Studio Name: Sony/Screen Gems (Constantin Film/Impact Pictures)
MPAA Rating: R
Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p High Definition 2.35:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter
WARNING: Spoiler content included below.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again – the last installment in this franchise, which portrayed Milla Jovovich kicking the snot out of some virus plagued zombies on what was once the Las Vegas Strip should have been perfect material for a new John Carpenter “Escape From” project – Escape From Vegas should have aptly been the title, and Carpenter could have had Kurt Russell once again going into a sand-covered Sin City amidst the rubble of condemned hotels and casinos to rescue some government official for some odd reason. I was tempted to write a letter to Carpenter myself suggesting the idea, but the thought was fleeting and instead I ordered a large cheese with extra pepperoni and called it a day. But seriously folks, it’s my opinion that the first two Resident Evils didn’t entertain as much until the third one came along in its over-the-top and riddled-with-camp brainless action coating, showing us hordes of undead attacking “Alice” and her band of virus survivors amidst the ruins of what was once Las Vegas. Pure check-your-brain-at-the-door excitement that allowed Resident Evil: Extinction to stand on its own as an exciting action flick even within the confines of its own franchise, much like what Jonathan Mostow did to Terminator 3…
But I admit: I simply never understood the Resident Evil films, and perhaps that had something to do with the fact that I wasn’t remotely into the games they’re supposedly based on; I mean…what exactly is going on here? The government creates clones of this “Alice” (Jovovich) who supposedly holds the extract within her blood coding that can cure a horrific plague that has consumed the world and turns humans into flesh-eating maniacs (this notion has been done in Hollywood countless times already and it makes me wonder if that’s what’s in store for us – Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, I Am Legend…)…but the original Alice is somehow now the enemy of the government and a totalitarian like ruler of all named the Umbrella Corporation, and they have all gone underground to hide while scientists try and find the cure to the virus while looking for the original “Project Alice.” My research indicated that the video games actually didn’t go this way – but let’s put that aside for a moment. Somehow, Alice has superhuman abilities that make her a ninja-ess of sorts, kicking, jumping and punching with a ferocity that would make Spider-Man jealous. And so she has the task of taking on the undead walking the Earth and hunting down the government figures within the Umbrella Corporation as they simultaneously hunt her. There’s much more to it, but that was as far as I could get in attempting to understand this madness.
This latest installment in the franchise – shown in 3D in select theaters upon its theatrical debut – attempts to follow the events at the conclusion of Extinction and with this entry being helmed by the writer of that one, Paul W.S. Anderson, the flow is pretty neat. However, I must say…boy, did Afterlife come and go in the theaters in some hurry: I can recall it hitting the cineplexes, and I wasn’t even aware Screen Gems and Sony were planning on even making another of these or that one was even out. I know the end of the third film was left open for another, but I didn’t think it would come so quick – before I knew it, the title was out on DVD and Blu-ray. Normally, when this happens, it doesn’t really bode well for the picture, as you have to wonder why it went from theater to home video so quickly and what went wrong theatrically…as it turns out, this really wasn’t up to the standards, story-wise, as the third one.
If you are a fan, and can recall, Jovovich’s Alice character “freed” all the Alice clones in the underground Umbrella bunker at the end of Extinction after her battle with the mutated Doctor Isaacs. She then looked into a monitor and announced to the chairman of the board and other Umbrella holograms that she was coming to get them – and bringing some of her friends along with her. If you could also recall, the end of the last film depicted zombies lumbering around desolate streets in Tokyo – and this is where Afterlife picks up. Boy – let me say this right now: This film felt much more like a Matrix sequel than any Resident Evil and was overtly silly and campy in terms of ridiculous CGI-coated action sequences. The film opens with a bustling downtown Tokyo district during a rainstorm, apparently before the virus went wild there. We see an attractive young Asian girl standing in a crosswalk who then locks eyes with a man passing her in slow motion, as she suddenly and violently attacks him, biting his neck and thus spreading the virus. We then fast forward a bit, to where Umbrella headquarters in Tokyo are dealing with hordes of undead – as well as the evil chairman that Alice addressed at the end of the last film – as we witness Alice and her clones as ninja-like assassins storming the complex, taking out Umbrella soldiers left and right in wild action sets. The action though, as I said, is so CGI-enhanced they’re almost silly and cartoonish – bullets are being dodged left and right, Alice clones are jumping off the walls and around ceilings, and the whole thing just felt like a video game…much more so than Extinction ever did. It indeed felt like The Matrix meets George Romero. Finally, the real Alice and one remaining clone attempt to take out the evil chairman in the control room in an exciting, over the top machine gun battle that has the two ladies flying down a tunnel by ropes, firing their guns at the chairman, while he attempts to escape.
As the remaining Alice clone is eliminated during the gunfight, the real Alice manages to get on to the high tech copter the chairman is escaping the exploding facility on – once there, another battle ensues between Alice and the chairman, although he ends up injecting her neck with a toxin that removes her superhuman powers; it seems he is the one that is super strong now, kicking her behind all over the interior of the copter until the aircraft strikes a mountainside and we assume that’s the last we’re going to see of the evil Umbrella chairman of the board.
So now Alice’s superpowers are gone, but she manages to get to the town in Alaska where Claire (Ali Larter), K Mart and the other survivors from the end of the last film went via helicopter, as they believed the virus hadn’t spread there. Once there (she flies a plane, too, even without her “powers”) she finds the abandoned Umbrella helicopter that the group flew on a beach, with no signs of anyone. She eventually gets attacked by what looks like Claire, but she’s obviously different – a spider like silver device implanted in her chest seems to be what is controlling her. With Claire in tow, Alice flies out of Alaska and the action shifts to what remains of Los Angeles, apparently overrun by aggressive undead that have begun to evolve to become humanoid with adapting tentacle-like formations for their mouths. We then meet our next group of human survivors who haven’t been plagued by the virus, a group of varying misfits signaling an SOS at the top of a downtown LA building. Alice lands atop the building with Claire in their two-seat prop plane, and meet the survivors, eventually learning that the building this group is hiding out in is an old prison. They also meet what turns out to be Claire’s brother – whom they have locked in a cage of some sort as they feel he’s dangerous. Claire still has some sort of memory loss from the Umbrella device put in her chest (which is apparently tracking her and Alice) and doesn’t recognize her brother – but that’s the least of this group’s troubles. There appears to be some huge, hooded and cloaked figure that swings a giant hatchet of some kind, attacking the gate of the prison amidst the groups of zombies – what or who this thing is never is revealed in the film, and we are left assuming it’s a mutated human but grown to gargantuan size. This was just ridiculously silly – finally, when the “thing” gets into the prison and swings its axe to kill Alice and Claire, the mayhem reaches a crescendo pitch…I don’t have to tell you what the girls do to this thing, do I?
At any rate, the survivors decide it’s time to abandon their prison stronghold and attempt to make it to a ship in the water that has some kind of connection to the name of a town Alice and Claire thought was in Alaska – at this point, to be honest, I was a bit lost and didn’t care for one reason or another. The writing started to get too thick and complicated for its own good at this juncture, culminating with a final fight sequence between Claire, her brother and Alice and the Umbrella chairman that apparently wasn’t killed, or who sent a clone to battle them…this fight sequence was so Matrix like in its execution, it…well…I don’t know.
But don’t fret, folks – I’m sure another entry for this franchise is right around the corner as suggested by the final frame of Afterlife which depicted a group of human survivors who were being experimented on by Umbrella freed by Alice and her group, roaming around the top of the ship they’re on at sea, while a storm of Umbrella Corporation planes sweep in over them. Apparently, the chairman wasn’t the last word on trying to kill Alice and anyone associated with her. In my opinion, this wasn’t nearly as good as Extinction; the action was fierce and aggressive, but the story wasn’t nearly as engaging or downright fun…I know I have said this repeatedly already, but it really played like a Matrix sequel: Dark, computer-esque animated and unlike the Resident Evils that came before it. For my money, there’s nothing better than watching Jovovich take out the hordes of lightning fast undead as they attacked from every angle in a Las Vegas desert wasteland in Extinction, or watching her battle Doctor Isaacs when he’s the mutated creature at the end. This film wasn’t nearly as fun, and it’s what allowed Extinction to stand on its own in the franchise. I don’t know how much more they could keep milking this series before the concept is exhausted; apparently, the same thing is happening over at Universal with their Fast and the Furious franchise, as we’re getting set to see a new one, dubbed Fast Five, soon.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
Presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, the video quality of Sony/Screen Gems’ Resident Evil: Afterlife was average for a new release; many spots were a bit foggy and blown out, and I immediately got the sensation that I preferred the transfer of Extinction more – detail was on the average side, and while this was a bleak, dark film throughout, many areas were just not riddled with that much eye popping characteristic.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
The audio, however, was another matter – while this wasn’t Iron Man 2 in the LFE department or in all-around immersive and crystal clear sonics, this English DTS-HD Master Audio track in a 5.1 configuration was storming from beginning to end, specifically in the surround channels. Wow – the panning and directionality from onscreen cues like glass breaking or bullets flying created a ridiculously aggressive soundstage, throwing effects all over the room and resonating with a hot master volume even with a relatively low control level on my equipment. The beginning sequence in which Alice and her clones are attacking the Tokyo Umbrella chamber, machine gun fire and overall mayhem became chaotic at some points, really defining what an action film’s accompanying soundtrack should be – bullets, explosions, whooshes of swords and weapons, shattered glass…they were all flung around the room and rear soundstage in such a manner, I wondered what the track would have been like had I put the master volume very high.
Rumbling bass hit hard during varying sequences, particularly when the hooded/cloaked “creature” swung his “axe thing” at the prison gates, causing a deep thudding in the track, shaking my walls in unison. While I found some areas to be lacking in comparison to the overall detail and execution found on the last film’s TrueHD Blu-ray soundtrack – such as that film’s wild “bird attack” sequence – there was really nothing lacking in an overall sense in terms of audio here. A great workout for any home theater system.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes; Filmmaker Commentary; Sneak Peek at Resident Evil: Damnation; Undead Vision; Picture in Picture Track; Deleted Scenes & Outtakes; Movie iQ; Five Additional Behind the Scenes Featurettes.
If you’re curious, as I was, to see how Paul Anderson and Sony were going to continue the Resident Evil story from the last exciting film, this is worth a rental – but it wasn’t as entertaining as that one was, and as I said, the action sequences were complete and blatant copies of The Matrix…between the characters flying around, dodging bullets, watching others move in slow motion out of nowhere…there was something off-putting and silly about it. For an evening’s actioneer in which you could place your brain on standby for an hour and a half, it’s decent…but you will actually need your brain at certain spots to figure out what’s going on as the whole Umbrella/Arcadia/chairman of the board connection gets too thick and goes overboard – literally – to the point you’re frustrated.
This won’t be a buy for me. As always, your mileage may vary.