Resident Evil: Afterlife preview impressions

Sony invited us to preview a sample 3D sequence from Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil Afterlife. And here are our thoughts…

Resident Evil: Afterlife

“This is my first 3D film, and it won’t be my last,” says director Paul W.S. Anderson in the introduction to a scene from his forthcoming Resident Evil: Afterlife. We’ve toddled along to Sony’s London HQ for a preview of the franchise’s leap into the third dimension. And as the cinema lights dim, and we balance our huge glasses precariously on our noses, we’re desperately trying to ignore a creeping sense of cynicism.

After a string of 3D movies that have ranged from the so-so to the downright awful, we’re wondering just how much more murky, blurry, subpar stereoscopic movies we can stomach. The Last Airbender‘s dreary visuals failed to capture our imagination, while Piranha 3D was more draining than awe-inspiring.

There’s hope, however, that Afterlife can change our attitude to 3D. Shot using the same technology and personnel as last year’s Avatar, Anderson states in his introduction that the technique has been considered “as part of the script writing process”, and insists that 3D will soon become “the industry standard”.

As a demonstration of Anderson’s handiwork, we’re shown a sequence called Axe Man, and as a taste of the tone and quality of the finished film, it performs the task efficiently enough. The technology may originate from Avatar, but its visuals couldn’t be more different from James Cameron’s luminous fantasy.

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About to descend into a storm drain in a zombie-infested Los Angeles, Alice (Milla Jovovich) and Claire Redfield (Heroes‘ Ali Larter) suddenly come face to face with the dreaded Executioner Majini, who looks identical to his videogame counterpart in Resident Evil 5, with his vast axe, sackcloth mask and body studded with nails.

A pitched battle ensues, as Alice and Claire avoiding swings of their enemy’s colossal axe in Matrix-style slow motion. Bullets fly, blood flows, and the scene culminates in what is literally a money shot. For reasons that we’re sure will become clear in the full film, the Executioner’s body is revealed to be full of coins…

If we’re being brutally honest, the 3D in Afterlife isn’t up to the standards of Avatar itself (although that does set some standard), and objects in the foreground sometimes looked quite blurred when the camera’s on the move. As a showcase for the possibilities of 3D, Zack Snyder’s Legend Of The Guardians was more convincing, which makes us wonder whether the technique is more effective when explored within the confines of pure CG.

Nevertheless, Anderson’s clearly had fun with the possibilities that his 3D technology has provided, with axes swooping out of the screen, combat sequences filmed among shimmering curtains of water, and the preview clip ending on a gory high, with blood apparently splattering against our specs.

How the completed film will fare is, of course, impossible to say from one scene alone. We just hope that Anderson hasn’t allowed himself to become too carried away with showing objects flying in and out of the screen. Used sparingly, it’s an arresting effect, but will diminish rapidly if overused.

We’re still not entirely sure, either, whether 3D movies will become the industry standard in the future as Anderson suggests, but we left the Afterlife preview reassured that its 3D presentation is a cut above the mediocre post-production efforts we’ve been subjected to in recent months.

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We’re still wondering exactly why the Executioner was full of coins, though…

Resident Evil: Afterlife will be released in the UK on 10 September.