Review for Resident Evil: Afterlife
Despite Paul W.Anderson's rather controversial reputation as a film-maker, second only to Uwe Boll in some circles, the Resident Evil series of films has been rather successful with Afterlife being the fourth installment in the series based on the computer game series. The core to the success of the series is undoubtly Mrs Paul W.Anderson or Milla Jovovich in the lead role of Alice, a rather all too rare example of the female action hero. RE: Afterlife was also filmed in 3D for theatrical presentations using the system pioneered by James Cameron for Avatar.
This installment kicks off with Alice and a number of Alice clones attacking the secret Umbrella underground base, situsted under the heart of Tokyo. Amongst the targets is the evil Umbrella corporation boss Wesker (Shawn Roberts). Unfortunately the attack is not wholely successful, despite Alice's new found super-powers, as Wesker escapes in a helicopter and destroys the base, all the alice clones and most of Tokyo in the process. The real Alice managed to board the same chopper and almost has the drop on the evil boss, although he manages to stay one step ahead of her and inject her with a serum that removes the T-Virus from her cells, rendering her a normal human again before the helicopter crashes and Alice stumbles out of the wreckage.
Some time later we catch up with Alice flying over Alaska hoping to find Arcadia, a place supposedly free of infection where the World's survivors can gather and the heading of Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and the other survivors from the end of the previous film in the series. Finding the location, Alice finds nothing except a rather bedraggled and savage Claire who has some kind of beatle-like device stuck to her chest. With Claire now identified and safe albeit with severe memory loss, Alice decides to fly to LA where the duo not only find a group of survivors holed up in a prison and surrounded by thousands of the undead, but also Claire's brother, military man Chris (Wentworth Miller).
A plan is hatched to escape the prison, outrun the hordes of undead and head for the mysterious Arcadia which has actually turned out to be something quite different from expected.
Striking and sharp visuals on this blu-ray disc with some quite stunning set designs that contrast quite beautifully. Obviously there is absolutely loads of CGI and the majority of it looks pretty impressive with only a few things that let it down slightly, I wasn't particularly impressed with the reappearance of the dogs and their latest incarnation but they are lifted directly from and therefore a homage to the latest game.
It is quite clear for the last two films that Anderson loves using wide angled lenses and this tends to give the film a rather epic feel, maybe more than some people would say is deserved but I'd say that was a little uncharitable. There are a lot of centralised slow motion shots as well, but then this film was specifically designed to be shot in 3D using the Cameron system and despite the fact that this was not a 3D presentation, I can't say the look or feel of the film suffers for it. In fact, I'd actually say that some of the shots look more impressive in 2D.
The electronic soundtrack by tomandandy is rather superb as well, going from the low-key with brooding bass to all out frenetic dance tracks. Much improvement and I think more suitable than the heavy guitar soundtracks we've been more used to.
A number of short-ish featurettes covering the background to the film, its star, the cast, the stunts and also the current game. None are that spectacular although most are interesting, particularly the one covering the set designs and shooting in 3D - who knew that Paul W.Anderson would use the same system as James Cameron to film in 3D?
I've never been a Resident Evil game nerd, in fact I'd be hard pressed to describe myself as nerdish about anything despite being a bit of a gamer and with a long list of favourite films and TV shows. I wasn't too impressed plot-wise with the first film and haven't yet seen the second but ended up buying the third as part of my introduction to blu-ray and loved where Anderson was trying to take his rather successful franchise, so really jumped at the chance to see the fourth installment. And I wasn't disappointed either.
The opening sequence which starts with a Japanese J-Pop girl in the middle of Tokyo who appears to be ground zero for the Japanese infection and then morphs quite quickly into an all out ferocious attack on the Tokyo underground base for the Umbrella Corp, hidden below those same Tokyo streets. It's all quite impressive but also a little confusing as it's never clear just how many Alice clones there really are, they just keep reappearing. No complaints here though.
What is a little bizarre is that Anderson clearly wanted to reign in the air of invincibility that Alice had with the mutated T-Virus and so quite quickly we find that she is tricked and injected with an antibody that removes the T-Virus and therefore her more super super-powers are removed and she is made more human again. It appears that this doesn't actually make any difference as the helicopter she is travelling in ploughs straight into a mountain and she is still able to walk from the fiery wreckage with nary a scratch. And obviously this doesn't stop her from severely kicking zombie ass either...
The reunion with Claire and the introduction of her brother Chris shows that Anderson is moving more towards the storylines in the game - Wentworth Miller plays him as 2 dimensionally as can be expected and his introduction as being held prisoner within a cage within a prison that they are all trapped in is quite amusing. Other links towards the game are the return of the dogs in more mutated form (not so great) and the rather gigantic Executioner - there's no explanation of just where this beast came from but who cares? Really? Sometimes I just want mindless action without too much exposition interrupting it and the RE series is one of my guilty pleasures for this kind of thing.
The film style is full of wide shots, spotless set design and loads of slow motion shots that reference a myriad of other films including The Matrix with some bullet-time shots. I haven't seen this in 3D and no real desire to do so either, but I just love the look and feel of this series. With the 3rd and now 4th episodes, this series is starting to look if not feel a little more grown up. The only shot I really think kind of spoils it is the end shot and this is not so much for the content but purely the quantity - just how many of those bloody choppers are there? Still, we also get the re-introduction of a previous character just into the credits and sets up an epic start to RE: 5 at least.
I have to admit that I have no idea why I like this series so much, I just do. If you've liked any of the previous three films, chances are you'll like this one. If not, well you're not going to miss much with this one, are you?