The Resident Evil franchise is really two different things. You have the video games, full of puzzle-solving and creature gore and some vast corporate conspiracy and of course, hordes of the undead. Then you have the movies, which are action-packed gorefests with lots of pretty cinematography and vague references to the same corporate conspiracy. About the only thing the two consistently share is the Umbrella Corporation and some pretty cheesy lines.
If you can accept all that, the Resident Evil movies are pretty good fun, and Afterlife (the fourth in the series, for those keeping track) is neither the best nor the worst of them, but it holds up pretty well.
The film still features Alice, a cloned human with enhanced abilities, in the aftermath of a viral outbreak which has turned most of humanity into the mindless undead. After an attempt on the Umbrella Corporation's headquarters underneath a major Japanese city, she continues her search for the surviving vestiges of humanity in the hopes of a safe haven.
After zombies taking center stage in Extinction, they take a distant backseat in Afterlife, which focuses mostly on bigger and badder enemies, setup for new character developments and lots of pretty-looking fight scenes. A new Resident Evil character is brought into the story (though not the one I was hoping for) and the ending practically begs for a sequel. The story is thin and the best parts are when Alice and her friends get to face impossible odds and fight their way through.
And those parts shine, especially in 3-D. I'm not a big fan of 3-D yet, but I have to admit that the depth of focus is used cleverly and unpredictably in Afterlife, in scenes where water seems to be falling all around you or foreground objects seem almost uncomfortably close. There is the expected slow-motion fight scenes and dramatic character poses, but even those work. It's that kind of movie.
To put it plainly, Milla Jovovich still kicks ass beautifully as Alice, and even Ali Larter has her moments playing Claire Redfield. Isn't that why you go to see these movies? And they do look gorgeous up there on the big screen.
Just to add one more reason to see it, the music by Tomandandy is perfect for the film, perhaps the best original music composed for the films so far, driving and intense where it needs to be, ambient and disturbing when that works best.
For my money Extinction remains the best of the Resident Evil film series, but Afterlife comes in second, better than the first two films by a good margin. And the reasons that are purely visceral.
There's movies you see for a rich story or deep characters or clever dialogue. There's movies you see because you loved the source material and you can't wait to see the characters you loved on the page or the small screen reproduced faithfully on a big screen.
So let's be clear: this ain't any of those movies. Resident Evil: Afterlife is fun to watch, it gets your heart pumping and your blood moving through your veins. It's brainless entertainment, but as such, it works quite well.
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