THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE"
Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, and Milla Jovovich are comin' at ya in 3D in Resident Evil: Afterlife.
I have no particular affinity for - or connection to - "Resident Evil." The videogames it was based on? Never played them. The three previous movies based on those games? Eh. Because of all this, I might, under normal circumstances, have opted to skip Resident Evil: Afterlife. I mean, what's the point in continuing to review a series that's meant to please an established fan base to which I clearly do not belong? Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the fact that this fourth installment is in 3D. Not a lousy post-conversion, mind you, but a production that used genuine 3D cameras. This gave Afterlife a curiosity factor. Knowing that I probably wouldn't much care for the actual movie, I went in simply hoping for some outrageous action scenes that made good, creative use of the extra dimension.
And that's just what I got.
Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, still fighting the evil Umbrella Corporation after they unleashed a virus that has turned millions (maybe billions) of people into walking undead. A mysterious broadcast leads her to believe that there might be a "safe zone" near Los Angeles where survivors are being helped, so she heads off to find it, rescuing a small band of other survivors along the way. One of those she finds is a sports hero (Boris Kodjoe), another a prisoner (Wentworth Miller). A third is Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), with whom she fought zombies in the previous movie. Meanwhile, an Umbrella Corporation agent named Wesker (Shawn Roberts) is pursuing Alice. There are also the requisite zombies to be dispatched with.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is, for me, the best film in the series so far, although that's not saying much. Having no investment in the videogames, I've never particularly cared about the story arc in the movie adaptations, and they've done little to bring in those of us who didn't play those games. In fact, my memory of the previous films is so poor that I had some trouble remembering what this whole saga was about. At least the plot has been simplified this time; instead of a lot of mumbo jumbo about the Umbrella Corporation and the virus, Afterlife is basically just about whether Alice and the others can get to the safe zone.
While the movie itself is no great shakes, the 3D is awesomely fun. I know, I know…I've previously been of the opinion that good 3D is not nearly enough to save an iffy picture. And it doesn't save this one either. I'd say it more adds an element of fun that has been missing from the previous Resident Evil chapters. Director Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with There Will Be Blood's Paul Thomas Anderson) obviously knew that 3D could be used to enhance the otherworldly feel his franchise has always had.
There are plenty of shots in which Alice points a gun right at the camera and fires. When she hurls throwing stars at an enemy, they fly toward us. There's a chilling sequence in which she attempts to land a small airplane on top of a skyscraper; it dangles vertiginously over the edge, giving us a glimpse of the thousands of undead writhing below. A plummet down an elevator shaft made my stomach rise up into my throat. Those zombie dogs that we've seen before launch some cool 3D attacks here. As for gore, there's lots of it. When Alice shoots some undead beings in their heads, blood and bits of brain matter feel like they're going to splatter us.
Resident Evil: Afterlife has the best live-action 3D I've seen since Avatar. It looks clear, if you know what I mean. There's none of that blurring you get in a post-conversion. The 3D also amps up the multitude of gothic fantasy action sequences so that they really draw you in. Sleep if you want during the plot stretches, but you'll definitely be paying total attention every time Alice and crew face down some hideous creature or fall from a great height.
Resident Evil fans are probably going to go wild for this film. People like me, who are more curious than anything, may find some entertainment value as well, albeit not in the most traditional of senses. As a movie, I'd call Afterlife middling; as a goofy, gory 3D experience, it's admittedly a lot of fun.
( 1/2 out of four)
Resident Evil: Afterlife is rated R for sequences of strong violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.