Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, May 24, 2019

VIDEO GAME MOVIE MONTH: Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

I guess the subtitle probably should've clued us in. “Resident Evil: Extinction” was designed as the final entry in the franchise. That film began with the end of the world and I guess Paul W. S. Anderson figured there wasn't much of anywhere else left to go after that. However, “Extinction” would become an even bigger moneymaker than the previous two installments. And when that kind of cash is flowing, even dead series will rise from their graves. “Resident Evil: Afterlife” would shamble into theaters two years later, with Anderson back behind the camera for the first time since the original. The public's hunger for Alice's zombie-slaying adventures was clearly not sated, as “Afterlife” was an even bigger financial success.

With the army of superpowered clones she uncovered at the end of “Extinction,” Alice goes to war with the Umbrella Corporation. She tracks them down at their Tokyo base and kicks a lot of ass but Albert Wesker, Umbrella's evil leader, escapes. He injects her with a T-virus antidote, removing her powers. Now, Alice is searching for other survivors. She finds Claire Redfield, without her memories, in otherwise abandoned Alaska. The two move on to Hollywood, where a group of survivors hide in a prison, surrounded by zombies. The gang – which includes Claire's brother, Chris – hopes to make it to a near-by ship that promises salvation. However, as long as the undead reign outside and Umbrella survives, things won't be that simple.

“Resident Evil: Afterlife” at least recognizes that Alice is a shitty, overpowered character. The opening orgy of destruction features multiple Alices, a telekinetic tidal wave, slow-mo katana chopping, ninja stars, grappling hooks, and so many shots of Milla looking bored while firing a machine gun. After that, Alice has all her powers drained away. But don't think for a minute that means Paul will write his wife as anything but the ultimate bad-ass. Even non-powered Alice can explode a roof-top full of zombies, effortlessly flip through the air while parasailing off a skyscraper, kick a table of knives at someone's head, kick a shard of glass into a zombie dog, and never misses while shooting. In this dumb film's dumbest moment, she somehow sails twelve feet off the ground to kick a giant super-zombie in the face. Even a totally human Alice plays like a twelve-year-old's unchecked power fantasy.

Anderson being back behind the camera makes me beg for Russell Mulcahy to please come back. I will say that Paul's direction is slightly less tacky than his last “Resident Evil” movie. There's a little less heavy metal on the soundtrack. Almost no obnoxious jump scares are present. Otherwise, the direction continues to abuse slow motion during the action scenes. If you had to guess, how many times do you think someone leaps away from an explosion while the camera dramatically focuses on their face? It's a lot. In addition tot the ridiculously high-flying kung-fu, and at least one slam-dunk to the tale of an airplane, we also get a bad guy in a trench coat dodging bullets, as if “The Matrix” wasn't a full decade old by this point. Some of the green screen effects look so bad, it appears Milla is floating effortlessly through space. Since “Afterlife” was shot in 3-D, that gives the director even more of an excuse to throw random shit – zombie tentacles, bullets, swords, giant axes, airplane propellers, sunglasses – into the audience's face.

For all the stupid bullshit in the movie, and there is a lot of it, at least Anderson is trying to make a proper zombie movie this time. A long section in the middle of the film has Alice and Claire hanging out in the tower with other survivors. It actually feels sort of cozy and fun. Zombies may be swarming outside but people have put aside most of their differences inside. They even have running water and plenty of food. Seeing characters relate about their shared tragedies but find the strength to keep going is one of my favorite part of the zombie apocalypse subgenre. While the CGI effects look like shit, especially those zombie dogs, some of the monsters here are kind of cool too. That hooded executioner giant, inspired by a “Resident Evil 5” monster, is an intimidating villain. It looks bad in execution but the zombies shooting bug-like tentacles from their mouth is cool in execution.

Happily, the acting growth Milla showed in “Extinction” doesn't swing back here. While her delivery is still frequently bored, Milla is actually trying to imbue Alice with some personality once again. In-between killing hordes of zombies and bad guys, Jovovich actually smiles, laughs, and emotes. Ali Larter undergoes similar growth, her character's missing memory giving her an (unresolved but still) interesting arc. The new additions to the cast are welcomed. Wentworth Miller is tough but not without charisma as Chris Redfield. Boris Kodjoe is truly likable as Luther, the former basketball pro that becomes the survivor unlikely leader. Kim Coates is a delightful asshole as Bennett, a former Hollywood agent that is willing to do anything to survive. Of the cast, only Shawn Roberts as supervillain Albert Wesker is truly terrible. Roberts delivers his lines like he speaks English as a second language. He too accurately captures the quality of acting in the early Capcom games.

Don't get me wrong. “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is still hot garbage. Whatever positive momentum its hang-out movie middle section builds is wasted on a finale driven by some of the fucking stupidest action thus far. Yet the middle chapter is actually not too bad, the cast is better than before, and the script at least sorta' kinda' attempts to address the first three films' problems. While it can't hope to be as smoothly entertaining as “Extinction” was, on account of Paul W.S. Anderson's total inability to reel his juvenile bullshit in, at least its better than the first two “Resident Evil” movies. [5/10]

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