You know, I can’t think of a videogame to film franchise as successful as Resident Evil and the four live action films that it has spawned. Paul W S Anderson may not be a fantastic director, but he’s not Uwe Boll. The series has given us a female heroine who can fight the good fight with the best of them and come out looking unblemished at the end. She’s like Ripley and Sarah Connor rolled into one.
Starting with a rainy Japanese street where a single zombie kills her first victim and quickly showing lights fading across the world, Alice tells us that the creators of the T-virus, lead by Albert Wesker, continue to work underground whilst the surface is overrun with zombies.
Of course, Alice isn’t happy with what the Umbrella Corporation are doing and she’s going to unleash all kinds of violence in order to stop the virus, the Corporation and anyone who gets in her way. What makes it even better is she’s been cloned, so a whole army of Milla Jovovich replicas run around the screen, being all macho (in a feminine way.)
Having helped bring Umbrella:Tokyo down and prematurely losing her clones, Alice searches for signs of life and the location of Arcadia, a safe haven for survivors. Flying from place to place, keeping a video diary of her lack of progress, she finally teams up (after many, many meaningful moments of walking slowly and looking poignant) with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller).
Helpfully, we discover that there have only been 18 months between Resident Evil: Extinction and this film. Despite having met her in Resident Evil: Extinction, Claire doesn’t remember Alice, for reasons that become apparent later on.
Elsewhere, Chris Redfield has been held prisoner by a group of people trapped in a building and trying to signal Arcadia. Thankfully, Alice comes along in an audacious rescue attempt, managing to save lives during a vicious zombie attack and securing the release of Chris Redfield in the bargain, reuniting him with his sister. Together, they escape the building and set out to find the sanctuary that is Arcadia.
Arcadia, it turns out, isn’t the land of hope that Alice expected. It is an Umbrella facility that has been experimenting on survivors lured there with a promise of sanctuary. Alice, Chris and Claire aren’t going to let this one go and are prepared to fight to rescue the prisoners (though where they’ll go in an zombie-ravaged world isn’t really made clear!)
Of course, Wesker is behind all of this and has even been experimenting on himself, planning to ingest Alice to return himself to humanity, as his various attempts have left him infected with a strain of the T-virus and a distinct lack of control over it.
Thankfully, with her two companions by her side, Alice makes short work of Wesker, the day is saved and yet another sequel suggested with a cameo by Sienna Guillory as an Umbrella-controlled Jill Valentine.
To be fair, the plots aren’t the key feature in Resident Evil, as we’re treated to scene after scene of slow motion violence, complete with hacking and slashing, gunfire and acrobatic combat, all designed to be viewed in 3D. The film is also available on regular DVD, and Blu-ray 3D for those with a 3D enabled player and television.
Even in traditional 2D on Blu-ray, it’s still looks pretty darned spectacular, with clear, crisp, deep colours and incredible detail, exceeding 25Mbps. The audio is equally impressive, benefiting from a loud and immersive DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack that has plenty of depth and enough range to cope with bass-laden music, explosions and dialogue that sometimes seem to take place pretty much at the same time.
Whether she’s rescuing people from the rooftops of buildings in a daring plane landing or fighting an Executioner with an oversized axe, Jovovich is every bit the action heroine. The zombies are truly plague ridden, combining the best of every zombie film you can imagine.
Secondary characters are pure caricatures, running the gamut from brave and heroic to snide and cowardly. Wentworth Miller is convincing as the stoically, masculine soldier, Chris Redfield. Ali Larter spends too much time being an amnesiac and a bit dull, whilst Shawn Roberts channels Agent Smith from The Matrix as Albert Wesker.
The Matrix has a lot to answer for, even this many years after its initial release, as we’re treated to seemingly endless moments of bullet time, with cameras whipping around Alice and her victims, showing us a frozen moment from all angles.
Even worse is the overuse of slow motion. Characters run, leap, jump, land, spin and walk in slow motion for far too much of the film. They’d surely get further if they moved at normal speed.
The CGI work is, for the most part, exceptionally high quality. Particularly fantastic moments include the purging of Umbrella: Tokyo. The various scenes of destroyed cities look remarkable and there are a number of advanced zombie characters that look impressive. There are also times where the CGI doesn’t quite cut it, with Wesker’s mouth and the zombie dogs amongst these moments.
Undead Vision allows you to watch a picture-in-picture behind-the-scenes footage, including filming and design work, along with cast and crew interviews. Seeing some of the digital storyboards and hearing cast and crew talk about the making of the film is interesting, as we get to see the true complexity and the lengths they went to in order to get some of the more challenging shots.
Movie-IQ allows you to watch the film with an ongoing IMDB-style reference guide, making it easier to find information about cast, crew, locations and anything else that might take your fancy.
Paul W S Anderson, director and writer, along with producers, Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer, provide an insightful commentary throughout the film that manages to stay on the right side of interesting by providing plenty of technical information.
Deleted and Extended Scenes run for just under seven minutes and feature eight alternate takes and deleted scenes. The scenes are presented without special effects and with rough audio in places, but do offer a bit more character interaction. Particularly interesting is a scene showing how Alice created coin-based ammunition and a scene aboard a boat showing the filming against green screen. Over all, though, there’s hardly anything groundbreaking to be seen here.
Outtakes runs for four and a half minutes and features various accidents and moments of foolishness on the set. You’ll either like it or find it cringe-worthy as you watch the cast fooling around.
Seven featurettes make up a forty-seven minutes of ‘making-of’ material exploring, in the usual upbeat way, the development of the film, the characters and the decision to make Alice more ‘normal’, the passion of Paul W. S. Anderson, the production of the film and filming in 3D. All of the features are interesting, particularly Undead Dimension: Resident Evil in 3D, which explores the challenges of filming with modern 3D technology.
Sneak Peek of Resident Evil: Damnation is a look at the upcoming CG sequel to Resident Evil: Degeneration.
Trailers include trailers for films ranging from Angelina Jolie’s Salt to a rather bizarre film about a lad trying to lose his virginity.
Weighing in at just over 90 minutes, Resident Evil: Afterlife isn’t an original film, nor is it particularly deep. It’s an attractive film, with plenty of action and set pieces that keep the film moving along, but it lacks any real suspense or drama.
Whilst it may fall short in many ways, the film is well produced, directed and acted. Definitely worth a watch if you liked the other films or need a film for a night in with a group of action junkies.