Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) Franchi$e Evil: Afterlife, the fourth installment in the popular video game adaptation franchise, has left a great deal of people, critics too, cold.  This zombie infested, disaster stricken wasteland flick is queen of the B-Movie turned A-movie cash cow and delivers on its promise – one gun-toting heroine loner seeks lone survivors in biologically unstable neighborhood, rent negotiable.  Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the franchise after directing the successful first film in 2002, and though box office receipts show this to be the most successful film of the franchise, critics and audiences have had mixed feelings.  Even with the return of the ever-present, starkly beguiling star, Milla Jovovich as heaven and hell be damned, Alice, along with a rag-tag group of new and memorable survivors, the film struggles in the ratings game even when the franchise has seen well over $600 million dollars, and rising at the box office.  If dollars were sense, and clearly they are here, it is apparent the filmmakers are on a bankable, if not enjoyable escapist ride.

Resident Evil at Above the Line Practical moviesThere is no mistaking this film with a summer romantic comedy or the next comic book turned movie trial and error; this is a movie based on a video game and the filmmakers offer no apologies there.  It is impossible to separate the universe of the game from our own, from the laws of physics and forensic science and enter a state of suspension of disbelief – a formula in literature used for justifying the use of fantastic or non-realistic elements – yet that is exactly what we do every time we watch a movie.  Of course we do.  Entering a film like Resident Evil with high hopes of character, story, and believable emotional scene development is a lot like wanting your cake and eating it too.  Sure, it sometimes happens, but infrequently, and the B-movie as it used to be known was never intended to play first run or draw the biggest crowds – though admittedly, a lot of B movies these days do in fact do just that.  What is apparent is that a lot of people have forgotten that some films are exactly the sum of their parts and Resident Evil: Afterlife is just that.

Above the Line: Practical movie reviews with Rory DeanGo see it if you like the franchise, of course, and buy a ticket if you’re into zombie annihilation, post apocalyptic brown and ochre skies streaked with black spires of ominous, though seemingly unprovoked black smoke above elaborate, intense fight sequences.  Go see it if ultimately what you’re interested in is escaping into a world where gun wielding, katana or Japanese long-sword strapped make-believe makes you believe because that is why people continue to make these films and people, like you and me, continue to watch and write about them.  Milla Jovovich delivers a familiar if not at times vacant portrait of a tough as nails heroine, similar but superior to other actresses who have tempted the genre – Famke Jannsen in X-Men, Uma Thurman in Kill Bill(s), Megan Fox in Transformers.  The reason these characters flourish, beauty and sex appeal aside, is how believable, inviting as well as dangerously alluring they perform eye-popping, death-defying stunts and look good doing it.

The problem when you reach this deep into a franchise, however, is inventiveness.  The world and characters, both good and bad, have been clearly defined, though in this installment Alice (Jovovich) has at least one new trick up her sleeve.  I was disappointed that the technology in the game-movie world remained relatively unchallenged, relying on Matrix-style effects and the over-popularized slo-mo action fight sequences, not to mention a mediocre Real3D treatment for the version I watched.  Others have noted that the same cameras and essential technology that was used in Avatar was employed here but to obvious lesser success and impact.  The one-liners and recognizable quick-kill sequences, excessive decapitations and blunt force trauma returns, as well as the expendable ensemble group of core survivor military-type stock characters you’d find in films like Terminator Salvation (2009) or even as far back as Aliens (1986) but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  There was modest effort to chisel character ever so slightly out of the impenetrable stone of the genre, and while Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, and Boris Kodjoe have been successful elsewhere, these side characters nevertheless end up like the crew members on Star Trek, the original series, who wore the odd colored shirts when everyone ‘beamed down’ to the planet.  It was obvious who wore the targets.  Some people live, others die; it’s all part of the genre plus a lot, and I mean a lot of zombies getting taken to the cleaners, so to speak.

I must add a word of praise for the opening title sequence and introduction of RE4.  I was immersed immediately into the film-game world through a series of interesting shots and opposing camera angles, slowed down for effect and accompanied by a provocative sound track.  Others have written about the use of music and violence ineffectively, and the extended, often slowed down to the molecule scenes allowing 3D ‘moments’ to occur while enhancing the overall effect of the action.  You won’t find that the filmmakers stretch the boundaries of action-rigging-green-screen fighting but it will be familiar, employed similarly in most of the action movies of the past five years, not to mention just about every action movie derived from interest in, and mastery of, the genre outside the U.S. these days.

Resident Evil: Afterlife’s heroine, Alice dispatches the baddies directly with a bevy of her most favored weapons – twin .357 magnum pistols, twin sawed off shotguns with very nearly inexhaustible ammunition, and her Katana or Japanese long sword and for just a little while, or perhaps longer, we enjoy the ride.  Rumor has it the fifth installment is already ‘in development’ but only time will tell if audiences will remain vested and wage another trip through the maneuverings of the RE universe.

About rorydean

Rory Dean is a multi-medium artist, writer and new media strategist with a background as a creative consultant and technology liaison in the San Francisco Bay Area. His broad experiences and specialties include print-to-web publicity, promotions and design marketing using traditional and social media networks. As a motion pictures and television professional, his short films, productions and commercials have screened to domestic and international audiences. His connections to a diverse client base include artists, entertainers, corporations, non-profits and everyday people.. Dean is co-owner and founder of Dissave Pictures, a boutique production company focusing on audio, video, photography and multi-media designs. Dean's personal and professional background includes dreaming and avid notebook journaling, creative and copy writing, promotions and marketing, audio/video production, photography, videography, editing, web design and new media. He’s also a fan of collaboration and knows when to turn the reigns over, offer feedback, lead the team and step aside. His portfolio includes print, online, film, video, photography, graphic design and promotions. He’ll show you. He has a book and everything. "When not juggling various online worlds, I do a pretty good mime – but that’s another story."
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4 Responses to Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) Franchi$e

  1. Rodney says:

    Oh yes, Milla in 3D. Now that’s worthwhile watching.

    I love me some Resident Evil goodness, it’s just brainless fun (in a sick, perverse kinda way). Great review again Rory! I was only thinking the other day, I really must review the other couple of RE films I haven’t done yet….

    • rorydean says:

      There just are some actors and actresses that are believable in whatever they do, whether it is Matt Damon as the secret agent/uber-high tech government killing machine or soldier, or Sean Penn as just about anything, Kate Beckinsale as the vampire hunter-killer in the Underworld franchise, etc., etc. Milla does a great job in the RE franchise and most likely will continue to do so as long as the series continues to make money. Odd, really, how much negative criticism has amassed about RE4 when it continues to do well at the box office. I suppose the 3D element has a lot to do with increased ticket revenue (being the premium surcharge).

      I just watched RE1 again, well most of it, and must admit I was surprised at how much more the first installment was a direct interpretation of the game, meaning the universe of the game/movie worlds were much more similar. I understand in a franchise that lasts this long that it is important to branch out and grow and build on what came before, but wanted to make that observation. A complete review of all the films would be nice, albeit a project of epic proportions to say the least.

  2. potenzmittel says:

    Man, talk about a fantastic post! I?ve stumbled across your blog a few times within the past, but I usually forgot to bookmark it. But not again! Thanks for posting the way you do, I genuinely appreciate seeing someone who actually has a viewpoint and isn?t really just bringing back up crap like nearly all other writers today. Keep it up!

    • rorydean says:

      Thanks for coming by! When I started this blog it was partly for that very reason – to have a viewpoint. A lot of reviews (including those from Mr. Ebert) often resort to plot-based reviews which, in my opinion are fine to set things up if the story and characters dictate it, but otherwise don’t really get into the meat and potatoes of the movie. I’m glad to have you around and don’t be shy, I’m in this for the interaction as much as a place to thinking and write critically about cinema. Cheers->

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