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Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010)

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Wentworth Miller, Boris Kodjoe

Written & Directed By: Paul W.S. Anderson

The Short Version

Paul W.S. Anderson takes back the director’s chair for this fourth installment of his franchise.

Resident Evil: Afterlife delivers where it absolutely needs to, but…

Why, why, why did the zombies need to have CGI squids in their mouths?

Yes, Milla Jovovich still kicks ass.

Face it, franchise fans: at this point, you’re obligated.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

OVERPOWDERED CHEESE POPCORN.

It’s tasty enough snack food, but all of that extra processed stuff messes with the intended flavor.


Pairs Well With...

KIRIN ICHIBAN.

If someone’s going to serve beer with squid, it’s one of the more likely selections.

“I'm what you used to be. Only better.”


Ladies and gentlemen, fanboys and geek girls… let’s face it.  If you’ve been on the ride for this long (and if you care about things like the story making any sense, you definitely need to have been on the ride for all three of the previous movies… which I suppose makes it optional, come to think of it), you know exactly what to expect out of Resident Evil: Afterlife, and you will get it; no more, no less.

Milla Jovovich kicks ass.  Thank you, and good night.

If you’re still pretending that the Resident Evil sequels are about anything other than that… well, okay.  I’ll play along with you.  I might as well, since we’re in the same boat.

Our story picks up a year after the last one left off.  While the world remains overrun by zombies, Chairman Wesker (Shawn Roberts, X-Men) and his Umbrella Corporation cronies are safely holed up in their subterranean headquarters beneath the streets of Tokyo… until Alice (Milla Jovovich, Stone) and her army of clones arrive to bust the place up.  Wesker manages to escape, and while doing so, he gives the real Alice a going-away present: he injects her with a serum that removes all of the superhuman abilities she gained from being a T-virus guinea pig.

Six months later, Alice is off to Alaska to join up with her comrades from the previous film… only to find an airfield full of empty planes.  What happened to everyone?  Is Alice now the last real woman on Earth?  What’s she going to beat up and shoot at for the next hour and a half?

Not to worry, folks; she’ll find something, and Umbrella and zombies are sure to be involved…

Once upon a time, there was a movie called Highlander, and it was good.  Several incoherent sequels, each of which short circuited the stuff that came before, followed, and they tend to be considered well-nigh unwatchable.

The only differences between the Highlander sequels and the Resident Evil sequels are Milla Jovovich and adherence to a consistent storyline.  The Highlander sequels, having neither, wallow in their mediocrity and are generally ignored even by fans of their universe.  The Resident Evil sequels, having both, carry a polish that helps to disguise their mediocrity and allows them to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office and beyond.

And if one’s really honest, all that matters is Milla Jovovich.  The consistent storyline certainly helps, but its main purpose is to give Milla Jovovich something to do.

Apparently, Anderson the writer learned something from two sequels’ worth of complaints, because this time, all of the action follows Alice/Milla, without the “let’s track a couple of different groups” nonsense that bogged down the previous sequels.  The “Multi Milla” opening sequence is a lot of fun; perhaps slightly tamer than I’d have expected, but still, nothing to complain about with all of the butts being kicked and stuff going “boom.”  And though Alice allegedly loses her super powers right after this, I can’t say that it really changed much about how things played afterward.  The whole “psychic Alice” thing wasn’t all that heavily built up in the previous pieces anyway; to me, it was just a parlor trick that she pulled a couple of times and not the main event.  With the gimmick gone, Milla’s still got crazy awesome moves, still fights like hell on a fashion plate, and still has action charisma to spare.  In other words, audiences are still getting what they’ve come to see.

So far, so good.

As for the whole “consistent storyline” thing, Anderson remains faithful to everything that’s come before Resident Evil: Afterlife except for the timeline (gaps between events as related in this film mean that the full-on zombie apocalypse depicted in the previous movie took less time to happen than dialogue there had suggested; oh well), and what happens in this installment flows logically enough from the events of its predecessors. 

Again, so far, so good.

Anderson has pretty much given up on pretending that this franchise is about zombies anymore; yeah, they’re around, and the obligatory zombie boss encounters happen, but on the whole, they’re less “the primary menace” than they are “just something we have to deal with, like traffic.”  That part’s fine; unfortunately, some idiot decided that yucky makeup just wasn’t enough to make the undead menacing, with the end result being that nearly every zombie now has what looks like a four-tentacled CGI squid coming out of its mouth.  Were I still doing numeric ratings for films, that alone would have been worth a drop of about three points, because the squid effect absolutely murders every frame it shows up in, be it part of a mob fracas or the final battle.  There’s no other word for it but “stupid,” and because of the squid thing, only three fights in the entire film – the “Multi Milla” opening, the first duel, and the second act boss fight with the hood-wearing “Axe Man” – aren’t wholly or partially wrecked.  (Those that are only partially wrecked are, of course, redeemed by Milla.)

Uh-oh.

And then there’s our Main Event Baddie, Chairman Wesker, who stinks even before the computer geeks get a hold of him.  There’s no polite way to say this: Shawn Roberts’ performance is terrible beyond all possibility of redemption, and that’s all there is to it.  Picture a really bad direct-to-video rip-off of Agent Smith from The Matrix, and then picture the guy who didn’t make it past the audition for that flick, and you’ve got what Roberts brings to the table here.  This is not what Umbrella’s ultimate badass should be, folks.  Not by a longshot.

Uh-oh.

Speaking of The Matrix, I hope you like Bullet Time slo mo, because Anderson the director goes to that well a lot in Resident Evil: Afterlife.  Whether this adds to or subtracts from the action at hand is a matter of personal taste, though I will say that I was surprised at how well these sequences turned out for stereoscope presentation at the theatre.

All right…

At this point, does it matter that none of the other characters we meet get much more than a “hi, how are ya”?  Not really; fans of this franchise are used to it by now.  Even the returning Claire Redfield (Ali Larter, House on Haunted Hill) doesn’t get much in the way of props beyond the honor of being allowed to split the second act boss fight with Milla.  But that’s fine; we know who we’re supposed to care about and who doesn’t matter.  That’s why it’s called “formula.”

But before you say “why bother,” it’s not all bad news.  If the computer geeks had just laid off the damn squid, the fight scenes are actually pretty cool.  In terms of story, it may be a connect-the-dots affair, but there are still some nice touches thrown in.  (I love the thing with the quarters.)  And again, if you’ve been following the franchise all along, it’s not as though you didn’t know what to expect other than that little disappointment with the sushi.  When all is said and done, Resident Evil: Afterlife is a perfectly serviceable standard action flick that’s exactly what the reptile brain ordered for pizza and beer night.  Throw in Milla Jovovich, and it kicks ass despite being built from formula bricks.

Bottom line, Resident Evil: Afterlife isn’t the Second Coming of Action Movies, but for franchise fans, it’s solid enough, and Milla Jovovich is still perfectly capable of carrying the movie on her back.  If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, it’s the “In for a penny, in for a pound” thing, with recommendations to rent or buy determined according to what you’ve already done about the previous installments.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, August, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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