Resident Evil 4: Afterlife
Title: Resident Evil 4: Afterlife
Genre: Action, Horror
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Sometimes I get strange glares when people see this saga nestled in my DVD collection; how can I so openly slander mainstream productions when have known atrocities such as this on my shelf? A film that you know is going to be filled with cliché cheesy dialogue, have all the plot of a baby book and a B-Movie sensibility that seems confused as to whether it wants to try to ride with the big Blockbusters or say 'fuck it' and make something SyFy would be proud of. And that's largely my point; you know exactly what you are going to get – assuming this isn't your entry point to the now four-film long series, with a fifth reported on the way – and as awful as much of it glaringly is, it never fails to disappoint the fan in me. There are more zombie creations, more butt-kicking action, Claire Redfield is back to complement the newcomers and everything interesting has been stolen and regurgitated from elsewhere. It's dreadful and I should hate it with every fibre of my being, and yet for some reason it's still so compelling to watch.
It quickly ties up the loose ends left by the last film, Resident Evil: Extinction, in the opening sequence; the destruction of the Umbrella corp's Tokyo facility, whilst simultaneously introducing the nemesis of the entry. In her first confrontation she barely manages to survive, finding herself injected with the anti-virus, isolating and negating the effect of the T-Virus on her body. It isn't long before Alice finds herself travelling to Alaska to discover Arcadia along with the fate of those she helped escape in the last, only finding Claire without memory of who she was. Hoping her memory would soon return, she flies off to try and uncover any remaining survivors, coming across a few stragglers held up in a prison facility in LA, zombies surrounding them preventing any escape to the real Arcadia; a ship travelling the East coast offering refuge to survivors. With only a matter of time before the zombies burrow into the building, it's time to make a run for it to the only place offering them the hope of salvation.
The new zombie creations are essentially less intelligent versions of the 'super-vampires' from Blade II – not necessarily a bad thing but no points for originality – and the main enemy feels lifted straight out of the Matrix; he moves like Agent Smith, talks like Agent Smith, wears his glasses, carries the same gun placed in the same place in the same suit. Short of dying his blonde hair or casting Hugo Weaving in his stead, there's little they could do to make the match any closer. It even comes complete with bullet time; slow motion effects galore as we see every punch, body throw and cheesy grin. The CGI work has gone into overdrive to extend what would otherwise be rather short action sequences, but whilst becoming annoying, they do allow for a refreshing break from the frenetic whose-hitting-who style of changing camera angle twice a second I abhor. The use of CGI isn't just slapped on everything though, for whilst much of the background is intricately designed for the impressive scenery (especially when considering the budget), much of the less extravagant zombie army have gone back to the glorious B-Movie days of make-up abuse.
There may not be the witty one liners of past entries and there are more plot holes than a block of swiss cheese – a little clarification on certain issues wouldn't have been unwelcome – but it never makes it all that hard to simply shut your brain off from thinking, and the characters all feel somewhat welcome in the context of the film. We have Alice (Jovovich) herself, now no longer with her ridiculous superpowers making everything seem like a walk in the park and relying on the abilities of Claire (Larter) and Chris Redfield (Miller of “Prison Break” fame) more extensively (when it suits her). Apart from the obvious eye candy we get some nice shots of Crystal (Barnfield), we have the super douche Bennett (Coates) to draw our hatred, offset by the oddly likeable black guy Luther (Kodjoe). It always feels like something is happening, even if a lot more time is spent running as a result of Alice no longer being the semi-immortal creation of before, and whilst at times lacking in straight-up action sequences, it never quite feels slow. This is the most expensive entry to the series, though at $60million is still hardly the most extravagant kid on the block, but the increased expenditure feels justified. Apart from being shot in 3D, there are so many more locations to detail; the Tokyo base, Alaska, LA and the final set aboard Arcadia. Haters will still hate, but fans of the series can rest easy in the knowledge that all told, this is probably the best entry since the first. Which admittedly still isn't saying all the much.