last week the onion av club published an article defending the matrix sequels, which seem to garner more and more hatred as time goes on. it is an interesting read but i would recommend for those like me who kind of like reloaded and spending the good will earned forgiving revolutions. i am mentioning this not only because it’s a well written piece, or because i am more forgiving of those two sequels than most people, but regardless of your feelings towards them, they are (some may say unfortunately) the most influential movies of the last decade. and i am only reminded of this after watching, or when watching resident evil: afterlife (in 2D). i am trying to imagine a resident evil part four in a world (or as the trailer narrator guy would say, “IN A WORLD…”) where the matrix movies does not exist, what would fill this latest resident evil sequel?
it’s a curious thing that this franchise is able to sustain four (and soon five) entries in a decade. each entry received miserable reviews, with a handful of dissenters. still, no one’s outright praising these movies. though they all recoup their respective budgets and each one gross slightly more than the previous one, they are by no means hits like the fast and furious series. unlike the other b-movie series though, i somehow ended up watching all the resident evil movie.
the mediocrity and forgettable-ness plays a huge part. whereas we get a new saw (and now paranormal activity) movie each year, they are smart enough to have a two to three year gap between each entry. and unlike uwe boll movies, they are not bad enough to leave such a bad taste that it’s a struggle to put up the effort for you to catch the new one. by the time the new one comes around, it’s difficult to recall specifics of the last one. like a zombie, i am somehow inspired to catch the latest one. it’s kind of like hitting the reset button when each new entry shows up. resident evil 4: afterlife is the highest grossing in the series, and in 3-D. though i watch it on dvd on regular 2-D.*
expectations also come into play when one attempts to watch (or enjoy) a paul “the other” anderson movie. he’s back as the director after resident evil 1. as mentioned, i don’t remember anything about the first three. and luckily for part 4, resident evil 3: extinction is the worst, most d-t-v feel of the series. another thing that helps: learn to not ask questions in a paul “the non-talented one” anderson movie.
the title sequence of afterlife perfectly encapsulates how to approach a resident evil movie: a slickly shot slowmo sequence of a beautiful rainy cityscape. it shows top down, people with umbrellas (coincidentally, the name of the evil corporation) crossing the street, except for one. when the opening credit finally ends, it is revealed that the umbrella-less woman is a zombie and attacks the nearest pedestrian.
while it does look good as a sequence, it does not have anything to do with the rest of the movie. it is pretty nice and shows restraints that the zombie stands there until after the credits are done before attacking someone. they didn’t really follow up on the courtesy aspect of zombies in the rest of the movie. this sequence is only there because someone still think matrix-y and c.s.i.-esque shots are cool. as with the franchise as a whole, sense and logic and questions are irrelevant as long as the visuals look good, and that alone is reason enough for scenes to be in the movies.
the second i.o.a.s. (inconsequential opening action sequence) follows. this time at least with the milla jovovich character alice, infiltrating and trying once again to destroy the umbrella corporation, the japan branch this time i guess. dressed in mostly leather and boots, armed with dual guns AND swords, and with the film’s fetish for slow motion, afterlife acts as if charlie’s angels, equilibrium, ultraviolet and such never existed. or maybe they just didn’t care. this time it’s in 3D, that’s good enough. another gimmick is that there are multiple alices this time, which i assume is something from the games. the main bad guy, by the way, looks and acts like a wrestler as agent smith.
needing scenes to string the “cool” action scenes together, we get some short exposition scenes of milla as amelia earhart in alaska looking for the human safe haven called arcadia. here is where she also discovers claire (ali larter), from the last movie. and giving us the classic line “no signs of life, not even the undead.” personally i think they may have look for arcadia in the wrong decade. i mean, duran duran will be around for a while but arcadia only lasted a few years.
with several scenes go by without any action, alice and claire find some human survivors in the middle of another dawn of the dead remake. they manage to land the plane on the roof with the help of one of the survivors. you may wonder how one guy (boris “tv’s j.j. abrams’ undercovers” kodjoe) can pull and stop a moving plane. don’t worry, they explain that. see, he’s black and he used to be a famous athlete (basketball player, i think).
there is not a scene in the movie that doesn’t remind you of something else. sometimes on purpose, i think. among the survivors are kim coates (battlefield earth, waterworld, michael bay’s pearl harbor, the last boy scout, tv’s prison break) as a sleazy hollywood producer with an asian assisstant named kim (norman yeung), someone saw tv’s entourage; there’s wentworth miller, from tv’s prison break, is in a jail cell the first time we see him. those alaska scene unintentionally remind me of blue lagoon 2, except with more clothes on milla. the associations doesn’t stop with human characters. pyramid head, from the silent hill video games also shows up for some anti-climatic action. though apparently mr. pyramid was in resident evil 5: the game, so i guess they didn’t really rip off the silent hill games. but it looks goofier than the game version. mr. pyramid did give the movie a reason to have yet another soaked slow mo fight sequence, this time indoors.
without giving anything further away, the climatic showdown references more matrix, along with some head scratching reference to mission impossible 2, except you know, this time it’s 3D. the dogs from the first resident evil, the only other one in the series directed by p.w.s.a., are back, resulting in a not as cool moment. and of course, no resident evil movie can end without setting up the next entry.
afterlife as a whole feels a lot less like a horror movie compare to the earlier movies. the gore are dial way down in contrast to the first three even though they are all rated r. there are a couple of death scenes that are edited so quickly that you wonder if they were trying to get away with a pg-13 a la die hard 4: live free or die hard. there’s a vehicle at one point that seems to be building up to a armored vehicle vs. zombies but it never happened. like all of a sudden they don’t want to repeat what’s been done in one of the earlier movies or the dawn of the dead remake. also missing, the milla nudity from the first movie. they did tease us and make us think that there would be a shower scene but those stupid zombies. it is kind of a waste since this one is in 3D.* my theory is that during the first movie, anderson and milla were still in the dating period. whereas now, they are married…
as negative as this review sounds, i have to say it wasn’t entirely boring while i was watching the movie. as overused as the slow mo matrix-y stuff are, at least they didn’t cut it to shit in the post-action avid-fart style so popular nowadays. it is difficult for me to recall anything in the movie now, a mere few days after watching it. but being forgettable is part of its strength. once you accept the level the resident evil movies are on and the modest goal they had in mind, and spending a whole dollar on it instead of $15 for the 3D/imax experience, it’s easier to forgive, but mostly forget.
*for the 3D resident evil: afterlife experience and more on the lack of nudity, here’s a 2D review of the 3D experience from our friend the video vacuum.
resident evil: afterlife is currently not available on netflix instant, due to a contract dispute between netflix, starz, and sony. they were “temporarily” pulled, along with movies like the social network, the other guys, salt, and easy a, and still unresolved four months later.