A Dimension of Dull
I'm past the point of getting steamed over Resident Evil: Afterlife. So little of the Capcom games exist in these flicks, you could throw in a kazoo solo, and no one would bat an eye. If director Paul W.S. Anderson wants his own Resident Evil canon on film, he's welcome to it, but it's in acknowledging the source material that he flames the most fan ire. Gamers alike will find plenty to gripe about with Afterlife, but by now, I'm beyond caring. Like Shrek Forever After, it exists to exist, to pull in a fraction of the bucks its predecessors did and, as it did for me, exhaust you into apathy with the skill of a Ritalin baby.
What's a gal to do when she's reached the end of the world? For our embittered heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich), there's no other choice than to take down the suckers behind Doomsday. As Afterlife begins, Alice and her army of super-powered clones (just go with it) have at last tracked down the remnants of Umbrella Corporation and its chairman, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). But before she can bring the pain to the man repsonsible for the mother of all zombie outbreaks, Alice is stripped of her abilities and sets off again to find anyone who doesn't want to gnaw her face off. Her travels bring her to the City of Angels, where a group of survivors hoping for a haven from the undead masses inspires Alice to have a final go at bringing down Wesker and all the ghouls at his disposal.
This Resident Evil movie franchise ran plumb dry of spectacle with Extinction (2007). Once your leading lady became a gun-toting psychic ninja, where else is the inevitable sequel to go? Well, either somebody up there likes me, or Anderson is sick of my tantrums, since Afterlife spends its first act getting things back to the status quo. It works the silliness out of its system right away, letting Alice have some physics-bending fun before restoring her humanity. This doesn't phase her much, since she pulls stunts that'd have "Ninja Warrior" contestants flinching anyway, but it's nice to see some restraint to all the Matrix stuff. Then again, Alice isn't left much to do, which makes this follow-up's futility all the more obvious. Afterlife's chief gimmick is its 3D presentation, and crisp as the picture quality surprisingly is, it doesn't make the action any less lifeless than the rotted craniums Alice's bullets whiz through.
Here's where it's customary to say fans of the games would get more out of Afterlife than the layman moviegoer, but although the film makes the effort to tie in elements from the current Resident Evil titles, even someone like me -- who can barely hold a Wiimote right -- notices how haphazardly they're introduced. Familiarity with the games is a moot point when axe-wielding brutes and evolved undead who suspiciously resemble Blade II's Reapers pop out of what I can only presume is the story's back pocket. Other than that, it's the usual Resident Evil grind, with Alice blasting away the living dead (who actually don't get much screen time) when she's not bickering with a new crop of stock supporting stereotypes. Jovovich kicks ass just fine, and Roberts amusingly channels Hugo Weaving as the sneering Wesker, but the others look more concerned about their paychecks than over becoming zombie grub.
Faring better than Extinction, though only by virtue of not being as bad, Resident Evil: Afterlife comes across as monotonous as the rest of the series. Still, a back-to-basics mindset and a few divertingly cheesy moments do lessen the pain. Viewers will cram into Afterlife more out of a sense of duty than anything, but with a heavy hitter like Machete still playing, action hounds needn't bother with a zombie flick still using kid gloves.
(Released by Screen Gems and rated "R" for sequences of strong violence and language.)
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)