Friday, October 5, 2012

Thirty One Days of Horror: Resident Evil: Afterlife

Day Five: Resident Evil: Afterlife

When we left off, Alice (Milla Jovovich) was our resident supernatural horror hero with psychic powers and wire-fu along with the resources of a vast Umbrella research lab filled with a seemingly endless army of Alice clones at her disposal. It was the sort of plot corner you write yourself into for one of four reasons I can think of:

You are trying to kill the series
You are not the writer on the next movie and want to screw over the next guy in charge of the script
You are writing some sort of freaky Resident Evil fanfic that requires dozens of Alices running around
No one else vetted the script for coherence or feasibility

Now it’s possible that Paul W.S. Anderson, being Milla’s husband and all, just can’t imagine having only one of her for his wife (I wouldn’t fault him for such an exotic fantasy). But really….where was he going with this? It’s easily one of the goofiest plot hangers I’ve ever seen.

Topped by one of the goofiest ten minute intros I've ever seen to a movie.

If you thought James Bond films could get weird, Resident Evil: Afterlife takes the cake. In the first ten or so minutes of this film we get to see exactly how the plot is written out of its corner, including the ever-expanding Mary Sueism of Alice, in one fell swoop. Want me to spoil it for you? Read on.

Basically Alice and her army of clones travel somehow to Japan and attack Umbrella HQ in a giant battle worthy of the sort you normally see at the end of a classic Moore-era James Bond film, complete with awkwardly CGI’d multiple Alices running around slashing and shooting everything they see. It concludes with Wesker, now suddenly looking and acting more bad-ass (somebody must have been treated to the cut scenes in Resident Evil 5) escaping and using some sort of singularity-generating explosion/implosion bomb to suck all of the Umbrella HQ in Tokyo down the time-space toilet along with all the Alice clones. I guess somebody in R&D at Umbrella paused long enough to notice they had unlocked the secret of gravity and matter manipulation, good for them.

Then “Real Alice” turns out to be hiding on Wesker’s getaway craft, and he injects her with a magic neutralizing serum that destroys the body-enhancing T-Virus thingies that make her special. Then they crash into a mountain but she walks away okay.

This entire sequence felt like some sort of bizarre dream or vision I might have had as a teenager.

After all that is out of the way, the real movie starts, and it turns out someone wanted to make Alice more normal (i.e. vulnerable) as well as creatively dispense with the plot baggage up to now. Except for one lingering bit: in the last movie, a bunch of survivors go north to Alaska to a promised escape at a place called “Arcadia.” So Alice, having found a small two-seater jumps across the Pacific to Alaska to follow them. What she finds is a mystery that leads her to Hollywood (no irony intended so far as I can tell) and a setup that feels like a classic pull from your typical zombie survival flick, except with more visual moments and creatures pulled randomly from the video games.

If anyone playing Resident Evil 4 or 5 felt a gut-churning moment when you realized that they were going to introduce the Ganados/Majini as just another type of zombie that for no particular reason (not that they need one in the RE universe) likes to sprout four tentacles with teeth from their mouths….raise your hand. If you were equally impressed at their ability to introduce a big due with a huge friggin’ axe into the events without even so much as an explanation (or at least one of the characters present saying something like, “Hey, that’s kinda new, wonder where he came from…”) then raise your other hand.

At least when Wesker returns he is granted all the superhuman traits we see him with in RE 5. However I can safely say his portrayal in RE 5 was more action-packed and cinematically interesting than what we got here.

Despite all this, the core of the movie is pretty decent, if you ignore the parts that jump out and beg to be groaned at. A gang of random misfit survivors in a lockdown prison surviving against the zombies seek a way to a ship that turns out to be the promised Arcadia…and Alice and Claire are here to help. Chris Redfield’s movie clone appears as well, complete with a perfectly senseless sibling relationship with Claire, punctuated by the irony that she suffers from amnesia and doesn’t remember him. Aggghhh rrurughhghdlllll.

Despite the fact that the movie struggles against its own painful plot contrivances and complete lack of direction….despite the fact that I am still trying to figure out how Umbrella still had enough infrastructure left to field dozens of loaded VTOL craft at the end of the movie (guess the new film will reveal all once more), and despite the fact that entire swathes of better and more meaningful lore and characters are lifted in the most haphazard fashion from recent RE games that have long since veered off into more elaborate and interesting territory (leaving zombies entirely behind)….and that the cinematics in the games are of better quality than their “clones” in the movie….it was still an okay film, I guess. Either a B- or C+ depending on whether you pretend the movie starts after the opening act plane crash or not, and whether or not you are still pretending this has anything to do with the Resident Evil franchise outside of the name.

Evil Wesker is Evil

Next Up: review of Resident Evil: Retribution (if I can bring myself to pay money to see it. This may not happen)

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