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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D (review)

Damage Report

If there’s one thing that hacktacular director Paul W.S. Anderson really, really likes, it’s droplets of water drifting across a movie screen in slo-mo. It’s a visual motif he repeats several times in Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D. Deployed by a different filmmaker, one actually concerned with such things as mood, character, or theme — and yeah, such things are important even in a zombie action movie — the slo-mo rain might mean something: it could indicate serenity, perhaps, or rage; it might be the external representation of one character’s sadness, maybe, or of another’s existential escape.

In Anderson’s hands, it’s nothing more than empty imagery. It’s style without even style, texture without substance. It is, almost quite literally, white noise, visual static to make the movie pop more in 3D.

And it’s also excellent for drenching hot babes and ensuring that what little formfitting clothing they’re wearing clings even tighter. Anderson makes sure that’s an image that recurs, too.
It would be pointless to complain about this kind of crap if this kind of crap weren’t dominating studio filmmaking at the moment. While I was enduring this tiresome exercise in cookie-cutter junk it suddenly occurred to me that it is an exceptional — and hence terrible — measure of how creatively bankrupt a decade Hollywood has had since the turn of the millennium: cinematic trolls like Anderson are still stealing wholesale from The Matrix, a movie now more than a decade old. There’s simply been nothing worth stealing from in the interim. Wachowski stink is all over this waste of time, from the Umbrella Corporation honcho who appears to be consciously aping Agent Smith to the “bullet time” dancing around automatic weapon fire. Needless to say, Anderson (Death Race, Alien vs. Predator), who also wrote the script, such as it is, obviously felt no need to steal any of the substance of that great film: there are no characters approaching the human here, and not only is there no subtext to what passes for a story, there’s barely a text.

Yes, the 3D is immersive — this was shot the same way James Cameron created Avatar; it was not 3D-ized postproduction — but there’s nothing to be immersed in here but the blood, bullets, and globs of brainmatter flying around. The cloned and superpowered Alice (Milla Jovovich: The Fourth Kind, A Perfect Getaway) continues her war against the Umbrella Corporation, which created and released a virus that turned humanity into zombies, save for a few bands of survivors. But though Alice loses her superpowers early in the film, you’d never know it from the orgy of zombie bloodshed and comprehensive mayhem she is able to execute. The search for “Arcadia” continues, a perhaps mythical place where there is no infection, and where “we offer safety and security, food and shelter,” a radio broadcast announces, drawing in refugees.

We know Arcadia offers these things, because we hear the broadcast. And then Alice repeats it word for word for us in her narration, in case we’d somehow just missed it. Anderson’s script repeats this motif, too: explaining the plain and obvious again and again, presumably because he expects his film will be viewed by morons. Which is, perhaps, why he worries not at all about characters behaving in ways apparently detrimental to their own survival as long as it looks “cool” onscreen. And why he isn’t worried about the outrageous coincidences that his characters don’t notice. And why he doesn’t feel the need for any of them to wonder WTF is up with the giant zombie who suddenly appears capable of using tools. One might expect that evolving zombies would present something of a concern for the few not-undead humans left, but they don’t appear to care.

And if they don’t care about their own survival, why should we?


MPAA: rated R for sequences of strong violence and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • JoshDM

    HOW DARE YOU LABEL THIS FIL… nah, I can’t do it.

    This film looked like complete crap since the concept was announced, let alone a trailer released.

  • Alek byrns

    Well, your just backwash of the 60’s anyways if you knew anything about the story line that is RE, you would know that all of the movies and games are about ascetics. and that if a movie did not make you cry or feel nostalgic that you say “trash” you are what is wrong with the world folks.

  • Matthew

    I cant believe the took Alice’s power away that really upset me, even though there were some good spins I thought it would be more….

  • Drave

    Ugh. I actually vaguely enjoyed the first three as guilty pleasure movies, and even I couldn’t get into this one. Watching Milla kick ass can carry a movie pretty far, but not this far.

  • Drave

    Matthew: They didn’t actually take her powers away. They just said they did. Gravity still has little to no influence on her, and getting stabbed didn’t seem to slow her down much.

    Alek: Actually, I think ascetics are the polar opposite of what the games and the movies are about. I suppose MaryAnn and I could be considered ascetics for subjecting ourselves to this movie as a form of self-flagellation in devotion to our love of film?

  • The previous installment at least tried to do something different (Small gang wandering in busted up old vehicles through the Nevada desert heading to Alaska), and i dont think the reviewer references the previous films enough… he doesnt seem to be very interested in the franchise anyway.

  • Marshall

    Alek – Have you actually PLAYED a recent RE game? Like, I dunno… 4 or 5? Have you noticed the slick and consise controls and the tight structured story telling? In case you didn’t notice, the games have a pointed style AND substance, or perhaps you are Paul W.S. Anderson’s target audience afterall.

  • Allan.

    Good call Marshall! I also have enjoyed the RE games to greater degrees with each iteration, (although I have to confess to a soft spot for 4). They contain more than enough back/current story/characters to draw engaging models from. Alek. You need to develop some basic taste, higher expectations, and take some basic grammer lessons. ‘Aferlife’ was the cinematic equivalent of arriving at the hotel buffet after a long, hungry day on the road and being presented with a couple dozen tureens full of cabbage soup. Thin cabbage soup. At least the tureens are shiney though.

  • Muzz

    posted by Alek byrns: Well, your just backwash of the 60’s anyways if you knew anything about the story line that is RE, you would know that all of the movies and games are about ascetics. and that if a movie did not make you cry or feel nostalgic that you say “trash” you are what is wrong with the world folks.

    Ascetics? Really? I don’t think anyone would doubt the profound sense of poverty, self denial and self flagellation you get from watching these films. But I haven’t felt closer to christ yet! And I thought the games were rather fun.

  • herman

    the games and the several books written about them actually have plenty of material that could have made a very solid movie series unfortunately the movies have practically nothing to do with any of the games a theme far too common in video game movies which wouldnt be so annoying if they bother to come up with any story in its place instead of nonsensical action and cgi nonsense.

    When will they make a decent game movie?

  • nyjm

    Sigh. Well, damn. Disappointed, but not surprised. At least I still have a TiVO back-log…

  • Allan.

    @herman. Maybe ‘Halo’. Peter Jackson, Guillermo de Toro, Neill Blomkamp and some others have been doing some strong initial work the last five years. But, them’s is all pretty smart, and them’s has all backed away from the project ’cause they didn’t feel they could do it justice. This, unfortunatly, leaves descending layers of lesser peoples who would SNAP at the chance. I’ve even heard ‘Mass Effect’ and ‘Gears of War’ rumours.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    I’ve been working through an outline for a “Metroid” script, just as an exercise, but it sounds like a number of the plot points I was thinking of actually came up in the new “Other M” game , and got screwed up.

    I still think it has potential. I think the themes of exploration and isolation could work at a character level through Samus, with Adam Malkovich’s squad (alluded to in an earlier game by the way, I was surprised they thought to bring it up again too) adding character interaction so it’s not just a one-woman show.

  • Lisa

    I love Zombie movies LOVE THEM but these RE ones are just shit

  • …WTF is up with the giant zombie who suddenly appears capable of using tools.

    Hold on, now, MaryAnn! This belies your earlier claim that Anderson isn’t ripping off anything since The Matrix in this film. Here Anderson is in fact ripping off George Romero’s not-very-good Land of the Dead, revealing that not only does he shamelessly rip off better filmmakers, he even rips off their mistakes.

  • stryker1121

    To be fair, the character channeling Agent Smith is Wesker, who in the games was Agent Smith before Agent Smith was Agent Smith.

    Agent Smith.

    From what I’ve seen of the trailers, Anderson is o plunking in fanservice moments like the hammer brandishing Executioner from RE5. The movie series really doesn’t have much to do w/ the far superior games.

  • hdj

    This was the best in the series, The first 3 flirted to much with the game, this one goes for the zombie movie motif. It takes the best route, take parts of the game and implicates it in to a zombie film. You get the living underground vibe of ” Day of the Dead” and all the matrixy stuff. Plus Milla Jovovich is smoking hot, her character doesn’t event exist in the game but she brings alot to the movie, guns,bullets, and a cold demeanor that can blow people away literary.

  • CB

    Um, the Resident Evil games aren’t about aesthetics, they’re about atmosphere.

    A carefully crafted atmosphere of fear, based on never knowing when the next zombie is going to attack, and if you’ll have the ammo to take them out. It’s not about flashy jump-kicking ninja gun-play, it’s about standing still and carefully plunking bullets into zombies, being on edge between trying to stop them from reaching you, and having enough bullets left for the next one. Even the controls help enforce this very methodical style of play and amp up the suspense.

    Despite having good graphics, they’ve never been about empty “aesthetics” or “style”, especially not stylistic action. And certainly having Super Kung Fu Chick effortlessly kicking the ass of infinite zombies is the complete opposite of suspenseful atmosphere

    I could believe “this was the best in the series”, but that’s damning with faint praise. The only good thing in the last movie were the zombie ravens. And the only good thing in the first one was the Laser Hallway With a Sense of Humor. Still not a good movie, and this still could be better, but I doubt it will top that scene.

  • hdj

    The Executioner fight alone takes the cake away from the laser hallway scene. There is also a sequence with multipliable Alice’s taking on Umbrella, that was very exciting to watch.Might have the laser hallway been in 3d ,maybe I would reconsider. However its Afterlife thats in 3d and it offers blood splashes and bullets in your face.
    Cm you make a point about the survivalist element of the games. Alice is back to human and her godlike element is no longer, she has to fight harder to survive. I give alot of credit to Jovovich because shes been carrying the series, but new addition Wentworth Miller ( Prison Break) , he added a character that guys can relate to and he brings that “whose this guy” mysterious toughness, yet he doesn’t seem as tough as Alice.

    Also the actor who played Wesker did a good job, it feels like he was peeled from the game. The guys a carbon copy of the game character.

  • CB

    Might have the laser hallway been in 3d ,maybe I would reconsider.

    3d would not have improved the laser hallway in the slightest.

    See, it wasn’t the OMG visuals, it was the unique concept. Two avoidable though tricky lasers, followed by a completely unavoidable grid. Why even have the first two, when the 3rd is guaranteed to work, unless The Red Queen just thought it was funny to fuck with people before killing them? It’s awesome and hilarious, both as the concept itself, and as a satire of every movie where something is guarded by lasers that can be avoided through complicated gymnastics.

    However its Afterlife thats in 3d and it offers blood splashes and bullets in your face

    *yawn* Original concepts > The stuff that was fresh in The Matrix 10 years ago plus 3d.

    Cm you make a point about the survivalist element of the games. Alice is back to human and her godlike element is no longer, she has to fight harder to survive.

    They didn’t actually take her powers away. They just said they did. Gravity still has little to no influence on her, and getting stabbed didn’t seem to slow her down much.

    But though Alice loses her superpowers early in the film, you’d never know it from the orgy of zombie bloodshed and comprehensive mayhem she is able to execute.

    Hm, who am I to believe…

    You can’t ramp up the suspense just by taking away her magic powers, but still letting her annihilate zombies by the dump truck full with ease. Having to fight harder isn’t sufficient. It doesn’t work that way.

  • hdj

    Like I said having new characters in the film that you can care about ramps up the suspense, because Alice can’t be in all places to help them out all the time. When the other characters don’t have luxury of Alice being around, theres the suspense of what other person in the group isn’t going to make it.
    Also I really can’t explain how cool the Executioner scene was and the feeling of being sploshed with 3d blood. I was hoping for the lunatic with a chainsaw from re4, but huge ax hammer is just a crazy.

    The Laser scene was like something right out of “Cube”, it was unique,but the whole ghost in the machine thing seemed to jumble the zombie virus scenario.
    The Alice storyline gets set full circle in this film after 2 scifi/action not so much horror films. Afterlife is back to horror and I’m alot more excited about the next one then my anticipation for this one.

  • CB

    Like I said having new characters in the film that you can care about ramps up the suspense, Alice can’t be in all places to help them out all the time. When the other characters don’t have luxury of Alice being around, theres the suspense of what other person in the group isn’t going to make it.

    Right, “like you said” Alice is still suspense-less Super-Kung-Fu-chicka.

    So instead it’s like the Matrix sequels where the only time there’s any suspense or danger is when the main character isn’t on the screen. Awesome.

    The Laser scene was like something right out of “Cube”, it was unique,but the whole ghost in the machine thing seemed to jumble the zombie virus scenario.

    If the traps in Cube ever fucked around with the victims first, which they didn’t. Sure the final visual of the guy getting diced is very similar, but if you’re just focusing on visuals you’re missing the point of why the scene was cool.

    But maybe I’m missing the point of this movie, and by wanting to focus on more than raw visuals regardless of context I’m missing out on the appeal of this movie. Can’t say that bothers me much.

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