Alice is back, and she’s brought her non-smear lipstick and infinite supply of munitions with her. The fourth in Paul W.S. Anderson’s lineage of Resident Evil movies (and the second he’s directed), Afterlife picks up where the last entry left off, with the world ravaged by a zombie-creating T-virus unleashed by the evil Umbrella Corporation.
Now loaded with superpowers and an army of clones, Alice (again played by Milla Jovovich) launches a full frontal assault on inscrutable villain Albert Wesker’s Tokyo lair, a pitched battle that concludes with Alice shorn of her invincibility and Wesker apparently embedded in a mountain and very, very dead.
Alice then flies her biplane to Alaska in search of survivors, and miraculously finds old friend Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who has a special kind of amnesia where she only remembers vital pieces of information once it’s too late.
Alice and Claire’s next port of call is LA, where they somehow land their plane on the roof of a skyscraper (albeit with the aid of a few locals, who know to use an electrical cable as a skyhook with no forethought or planning). Pleasantries are briefly exchanged (the half-a-dozen or so survivors Alice and Claire meet are little more than zombie food, after all) before they descend into the basement and, in a remarkable stroke of luck, find Chris Redfield, Claire’s brother (Wentworth Miller, who turns in a performance worthy of a coat of varnish).
With the zombie horde steadily chipping their way through the building’s defences, and Resident Evil 5’s hulking Executioner Majini closing in, Alice, Claire, Chris and their group of assorted stock characters decide to find a way across the city and on to the safety of a ship in a nearby harbour.
Characterisation and storyline quickly take a back seat to a relentless procession of action scenes, which wouldn’t be a problem if said scenes weren’t the kind of post-Woo, post-Wachowski brothers combination of back flips and two-fisted shooting we’ve seen a hundred times before. A kind of Matrix Of The Dead, Afterlife mixes mild horror with wire-fu action to produce a film that services neither genre particularly well.
The amount of slow motion camerawork is prevalent to the point of self-parody, with the result that every action scene plays out at a quarter of the speed it should. Sitting in my seat with my glasses strapped to my face, I often wondered how much time could be saved if Anderson had just filmed everything at a conventional framerate.
The action reaches its tedious nadir in a final confrontation with the film’s big boss, which trudges along in a slow-mo plod of glass, bullets and slobbering dogs.
Jovovich and Ali Larter make for a fearsome pair of femme fatales in Afterlife‘s louder moments, but they seem ill at ease when requested to speak. Jovovich holds largely the same dead-eyed expression throughout. A vast whirling axe, which misses her head by a hair’s breadth, fails to provoke more than a flicker of the eyelids, while even the apparent death of her love interest only warrants a constipated frown.
In fairness to Jovovich, who has turned in perfectly respectable performances in The Fifth Element and Zoolander, the fault probably lies with Anderson. While by no means badly conceived, Afterlife is so hopelessly jam-packed with unconvincing computer graphics that its actors are often left with nothing to look at, and every scene looks processed to within an inch of its life.
In a film as CG-infested as Resident Evil: Afterlife, the typical thing to say would be that it’s like watching someone playing a videogame. This, however, would be unfair, as there are some videogames that are actually quite entertaining to watch, several entries in the Resident Evil series among them.
Then there’s the 3D, which we’ve heard a fair bit about in the run up to Afterlife‘s release. It uses the same Fusion Camera technology and operatives as Avatar, we’re told, but it’s evident that this is a much cheaper picture than James Cameron’s mega bucks opus. It’s not the worst example of 3D we’ve seen this summer. The Last Airbender walks away with that trophy unchallenged. But neither does it do anything notable with the technique, other than repeatedly prod at the viewer’s eyes with a variety of whirling blunt instruments.
But then, this is Afterlife‘s inherent problem: it’s entertainment as bludgeon. And after almost a hundred minutes of its pounding soundtrack and endless succession of projectiles and feet flung directly into our faces, the result is a film that generates more heat than light, and a nasty headache to boot.