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Review

Afterlife completes ‘Resident Evil’ series

Michael Brun

September 17, 2010

From Paul W.S. Anderson, the industry’s best worst director, comes “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” the fourth installment in the video game-adapted franchise. Like the three films before it, “Afterlife” is a highly stylized affair that emphasizes the so-called Rule of Cool over the more restrictive, and less entertaining, laws of physics. That is to say, so long as it looks cool, it doesn’t matter that kicking a shard of glass into a zombified dog while in mid-air isn’t exactly feasible.

In a recent interview with RottenTomatoes. com, the writer/director/ producer extraordinaire stated that his goal for the film was to do for the “Resident Evil” series what James Cameron had done for “Terminator 2.” According to Anderson, this meant taking the same characters and concepts, but amping up the size and scope of the action. Without question, he has succeeded in that goal. “Afterlife” is an action extravaganza that surpasses its predecessors in almost all regards. While this isn’t saying much, “Afterlife” is arguably the best installment in the “Resident Evil” series. I would also rank it among the strongest and most imaginative films of Anderson’s hit-or-miss career. “Afterlife” picks up shortly after the events of the previous film.

A super-powered Alice (played once again by the typecasted Milla Jovovich) and her army of super-powered clones raid the underground headquarters of the Umbrella corporation in search of bloody revenge. After a “Matrix” inspired fight with the comically evil Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), Alice is conveniently stripped of her abilities and left to search for her lost friends. Her journey takes her to Los Angeles, where she meets a small group of survivors seeking refuge from the hordes of the undead. The film’s story is juvenile at best; so, to make up for this shortfall, Anderson ups the visuals and action sequences to their technological limit. “Afterlife” holds the distinction of being the first film post- “Avatar” to utilize James Cameron and Vince Pace’s new breed of 3D cameras. And, I must say, the results are breathtaking.

With a recent wave of disappointing postconversion 3-D movies threatening to kill the 3-D’s momentum (cough, “Clash of the Titans” and “The Last Airbender,” cough), Anderson resurrects the excitement for 3-D filmmaking just as he would a zombie in one of his films. Not bad for a B movie director. In one of the film’s most thrilling 3-D action pieces, stars Jovovich and Ali Larter do battle with an axewielding behemoth in a prison shower room. The duo duck and weave to avoid the monster’s attacks while torrents of water pour down on them from split pipes. Suddenly the action slows to a near standstill, allowing the viewer to take in the depth and complexity of the shot.

Slow motion and 3-D go together like guns and ammo—and thankfully there’s no shortage of either combo in this actionheavy plot. Before I sound any more like a gushing fanboy, it’s important that I put my praise for “Afterlife” into perspective. The film has its merits, but only when compared to the markedly mediocre standards set by Anderson’s less than exemplary resume (read: “AvP” and “Soldier”).

The 3-D action scenes are excellent, but the film is so reliant on the technology that I’m skeptical of its impact on 2-D screens or in the home market. Also, with its strong violence and cartoonish plot, I can’t imagine “Afterlife” appealing to anything more than a niche audience.

If you’ve enjoyed the series up to this point, then there’s plenty to like here; however, if you’re not a fan of the other films, then I doubt anything in “Afterlife” is going to change your mind.While certainly not a great film, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is about as good as a bad movie can get.

If you didn’t get your fill of ridiculous action with this summer’s “Predators” or “The Expendables,” then “Afterlife” might just do the trick. For everyone else, you’re better off saving up for the upcoming onslaught of bigname October releases.

Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.