If I had to give the Resident Evil film series a compliment, it would be that I am constantly amazed at the overall improvement level with each addition. Most movie franchises are NEVER able to keep a consistent entertainment value by its fourth installment (“Jaws: The Revenge” and “Superman IV” are fine examples of this), but this one has managed to 1-up its predecessor in one way or another. We started off with the dull, predictable and abysmally wretched originator known simply as “Resident Evil.” Then we got “Apocalypse,” which was still cheesy and predictable, though not nearly as boring as the first. After that, we got “Extinction,” which unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I have not caught yet. So I won’t sit here and pretend like I know about that one.
All I know is that in “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” the film series’ central character Alice (Milla Jovovich) has since received telekinetic power and multiple clones of herself. I’m guessing the whole “Project Alice” plan did not go as smoothly as Umbrella would have hoped. When taking out the diabolical corporations’ many employees at a base in Tokyo, Japan, she encounters the even-more-diabolical Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), a Val Kilmer-esque bad guy with cartoonishly evil schemes. Before he loses the opportunity, he injects Alice with a fluid that takes away the effects of the T-virus, thus making her lose all the unique superpowers she had.
The film then switches to four months later, a time span in which Alice apparently learned to navigate a two-person plane (?). While flying, she remains on the lookout for something called Arcadia (which gives aid to survivors of the zombie outbreak) and along the way encounters Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who since the last time we saw has been controlled by a device deployed by Umbrella. Landing on the rooftop of a skyscraper in an infested Los Angeles, she finds a few survivors and helps them in making their escape.
I may as well be telling this plot to a brick wall. If you do not understand what is going on just from what I am saying, you are probably not a candidate to go out and see this. People, this is the FOURTH installment of a popular series; chances are that you already know whether or not you’ll see this no matter what I say. And judging by the box-office statistics, you probably have already.
In all honesty, this is easily the best installment so far. But that’s like saying a punch to the gut is better than a kick to the crotch. The film LOOKS much better than at least the only two I have seen. There are not any awful looking zombie-dog-fly-hybrid monsters to be seen in this one unlike the first, which automatically increases its likeability with me. There is much more action to be found in “Afterlife” as well, which only accentuates the boring and tedious nature of the first two films.
But I think the underlying problem with the Resident Evil films is that they take themselves much too seriously considering the topic they are dealing with. The game series after which this is based (which I am a big fan of by the way) often have a tongue-in-cheek approach to the zombie genre in general, almost giving off the tone of a horror-comedy. In the movies however, the high level of fun and excitement is almost missing altogether. The writing and character development is not intentionally stilted like the games; it is really just bad filmmaking. There are hardly even any clear-cut relationships between the movies and the games at this point, save for the title, the Umbrella Corporation, and a few minor characters popping up here and there.
The fact that the movie is presented in 3D seems like a last-moment gimmick (okay, more so than usual) to capitalize on the fad. Nothing very special added aside from one axe coming at your face. And supposedly, the same 3D technology that James Cameron used for “Avatar” (the only film in my opinion truly deserving of the format) was used for this film. The difference was that “Avatar” is a vibrant, colorful and visually astonishing experience aside from being a great movie. “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is an already dark movie that is made even more dark with 3D shades over your eyes the whole time. Ah well, I’ll give it credit for not abusing this privilege as much as “The Last Airbender.” I couldn’t see a damn thing at that screening.
Unlike the game series where the fourth installment reinvented and improved the franchise entirely, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is not a Jill sandwich, but is more like a (insert excretory reference) sandwich. During the credits, they basically flat out reveal that a fifth installment is on its way. I am not at all surprised, nor am I really very excited, but it got me thinking about something. Considering the increased quality each new film has over the next and the never-ending string of sequels we are getting, we might actually have the first decent video game adaptation by the year 2030. You heard it here, folks.