Friday, January 7, 2011
Resident Evil: Afterlife
The movie opens with several dozen super-powered Alice (Milla Jovovich) clones attacking the headquarters of the evil Umbrella Corporation and its chairman, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), the man ultimately responsible for turning the world into zombies. Why are there dozens of Alices? Why do they have super-powers? Don't expect to find out much in this movie. It's not terribly important, though, since Wesker kills all the Alice clones with a bomb and injects Alice Prime with a chemical that makes her a normal human again. Well, I suppose normal is relative, since her next act is to survive a helicopter crash, uninjured.
Having destroyed the Umbrella Corporation headquarters and presumably killing Wesker (even though he reveals his own super-powers), Alice tries to meet up with her friends from Extinction, at the supposedly zombie infection-free town, Arcadia. Alice finds and flies a two-seat propeller plane to Arcadia's coordinates in Alaska, but finds only the abandoned remains of her friends' plane. She then finds Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), her friend from the last movie, crazed and with amnesia. Together, they look for more surivors down the Pacific coast, eventually landing (barely) on a prison roof in Los Angeles. There, they meet a motley bunch of survivors, including their leader and former pro basketball player, Luther (Boris Kodjoe), a narcissistic movie producer, Bennett (Kim Coates), and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller), the only man still locked up in the prison. These survivors have new information about Arcadia: it's not a town, but a boat that travels up and down the Pacific coast, broadcasting its zombie-free atmosphere with its current coordinates, around the clock. But Alice's plane can only hold one passenger at a time, and she was lucky to land safely once. How will they ever reach the safety of Arcadia?
Do you really want to know about the acting? Alright, fine. Milla Jovovich is fairly pretty and shoots things in the head. I would criticize her acting, but the script wisely avoids giving her varying emotions, so she actually comes across as reasonably capable here. Ali Larter, on the other hand, is not terribly talented, and not even a slow-motion, water-soaked action sequence is going to change that. Boris Kodjoe is reasonably likable and Bennett is thoroughly unlikable --- which means that both played their parts well. I've seen potatoes have a stronger likeness to real humans than Wentworth Miller, whose archnemesis continues to be his confusion of "raspy voice" with "intensity." Shawn Roberts gets to do his best Agent Smith impression, but comes across as a generic evil character. Granted, many of these characters come from the video game franchise (although, oddly enough, not Alice), so their ridiculousness might come from the source material, but I don't care enough to research that thought any further.
I have to admit that writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson does a good job connecting this film to the last chapter in the series. While I only vaguely remember the first two movies, the third one wasn't bad and included explanations for the Alice clones and (I think) Alice's super-powers. The opening scene was a nice nod to fans of the film franchise, even if he did effectively negate all of those plot developments only minutes later. And killing the clones and de-powering Alice made the movie more accessible to casual viewers, which was another smart move. And that might be the last time you ever see a Resident Evil movie called "smart."
Technically, this is a pretty solid action movie. The special effects are very good and the primary ass-kickers are women, which is a nice change of pace. The characters and dialogue are lacking, but that's not too shocking for a video game adaptation, is it? The problem with this movie is that we have seen it all before. Zombies with weird mouths that, when they get ready to eat you, look like starfish? Check. Weird, starfish-faced dogs? Check again. Villain who all but places his hands on his hips to shout "MWA-HA-HA"? Triple check. The zombies aren't even a credible threat for most of this movie, if they ever were. Instead, Wesker and the Umbrella Corporation are the enemy, and their ultimate plot is obnoxiously ridiculous; they are effectively a technological Big Brother, aware of everyone important, anywhere, despite the fact that the world has been falling apart for a few years now. None of this adds up to a bad movie, exactly, but it's just not very fun to watch.
Is it too much to ask for a single, likable character in my action movies? I don't think so, and I know that Milla doesn't have the chops to be that character. This movie is somewhat stupid, but not silly enough to be fun. It just travels the same path as the last few movies, without the innovations introduced in the third, and arrives at the same end, more or less. A side note on the ending: when it's all said and done, I don't think they have worked out the logistics (food, water, travel, fuel, etc.) of their actions. I guess it just boils down to this: I am bored with this franchise. The movie made nearly $300 million in the box office, so a fifth movie (I know! Five!) seems inevitable, but I'm not really interested.