Over the past month I’ve been dogging on Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D, teasing the first footage that looked like nothing more than a feature-length music video. Heading into the theater, I was under no delusion as to what I was about to watch. I had seen the first three Resident Evil films, and while all were technically bad movies, they all entertained me to some extent. The same can be said about Afterlife, Anderson’s first venture into the world of 3-D that utilized James Cameron’s technology, and showed it off in a major way.
If you’ve seen one Resident Evil flick, you’ve seen ‘em all. In this plot-thin sequel, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is continuing her ever-lasting battle with Umbrella Corp. alongside a few new stereotypical friends. Boris Kodjoe is an ex-basketball star. He can jump super high; I’m not kidding. Wentworth Miller plays Chris Redfield, an untrustworthy ex-military officer whom ends up being totally trustworthy. Then there’s the ex-producer, who’s a total jerk-off and ends up being a bad guy, along with a few other potential zombie victims. They’re all paper thin, one-dimensional characters that have zero back story other than the stereotypes that come with their previous professions. It’s lazy writing and even lazier storytelling. It doesn’t help when the stars deliver their lines like they’d rather be sunbathing (I’m looking at you Ali Larter).
The storytelling has never been a strong suit in the RE films, so I expected at least to see some off-the-wall insane action. Afterlife opens with an amazing Matrix rip-off sequences where Alice (and her clones) have a hallway shootout with a bunch of Umbrella (Agents) employees. It ends with her diving out a window backwards (ala Carrie-Anne Moss) with guns flaring and buildings exploding. While completely unoriginal, Jovovich is so awe-inspiringly beautiful and graceful that she’s like a magnet puling your attention at every moment.
Unfortunately the action is far and few between. Anderson appears to get lost with his new toy (the 3-D technology) and spends a lot of time showing us how cool he can make a shot look by adding depth (the sequence on the beach is absolutely remarkable). And with any new technology, there’s a learning curve. While Anderson aces the majority of the film, there are a few moments where he drops the ball. In the end fight scene (another Matrix theft) where guns are blazing, and the lead villain (or Agent, if you will) is dodging the bullets, the depth is lost and it appears he’s not even moving.
Speaking of the 3-D, a huge applause to Sony Screen Gems and Anderson for utilizing Cameron’s technology, instead of opting for garbage post-conversion. Any horror fan that thinks Piranha 3D looks good, walk out of that garbage and then go directly into Afterlife to witness the awe-inducing nature of real 3-D. In short, Afterlife is STUNNING. Nearly every single frame is a work of art that showcases what the future might hold. But as I stated earlier, Anderson appears to get lost in this, as the flick quickly becomes nothing more than a bunch of cool scenes loosely strung together by an insufficient plot. While Anderson throws homage to (or rips off) Matrix, Aliens and even Dawn of the Dead, he fails to build a story; there’s absolutely nothing at stake, and even less for any of the characters to lose.
Instead of engaging us with a good plot, Anderson turns Afterlife into a visual and audio showcase. The film is literally an hour and a half music video jam-packed with uninspired Nine Inch Nails riffs and drumbeats. It reminded me of the ’80s when you’d hear the exact same song in a movie over and over, only they’d change is ever so slightly (you know, like slow it down, speed it up, or scream it with passion). The worst part about the score was how Anderson highlights it and introduces extremely weird sound cues. During the final fight sequence, the music booms until Anderson drops it completely to let one of the remaining character throw out a cheesy one-liner, and repeats literally 3 or 4 times. It’s an embarrassing mess of a finale that neither engages nor satisfies.
But if I had to highlight the sole problem with Afterlife it would be that it takes itself so f*cking seriously. It’s the fourth film, in 3-D, with no plot, and talentless actors (sans Milla Jovovich) – how can you look in a mirror and say, “This sh*t is for mother-f*cking real!” You can’t! It’s ridiculous! Had Anderson recognized what type of film he was making, injected a bit of fun (and humor) into the final product, and let a talented writer pen the screenplay, Resident Evil: Afterlife might easily have been transformed into one of this year’s must-see films. But as my mother used to say, there are no ifs, ands, or buts.