Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D – Or Milla Jovovich And My Private Shame

It could be argued that the following review contains spoilers. It could also be argued that the plot of Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D is beyond my power to spoil.

 

Run, Forrest, Run!

 

Why do I keep going to see the Resident Evil films? I was never a fan of the game, as I never owned a console until fairly recently and horror games aren’t really my cup of tea. The answer, of course, is Milla Jovovich. As a card-carrying member of the legion of Milla fanboys created by The Fifth Element, I am delighted and embarrassed by the fact that Milla’s movies quickly find their way to TV and keep me warm on a lonely night in. The first Resident Evil movie was a functional action/horror flick – no Romero classic by any means but if you were in the mood for zombies (and who isn’t?) it left you feeling just about full, but far from bloated. The second film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, was awful. Not scary, not exciting, not action-packed, just dumb. It was the directorial debut of Alexander Witt, a very good cinematographer and, on the strength of this effort, a terrible director. It was full of things that looked almost-cool, but made no sense, like Alice (Milla’s character) crashing a motorcycle through the stained glass window of a church for no good reason at all. A clever critique of the materialism of the modern church? Or just, hey I know what would look cool – let’s jump a bike through that window?

 

Two Girls, One Cup. Sorry, One Gun.

 

The third film, Resident Evil: Extinction, saw Highlander director Russell Mulcahy re-inject some life back into the franchise. Plenty of different kinds of creatures, lots of zombies and new abilities for Alice. Sure, it was still a triumph of style over substance – struggling for survival in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by the undead, Alice decided that stockings and suspenders were a good idea and while food and shelter might be scarce, she never seemed to run out of lip gloss. Still, Mulcahy kept the pace charging along like a drunken rhino on a rampage so it was easy to overlook the plot holes.

 

The axe says, 'I'm here to kill you,' but the hood says, 'New people make me shy.'

 

Anderson returns to the helm for the fourth instalment and uses the first act to undo everything left over from Extinction. The legion of Alice clones and her psycho-kinetic powers are all gone inside of 20 minutes. That’s a bit surprising when you realise that Anderson wrote the previous instalment. Perhaps he felt he had written himself into a corner, making Alice too formidable, so hey presto, one reset button later, she’s de-powered and can no longer wipe out armies just by dilating her pupils. Despite now being ‘human’ again, she still manages to survive a fiery helicopter crash in a scene so completely devoid of logic and intelligence that somewhere, Stephen Hawking is weeping for humanity’s wasted potential.

So, now alone but still perfectly made-up, Alice goes looking for other survivors. She finds Claire (Ali Larter) up in Alaska then the two of them encounter a small band of humans holed up in a prison surrounded by a massive zombie horde. Inevitably, the prison is breached and a mad dash for safety ensues, with the humans battling their way towards a ship anchored off-shore that promises a haven from the T-virus.

 

You disappoint me, Mr Anderson.

 

As a director, Anderson is good at mayhem. The movie works best when it hurtles full-steam ahead, zombies lunging out of every shadow, lots of violence, the sudden deaths of characters just as you start to like them and little time to dwell on the weakness of the plot. Milla is a capable lead, but Shawn Roberts delivers a howler of a performance as the principal villain of the tale, Albert Wesker, a bigwig in the evil Umbrella Corporation. Presumably, Anderson sat Roberts down in front of The Matrix and said, ‘See this guy, Agent Smith? Be him.’ Roberts, bless his little heart, tries. But he fails. To be fair to the actor, he’s not helped by a script that seems to have been pasted together from The Big Book Of Bad Guy Clichés.

It is hard to decide whether Anderson intends his movie to pay homage to some of his favourite films, or whether he’s just ripping them off. References to The Matrix abound, including having Wesker, dressed head-to-toe in black and sporting wraparound shades, dodging bullets in slow-motion. Zombie dogs split in half in a manner eerily similar to John Carpenter’s The Thing. (Pointless side note – I much preferred the original The Thing From Another World to Carpenter’s remake. Carpenter had the gore and the special effects, but the original had all the suspense.)

 

And Contestant #4 in Miss Wet T-shirt 2010 - from Alaska, it's Claire!

 

It really does you no favours at all to pay too much attention. When Alice finds Claire in Alaska, Claire has been living alone and in the wild, her memory erased by a spider-like device on her chest, the purpose of which never actually becomes clear. Claire is a mess. Then, cut to the next scene, Claire is wearing eye-shadow and lipstick and her hair appears to have been washed. Did Alice give her a make-over between scenes? Did they have a slumber party up there in Alaska that will only appear in the Director’s Cut? The movie is Ali Larter’s second outing in the franchise and, on the plus side, she delivers one of the best action scenes in the film while battling a monstrous giant zombie armed with a colossal axe. In a shower. It’s sort of a wet t-shirt contest/fight scene thing. The fanboy in me was delighted on so many levels. Oh, the shame. It burns.

 

Ah, still waters run deep, eh? Who knows what she's thinking? Who cares?

 

Personally, I found the 3D distracting. I find it actually disrupts my suspension of disbelief as it draws too much attention to itself. I know we are all supposed to be ‘Wow, gee whiz’ about 3D but it’s just a ploy by the film studios to keep people going to cinemas. You can’t get the 3D Experience (mild, lingering headache, fuzzy vision, some dry mouth) from watching a film on the internet. So, by offering you a unique ‘experience’, film distributors want to bring people back to the theatres with more 3D films. Plus you can’t record a film on your camcorder and stick it online or make crappy DVDs if it’s in 3D. I don’t want an ‘experience’, I want to see a movie. Numerous films are currently being retro-fitted for 3D. The Green Hornet is being converted to 3D in post-production, while Titanic and Star Wars are both receiving the 3D treatment. When has 3D ever fixed a bad script, or made poor acting look any more convincing? Perhaps 3D will bring people back to cinemas. Then again, maybe making some really smart, engaging films that actually encourage you to think or make you feel something that lasts longer than your popcorn might be a good start. Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D is not that film. But if they make a fifth one (and let’s face it, they will), I’ll be back. Curse you, Milla Jovovich.

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3 Responses to “Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D – Or Milla Jovovich And My Private Shame”

  1. S Says:

    Tulips – my secret shame! Some very good points, as usual (love the captions!) – esp agree about the whole 3D phenomenon. Surely the point of cinema is not to attempt to mimic human audio-visual perception of actuality (which I think 3D so far has failed spectacularly to do), but rather to tell a narrative… I think it is a futile project. I guess I wouldn’t mind it so much if it wasn’t the sole purpose of the film (hm… Avatar… which according to James Cameron was not about 3D but about the great narrative) – I prefer a ‘good story’ over special effects/3D. Not entirely sure the narratives of computer games are the most useful ones to develop into films. Even with the amazing acting skills of Milla Jovovich! More reviews pls – keep up the good work

  2. dangerousmeredith Says:

    Don’t be too ashamed of your inner fanboy – he writes such good reviews. I also agree with what you say about 3D

  3. fluffrick Says:

    Never fear – there are many people who love the “Resi” series and will shout it from the rooftops: Paul W.S. Anderson Defence Force Assemble!

    My own ramblings on the series are but a click away…

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