empty) but dropping from an opening on the ceiling. She has two swords on her back and she flips around and kills a whole bunch of people in spectacular, super-human fashion until they kill her. And then there are some more Alices. Because, as promised in the last installment, she’s there with her army of clones.

It cannot be understated how much this section lifts from the MATRIX movies. The style of gravity-defying martial arts and shooting, the extreme slow motion, the bullet time, and the evil executive guy Wesker (Shawn Roberts, LAND OF THE DEAD, DIARY OF THE DEAD, replacing Jason O’Mara) blatantly basing his performance on Hugo Weaving’s weird tics as Agent Smith. Even the not-quite-there flipping digital stunt doubles and multiples are reminiscent of the special effects in RELOADED, and the poster art here seems to be based on Trinity’s near-death scene in that one). That said, it is the best executed ripoff of THE MATRIX I’ve seen. It’s completely shameless, but somehow it comes off more exciting than embarrassing.

Basically the Alices kill everybody there except Wesker, and he kills every Alice there except original Alice. Also he injects her to take away her powers, escapes in a cool helicopter and sets off an atom bomb. An especially shitty thing to do in Japan. What a dick.

Then it goes to the thread that seemed to be completely forgotten at the end of part 3: the search for sanctuary in Alaska, now said to be a place called Arcadia. The others went ahead of her, but when she arrives she only finds Claire, who attacks her until Alice removes a spider-shaped apparatus from Claire’s chest. She doesn’t remember what happened or even who she is. (Like Alice at the beginning of the series, but with more clothes on.)

Although this one is full of crazy shit and random left turns, it manages to stop and take a breath every once in a while. It’s sort of divided into chapters that always end quietly and fade out, like a serious movie with time for contemplation.

Alice takes Claire in her small plane, flies along the coast until she notices some people on top of a mega-LAPD fortress called The Citadel, surrounded by zombie hordes. She impresses them with a difficult building-top landing (“I think technically it’s called crashing,” she admits) and meets our new set of characters: a famous NBA player (Boris Kodjoe, SURROGATES), an aspiring actress (Kacey Barnfield, GREEN STREET 3: NEVER BACK DOWN), an asshole movie producer (Kim Coates, WATERWORLD, SINNERS AND SAINTS), the producer’s loyal intern (Norman Yeung), a guy locked in a cell who they think is a murderer but is actually Claire’s supercop brother (Wentworth Miller, voice of the jet in STEALTH) but she doesn’t remember him and at first you wonder if it’s a trick and then it doesn’t develop into anything because it’s not a trick, he’s really her brother.

They all work together well except for the producer. I believe computers still work in this world, so if I was Alice I’d try to look him up on IMDb, find out what stupid movies he produced and then give him an endless avalanche of shit about them. And then do a flip. Anyway, together they escape the zombies to get to Arcadia, because it turns out it’s not a town in Alaska, it’s a boat which was previously in Alaska but now is right here on the coast. That’s where the broadcasts were coming from. We learn that Alice without powers isn’t hugely different, because she swings on a cable from the top of a tall building and then lets go and does a flip and lands safely. And when they get attacked by a crazy SILENT HILL looking motherfucker that comes through the crowd of zombies but he’s like 9 feet tall and wears a spooky executioner hood covered in spikes and carries a hammer/battle ax combo with a blade the size of a car door, she runs and leaps up and does a 360 kick to slap him in the face.

Claire (later joined by Alice) has a long battle with the big dude, and in an era with so many lazy, ho-hum action sequences it’s a thrill to see Anderson get so swept up in the filmatism of this one, lovingly, super-slow-motionly detailing every hit and miss, every fall, every look of badass triumph.

For the finale it turns MATRIXy again with a super-powered fight against Wesker in an all white hangar where he reveals the shocking truth to them and what not. And Anderson ends it basically the same as MORTAL KOMBAT: another enemy shows up and they’re like “oh shit, get ready to fight!” and the music comes in, go to credits.

2/3 of the way through this series I’m very impressed. Consider me a new convert. I like how there’s a certain heightened video game tone that’s consistent through all of them, but each chapter looks very different, goes to different places, adds new characters and abilities and gimmicks. It never feels like it’s very much about zombies, but those incidental swarms of zombies have gotten much better. And Jovovich has really grown into the role, learning how to grimace and pose, visibly aging a little to look more worn than the new young women in the mix but still a model wearing designer combat gear.

This one might end up being the best of the series.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 26th, 2017 at 7:21 am and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

20 Responses to “Resident Evil: Afterlife”

  1. Saw this in theaters opening night and can confirm that this was one of the better 3D theatrical experiences I’ve had. No matter how good the post convert, you really can’t beat actually shooting in 3D. Besides all the awesome gimmicky stuff every shot is carefully set up to really showcase the depth. I still probably like 3 better, but this was a solid follow up!

  2. ZOMBIE KICKER IV: THE MATRIX HAS YOU, ZOMBIE KICKER

    This is truly the FAST 5 of the series. Not in terms of quality, but by now the concept of the movie is as far removed from the concept and style of part 1, as F5 was from the mid-budget undercover car tune thriller for teens that started its respective series. And it’s a good thing! Although in the case of RE, more on a “WTF did I watch” level.

    It should be noted that Kim Coated was in a RESIDENT EVIL and a SILENT HILL movie, which should count for something! Also PRISON BREAK was so popular here in Germany, that our poster was the only one, that had Wentworth Miller’s face on it.

  3. I can confirm the 3D was awesome. Anderson is one of the very few director’s whose movies I make I actually go out of my way to see in 3D (in LIMAX when available). This, the next RE, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, and POMPEII all had A+ 3D. I love how he goes both ways with it’s use: using both the whole bullshit ‘depth immersion’ (or whatever) and gimmicky throw shit at the camera stuff that 3D was made for.

    I really enjoyed this one (of coarse). I believe t was RRA who described Shawn Robert’s performance as ‘…a frat boy doing an Agent Smith impersonation…’ and boy do I love Robert’s bizarre/ridiculous performance. Despite how crazy and over-the-top this one gets, I argue this is only one that ‘feels’ like a traditional zombie, even more so than the first one that was trying to be a ‘modern’ take on the zombie movie. This one with it’s ‘people who don’t necarilly get along, held up in a confined location while zombies wait for them on the outside and they have to figure out how to survive and escape’ premise. It’s just bookeneded with two mini-Matrix wannabe parts.

    I have my tickets for tonight’s IMAX 3D showing of FINAL CHAPTER and am hopeful for it. I now know what MARVEL STUDIO and DISNEY STAR WARS fans feel now. Watch me be horribly disappointed.

  4. This review series is great dude. Vintage Vern – giving movies that kind of fell by the wayside a new look and enticing chumps like me to watch them

  5. This is the slow motion movie one. Damn you Vern for making me want to watch these things.

  6. That Axe fight is absolutely hilarious when viewed not in 3D, as it plays out 95% in slo-motion for no reason except to showcase the 3d water-droplets. Looked great in 3d though.

    Also worth pointing out, and something that makes these kind of fun to watch, is they are consistent about being R-rated, and with the last couple, they actually lean into that much more than I remembered. There’s a ridiculous number of head shots and bullet squibs that go a long way towards making these action sequences stand out in todays landscape.

  7. Reading these reviews all week has been a great ramp up to my IMAX 3D Laser screening tonight! Reminds me of all the fun things this series has actually done right.

    It’s gonna be tough to top 5 (much like Fast 5), but I’m so in the bag for Anderson that I’m sure I’m going to be thoroughly entertained this evening.

  8. (and the axe fight in this one is the greatest Tool video never made!)

  9. Holy Shit! Wentworth Miller was the voice of the plane in STEALTH?

    Never knew that.

  10. Just saw FINAL CHAPTER, short review: Michael B was right.
    -do not see it in 3D
    -Anderson has joined the quick cuts and shaky cam club

  11. I wonder how many years until we get Resident Evil: A New Beginning but Alice is actually the paramedic?

  12. Is there anything you liked in THE FINAL CHAPTER, Geoffreyjar?

  13. Please note: in my prior post I was talking about the RESIDENT EVIL movie, not the FRIDAY THE 13TH or THE WALKING TALL or SAW 3D move. Just so we’re clear.

    Felix: I’ll probably soften up, at least a little, to FINAL CHAPTER as time goes by. I don’t want you guys to think that I just had my own personal EPISODE I moment and I’m going to bring it up everyday bitterly from now till the rest of time.

    To answer your question, things I like:
    -the method for the bad guys to amass a huge zombie army was inventive
    -Alice and Clair have a total “Oh hey girl!” moment when they reunite
    -Iain Glen is having a blast
    -Bitchin’ pimpin’ 1%er underground bad guy command center
    -Shawn Roberts, who isn’t given a lot to do, is still a hoot as Frat Boy Agent Smith and even gets the best one-liner: (after a character gets their hand cut) “Looks like you… let her slip through your fingers. At least WHAT’S LEFT OF THEM!”
    -Multiple Iain Glen martial art fights with Milia Jovovoich!
    -my weakness: (possible spoilers) actors in old people aging makeup while doing forced ‘old-people’ voices (see: Christopher Lambert in HIGHLANDER 2, also Guy Pearce PROMETHEUS, it is done better here than in HL2)
    -death by being sucked into giagantic fan
    -The series solid mini-movie/prologue tradition continues (though Anderson dropped the ball with setting up doing CPR on a zombie bit)
    -Magic antivirus that comes out of a small vile and works instantaneously
    -the old couple and the two teen girls sitting behind me were totally into it, one of the teen girls kept saying “Oh my god…” (in shock) at just about everything

    I’ll probably think of a few more things later but I hope that suffices for you, for now at least.

  14. This one is my favorite for its crazy cool action scenes and going for broke with the crazy nonsense. I can see the series is working its silly magic on you. Somehow the more of them you watch, the more you start to dig the whole enterprise. Watching them back to back highlights the continuities in the films which are very easy to miss if you don’t see them in close proximity. Not that it is a reason I like them, but it shows that despite these being considered schlock films, the director really seems to care about them and lavish them with geeky love.

  15. No thread about RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE would be complete without the YouTube clip of RedLetterMedia watching the famous ending to this masterpiece.

    So here it is.

    Red Letter Media Watches the Ending of Resident Evil: Afterlife

    http://www.redlettermedia.com - To see the full RLM discussion of the Resident Evil series, watch the latest Half in the Bag on our website. Just a note here...

  16. Rich Evans laughter brings light to my heart evry time.

  17. Felix:

    Other things I thought of that I liked in THE FINAL CHAPTER (RESIDENT EVIL-version):
    -I like my heroes struggling and taking a hit and Alice is gets totally fucked up this entire movie, first time the whole ‘she doesn’t have super powers anymore’ is actually played up (please note: I’m not saying I like seeing women get beat up, I like it when my action heroes are vulnerable and there are times the audience has to wonder how/if they will survive)
    -There are these goofy CGI hanging zombies at Racoon City’s entrance that Anderson is apparently really proud of because they keep showing up. They are a really cool creepy idea, but the so-so CGI helps them blend into craziness universe of this series (I’m not a CGI-hater btw)
    -Alice’s clothing is not nearly as sexualized as it usually is (so this one ranks second next to EXTINCTION in Alice costumes)
    -Anderson steals the ‘predicting how a fight will turn’ gimmick from the terrible Guy Richie SHERLOCK HOLMES movies and the one Iain Glen does ends with a video game-y victory screen of him smugly sipping tea after victory over Alice
    -The series is still rated-R and proud (a depressing rarity now a days in theaters (especially for one that plays in IMAX)

  18. I actually prefer Alice with super powers. Also the army of clones she had in AFTERLIFE.

  19. SPOILER (maybe?)
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    Her clones make a cameos… as decapitated heads if that counts?

    I miss her crazy telekinesis/fire-starter/Sadako from the RING/whatever the hell the plot needed at that point in time superpowers as well. I guess Anderson realized he shot himself in the foot “drama” wise when he made Alice’s power level just under that of Silver Age Superman.

  20. “he is in a very small group of directors who actually put in elbow grease to use the 3D medium well”

    I just rewatched EVENT HORIZON* and it’s fun to see how that movie seemed like it was shot for 3D. There are so many times when something (or someone) is floating, shooting, grabbing or pointing towards the camera and the long hallways are made for the fake viewmaster experience. If there is one 90s box office bomb that became a cult classic on home video, that is perfect for a late 3D conversion, it’s that one!

    *It hasn’t aged that well, but it still the one Paul W.S. Anderson movie, that comes close to being actually good.

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