by Rob Gonsalves
The "Resident Evil" films are probably better experienced in one big gulp, as a sort of ramshackle saga, than as individual flawed movies.The last time I reviewed one of these things, it was the second one, 2004's Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and I made the mistake of judging it as a movie. What it was, actually, was one chapter in a larger movement, the movement being a showcase for Milla Jovovich kicking ass and looking impressive. And there's nothing much the matter with that, especially considering that this is the first action/sci-fi/horror franchise with a woman front and center -- much less one that's hung in there for eight years and four films -- since the Alien series closed its doors. As such, the Resident Evil films are of undeniable importance. And in Jovovich this franchise has an athletic yet attitudinizing heroine, a star who doesn't act so much as indicate (as per her roots in modeling), but that never stopped all those male action figures, did it?
"Milla uber alles."
Does the plot really matter? Alice (Jovovich) is once again pitted against the evil Umbrella corporation, which wants to experiment with and capitalize on the virus that caused the zombie epidemic. Robbed of the superpowers she showed off in the previous film (2007's Extinction), Alice flies a plane into Los Angeles with her rediscovered partner Claire (Ali Larter) in tow. A few survivors greet them, hoping they've come from the safe haven Arcadia to rescue them. One of them, the mistrusted soldier Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller), is a character from the Resident Evil video game. On the streets below are hordes of zombies, some of whom extrude tentacles from their faces, and there's one hulking creature called the Executioner, who wields a mighty axe.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is being shown in 3D in some theaters, and unlike many fake-3D efforts this year, this one's the real deal, shot with the same stereoscopic process James Cameron devised for Avatar. The look is clean, crisp, hermetic -- you can almost feel the air conditioning in the vast chambers of the Umbrella lairs. With 3D, you can't go hog-wild with herky-jerky editing and a shaky-cam, which seems to suit director Paul W.S. Anderson just fine; indeed, so much of this 90-minute movie is filmed in ponderous slow motion that I suspect there's only enough actual footage for a short film. There certainly isn't enough script; the movie just kind of comes to a stop instead of, y'know, ending. But there are worse ways to pass an hour and a half than watching Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter shooting the hell out of zombies and mutants. Larter's a former model too, so these two are like glam sisters in mayhem.It may not be a step up from Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, but I can't bring myself to call it a step down, either; a step sideways, perhaps.
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originally posted: 09/12/10 20:51:59