Resident Evil: Afterlife
Although I've seen all three films, I'm not a huge fan of the Resident Evil series. I'm not sure whether it's because they are videogame adaptations or because, Event Horizon aside, I haven't liked a single film that Paul W. S. Anderson has made. Anyway, I missed this fourth instalment in the franchise when it was at the cinema so watched this disc with an open mind, hoping that Anderson had somehow bucked the trend of the previous films and made something really special.
Resident Evil: Afterlife kicks off shortly after the previous instalment finished, with Alice now able to make clones of herself and still hellbent on destroying the Umbrella Corporation that unleashed the T-virus on the world, turning most people into zombies but somehow leaving Alice, one of their test subjects, with superpowers. There is a brief prologue in Tokyo with Alice playing Basil Exposition and explaining what had happened up until this point whilst a camera focuses on a beautiful young woman in the middle of Tokyo's Shibuya crossing who, unlike everyone around her, doesn't have a number. After staring up at the sky for a while, she suddenly lurches of the nearest person and bites them in the neck. The camera zooms right up so you get a view from space before zooming back down on the scene for years later, where Tokyo is a desolate wasteland with the odd zombie wandering around.
The next thing you see is a graphic establishing the underground presence of the Umbrella Corporation where Albert Wesker (this time played by a different actor) is in charge and trying to figure out why the rooftop snipers are not responding when there is an alarm at the front gate. The next thing he knows, Alice is in the building and working her way down. Not just one Alice, but tens or even hundreds of them, all armed with submachine guns and swords. Wesker manages to escape and detonate a purge bomb which creates an implosion in the middle of Tokyo, virtually destroying the city as he flies away in a bullet-proof tiltrotor aircraft. What he doesn't know is that Alice -- the real Alice -- is on the aircraft with a gun which he pointed his head and asks "any last words?" His response is to quickly jab a needle into her neck and press the plunger on the syringe, flooding her system with antibodies to the T-virus which removes all of her special abilities, making her human.
Before she can really react, the aircraft smashes into the side of a mountain sending Albert Wesker flying out of the front whilst Alice somehow manages to climb out through a side door, virtually unharmed. Several months later and she is in a small propeller plane over Alaska where she hopes to find the mysterious Acadia which has been broadcasting a message claiming to be a safe place, free from infection. Seeing a deserted area full of aircraft, she lands to see what, or who, is around and continues to record messages on her small digital camcorder. Suddenly, someone runs behind her and she runs after the figure, which attacks her but, when Alice gets the better of the bedraggled woman, she discovers that it is Claire Redfield, but that her friend doesn't recognise her and she has a strange spider-like device on her chest full of red liquid.
With Claire bound in the back seat and the strange device now removed from her chest, Alice flies to the ruins of Los Angeles where she notices a large building with "Help Us" written on the roof. As the building is surrounded by zombies and there is nowhere to land, she decides to try and bring the aircraft to a halt on the small gravel rooftop. The people there help her but it becomes clear that they aren't the people she was looking for (K-Mart and the others she escapes Las Vegas with the end of Extinction). She quickly learns that Acadia isn't a place, but a cargo ship which is currently moored off the coast of L.A. She is also in probably the safest place in the city as the survivors have taken residence in a big jail which they figure is hard to escape from so it must also be hard to break into.
As the zombies begin to break in through the front gate, aided by a hulking monster with a giant axe, and through the floors as some of them can now dig, they need to escape, but the idea of multiple trips to and from the Acadia in the small plane is a nonstarter. However, one of the group was locked up in the basement as the prisoners had shows him there and the new arrivals, suspecting he was a murderer, didn't want to let him free but, because he claims to know a way out, Alice persuades them to free him. As soon as he is out, he notices Claire and tells her he is her brother, Chris, but, because of her memory loss, she doesn't recognise him.
From there, it is a fight for survival and to investigate the Acadia to see what is on it, why it appears deserted and to continue the fight against Umbrella.
I wanted to like this film, I really did, but Paul W.S. Anderson makes it so unbelievably hard as the dialogue is terrible, the pacing woeful, the characters unlikeable or barely developed and, as for his (over)use of slow motion... ugh!
Anderson says that he got most of his inspiration from playing Resident Evil 5 and wanted to make this a film that would be great viewing for gamers because it would be faithful to that videogame, its characters, locations and plot. As someone who has never played a Resident Evil videogame (I've only seen my brother play one of them well over a decade ago and Simon Pegg become obsessed by the game in Spaced), I found this to be an odd decision as it will undoubtedly alienate everyone who isn't a fan of the videogame and some of the fight sequences were clearly lifted straight from the game or were influenced by a part of the game so it felt more like watching someone play Resident Evil than a feature film.
This has one of those 'oh, who the hell cares' plots as you know who will survive until the end credits, who will die and you are completely apathetic about everyone else. Sadly, the bottom of the barrel hasn't been scraped right through and there is a scene after the cast in the end credits showing Jill Valentine which is clearly designed to raise interest in the sequel, Resident Evil: Damnation -- the fifth instalment in the franchise -- and there is even on a trailer on the disc which doesn't tell you anything, just following a person with a gun which looks like a scene from a videogame.
The cast more or less act up to expectations with Miller Jovovich proving a fine physical actor but one whose thespian talents are severely lacking, Ali Larter has none of the nuance that her character needs and is either really weird or really sensible with no middle ground. It seems as if German actor Boris Kodjoe was employed more for his physique than for his acting ability and his character is the subject of one of the worst pieces of product placement I've seen many a year (and he doesn't even look tall enough to be a basketball player either!). All of the other people are utterly clichéd or completely disposable. It is really the most derivative and unimaginative film with bits 'borrowed' from such films as diverse as The Thing and The Matrix, so much so that I found myself saying "oh, come on" at the screen when it was so blatantly obvious what films Anderson was referencing/citing/ripping off.
I imagine this will only appeal to those who like action-horror films and thought Resident Evil: Extinction was good or those who like exceptionally dumb movies where they can put their brain on standby for 100 minutes.
The Commentary by Paul W.S. Anderson and producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzev is far from the most interesting thing you will ever hear as he spends most of the running time complementing other members of the cast and crew and saying what a challenge and rewarding aspects it was to shoot in 3-D. There is very little information about the writing process, green screen work or the sequel so this is really for hard-core fans only.
Undead Vision: Picture-In-Picture runs alongside the film with a box at the bottom right-hand corner showing some behind the scenes footage including the amount of green screen work they did, interviews with members of the cast and crew with Anderson's assistant, Sarah Cromton, being the most enthusiastic and interesting speaker and some discussion of the special effects and CGI work.
Deleted & Extended Scenes (6:18, HD) really need little in the way of explanation but there are eight in total and none of them really cry out to be integrated into a Director's or Extended cut. This can be watched individually or together using the 'Play All' function.
Outtakes (4:30, HD) run as your typical blooper reel and really aren't amusing in the slightest. The cast were having fun, which is more than I could say for me.
Featurettes (47:33, HD) is a fairly healthy and comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at various aspects of the filming process and comprises seven different featurettes, all of which play very well together as one extended piece:
· Back under the Umbrella: Directing Afterlife
· Band of Survivors: Casting Afterlife
· Undead Dimension: Resident Evil in 3D
· Fighting Back: the Action of Afterlife
· Vision of the Apocalypse: the Design of Afterlife
· New Blood: the Undead of Afterlife
· Pwning the Undead: Gamers of the Afterlife
Sneak Peek of Resident Evil: Damnation (1:10, HD) seems less like a trailer for a film than footage from the videogame as everything is animated and the film will be an animated 3D movie.
There are also trailers for Salt, Faster, Ticking Clock and The Virginity Hit as well as the Blu-Ray Disc™ Is High Definition showreel.
Just as this should be, for a film shot on high-definition and only three months after its theatrical run, the 1080p picture is extremely sharp with good colours, contrast and CGI. You can tell where the most obvious 3D elements were but I really don't know why it was filmed in such a way as it looks perfectly fine with reasonably good composition in plain old 2D.
I have major issues with some of the frame rate changes as Paul W.S. Anderson over uses slow motion to the extent that it gets extremely boring and repetitive. The scene in which Alice and Claire fight the behemoth with an axe is almost entirely in slow motion, just with some parts slower than others.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is extremely loud and bombastic when it comes to the action sequences (of which there are many) with some scenes that use every one of your surround speakers. The dialogue comes through nice and clearly despite the sheer volume of the film.
Dominating proceedings is the score by tomandandy which is extraordinarily loud and bassy and there is even a track by A Perfect Circle at the very end to underscore the metal credentials in the soundtrack.
As usual for a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release, there is a healthy assortment of language and subtitling options so please look at the disc details section for the full list as there are too many to write down here.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is a spectacularly dumb movie, albeit one that many action film fans will find very entertaining in a 'leave your brain at the door' way. I approached this as a horror fan who likes zombie movies and found the first film in the franchise to be a fairly well constructed and likeable film because of the clever gore effects and set up, which was, predictably and unsurprisingly, taken straight from the videogame. I didn't like it enough to buy it and none of the sequels have impressed me much but I still went into this with eyes wide open, hoping for something that would be as good as the first film and better than the previous two. In this respect I was disappointed and underwhelmed as the film is so uninspiring and unoriginal that I was just left thinking "Is that it?" at the end.
The disc is an extremely good one with a commentary that will appeal more to big fans of the series rather than those who are just casually interested, a decent enough PiP option and over 45 minutes of featurettes. If you liked this at the cinema, you have the option of this disc or a 3D BD if you are very keen on the stereoscopic format. This isn't going to win many new followers but if you are a fan of the series then this is one to add to your collection.