‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated May 22nd, 2011 at 8:10 pm,

Resident Evil Afterlife 3D Reviews Resident Evil: Afterlife Review
Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Resident Evil: Afterlife

Resident Evil: Afterlife is the fourth installment in the zombie-apocalypse franchise based on Capcom’s survival-horror video game series. The original Resident Evil film was a forgettable but enjoyable action-horror adaptation. The plot was convoluted but kept the focus tight, limited to a group of survivors as they escaped from a zombie-infested underground research facility. A twist at the end of the movie split the franchise from the video game source material – detonating the manageable focus into an over-the-top global apocalypse.

As a result, moviegoers sat through two lackluster and outrageous follow-ups: Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction each lacking a cohesive narrative direction. Resident Evil: Afterlife is burdened by the fallout of the previous films, and while it manages to improve upon the other sequels, it still comes with its own set of problems.

Up front, viewers who enjoyed the first three films, as well as “against all odds” slayer films such as Underworld or Legion, will enjoy what Resident Evil: Afterlife is offering. In addition, there are plenty of over the top fight sequences to keep the shoot first, ask questions later, action fans happy. If you’re looking for a zombie film with brains (pun intended) or a gripping action-suspense flick, Afterlife isn’t likely to sate your particular cravings.

However, fans of the game series who may have abandoned the film franchise, because of its lack of reverence to the source material, might actually want to give Afterlife a shot – as several franchise characters have prominent roles in the latest installment. In fact, as each second passed, it felt as writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson (who also wrote/directed the original Resident Evil film) was attempting to weave Afterlife back into the franchise canon – as it has been presented in the games.

Resident Evil: Afterlife continues the story of Alice (Milla Jovovich) as she attempts to enact revenge on franchise-favorite, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and the Umbrella Corporation – a bio-engineering company responsible for genetic experimentation that led to the global zombie apocalypse. The first forty-five minutes of the film are the equivalent of Anderson taking a red pen to everything that made the previous Resident Evil installments slapdash and soulless – a lot of the more absurd-threads get purged and the story settles into a more manageable narrative: Alice’s investigation of Arcadia – a zombie-free zone, where survivors attempt to rebuild human civilization.

Resident Evil Afterlife Alice Resident Evil: Afterlife Review

Milla Jovovich as Alice in Resident Evil: Afterlife

In her search, Alice is reunited with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and the two travel to Los Angeles where they meet zombie-food, I mean the supporting cast. The new survivors are mostly Hollywood caricatures, literally: Bennett (Kim Coates) is a smarmy movie producer, Kim Yong (Norman Yeung) is Bennett’s over-eager intern, Crystal (Kacey Barnfield) is an aspiring actress, and their leader, Luther West (Boris Kodjoe), is a star basketball player. They’re not terrible characters but their cookie-cutter design reveals the biggest problem with the film, as well as the Resident Evil film franchise: the films aren’t about people trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse, they’re about finding the most intense, over the top, ways to kill zombies in an apocalypse.

There’s nothing wrong with a film about mowing down zombies thoughtlessly, if that film contains loads of great action set-pieces, but Afterlife has too much downtime and takes itself way too seriously to succeed at being campy-fun. The stakes are too high, we’re not talking about a lake in Arizona or a single suicidal mission, we’re talking about a global zombie apocalypse. Early in the film, Alice bemoans the possibility that she could actually be the last uninfected survivor… in the world. As a result, it’s hard to feel particularly relieved when she discovers other survivors – and they’re the most one-dimensional group of people imaginable.

That said, Anderson succeeds in building intrigue and complexity around a late addition to the group, a man trapped in a Hannibal-like glass isolation box in the basement of the prison where Alice and the survivors get holed-up. Fans of the game series will recognize the character, played by Wentworth Miller. Upon his release, the story, character-dynamics, and future franchise installments instantly become more appealing.

Resident Evil Afterlife Executioner Resident Evil: Afterlife Review

Resident Evil 5's Executioner Majini in Afterlife

The second half of the film shows that Anderson is attempting to build a Resident Evil narrative that isn’t dependent on the soulless butt-kicking Alice that’s been provided by the series – giving it room to grow (as well as borrowing heavily from last years game Resident Evil 5 – which is more action than survival horror). Anderson introduces a new zombie-type which fans of the game series will recognize as the Uroboros virus at work – capable of 28 Days Later-style quick movements, instead of the zombie shuffle. The director also brings in the Executioner Majini. Even though the monstrosity goes totally unexplained, his presence helps break up the zombie-horde attack scenes – and he looks and moves significantly better than Nemesis in Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Once the survivors attempt their escape, the plot doesn’t offer many surprises but at least manages to stay on the rails. Compared to the previous films, the story follows a sensible progression and offers some fun moments along the way.

Viewers who wait a few minutes after the credits start rolling will be treated to a taste of what’s to come in Resident Evil: Revelations (or whatever they decide to call the fifth film in the franchise). It’s hard to imagine that drawing closer to the convoluted story in the Resident Evil video games could be a positive attribute, but if Afterlife succeeds at a single thing, it’s bringing in a better batch of central characters – instead of Alice’s lone wolf routine.

Resident Evil: Afterlife was shot in 3D and doesn’t suffer from a terrible post-production 3D retro-fit (like Clash of the Titans). However, that doesn’t mean the 3D effects add anything to the experience. We all know that Avatar raised the bar for 3D film making with Cameron’s calculated use of subtlety – letting the Pandora visuals speak for themselves. Anderson is not so subtle: ninja stars fly at the screen, swords pierce through chest cavities and poke out of the screen, Alice dives through a plate of glass as we watch her fall away from the screen. The format only succeeds only in reminding us of the physical proximity of the screen.

Resident Evil Afterlife Wesker Resident Evil: Afterlife Review

Shawn Roberts as franchise-favorite Albert Wesker

The effect is especially distracting in the opening sequence where multiple Alice clones storm an Umbrella facility. The combination of copy and pasted CGI Jovovichs as well as the 3D effects make for a blurry and distracting experience. The effects take precedent over the narrative and, on several occasions, a character does something that was designed to look cool in 3D but makes no sense in the dire combat situations featured in the film.

As mentioned previously, this reliance on what would be fun over what makes sense can work (I realize this is suspension of disbelief 101) in a film like Zombieland, where the actors and filmmakers are in on the joke. However, the cast and filmmakers behind Resident Evil: Afterlife take the movie very seriously, (I’m hard pressed to think of a single humorous moment) and, as a result it’s hard to forgive them for not providing a better action, 3D, or zombie-apocalypse experience.

Resident Evil: Afterlife isn’t as good as the original film but it’s a step-up for the franchise – though it’s still operating out of a pretty deep hole. That said, given the direction and narrative choices Anderson makes in the second half, I’m probably more enthused about the possibilities he might explore in a fifth Resident Evil film, than I am about what he already put on film in Resident Evil: Afterlife.

Follow us on Twitter @benkendrick and @screenrant and let us know what you thought of the film.

Resident Evil: Afterlife is in theaters today on 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D screens.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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TAGS: 2 star movies, resident evil 4

143 Comments

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  1. Just watched RE4….I knew from the previews I would not like it and I even fast forwarded during the movie just so it would end quickly. Its the beginning that tends to set up everything and felt it failed to equal most definitely RE 1 and 2 with only being a little bit worse than RE3.
    They tried to cut off pieces from the last movie they did not want to deal with in this one and that is why it fails.

  2. Hey guys, please explain me why Wesker didn`t dodge Alice`s shotgun like he did with Chris and Clair. Why did he just try to bite the shotgun. Just opened his mouth like a retard, after fighting and dodging bullets matrix style.

    • If we took Alice’s ability to kill telepathically seriously, then a lot of situations wouldn’t have happened. Same is true with 1st Superman movie and probably everything afterwards.

  3. I know this thread is old, but flaming heck, its an alright movie. I hate seeing people write “omg why can Alice do all that cool stuff even when she gets turned human”. Have you seen the first movie? She’s a fearless kick ass security operative, with the t-virus or not she can still kick some ass. Sure, there were some Un answered questions, but there was a clear story, that I saw easily.. But maybe that’s just me?

    • The franchise continues because of people like us who actually like seeing Anderson’s take on RE through Alice’s eyes. There’s really no reason to stop it while the interest continues, and its not the only franchise like that.

      Next round is rumoured to have Ada and Leon in it. Any bets where the story will go from there?

      My only beef with the 4th installment was Sienna Guillory’s change in hair colour. I know her character is supposed to be blonde and I was happy to have her back but Sienna is hot with black hair!

  4. I may be late to the game but oh well. I have been a big fan of the RE’s but when this one came out I was honestly thinking “WTF?” It had no meaning at all. Could have been cut completely. I will watch the next one but i hope it’s better. And another thing… Where are they finding the supplies to fix their hair and put make up on??? Really??? No that’s ridiculous. They are fighting for their lives… Let them look like it!!! Yes, it’s suppose to be based on the video games but no, it doesn’t have to look like a bad video game the whole way through..

    • LOL.. had to laugh at this. Yes, they’re fighting for their lives and also because they’re pissed at Umbrella. Why not fight with style in clean clothes? I agree the film should document changes like others do. It wouldn’t be hard to do but Anderson apparently doesn’t care about that.

      Did you notice that there were two Weskers? The first who died with Alice when crashing into a mountain, Fuji?, while escaping from the clones’ and the Wesker-initiated (if I remember correctly) super bomb. And the second who Alice encountered while searching out The Arcadia?

      The clones are a big part of this Anderson revision of RE. Sure Wesker, in Japan, withdrew Alice’s power, in a comical way I might add. But, the clones and Alice all have varying degrees of this power; an advantage of continually harvesting Alice’s DNA. Is the Alice confronting Arcadia the original Alice? Don’t know. Is the Wesker on the Arcadia the original Wesker? Don’t know. Does it matter? Not really.

      Back to my first comment. Didn’t like Sienna’s honey-varied hair-style. That’s just me though. Since we lost sight of her at the end of Apocalypse, Jill Valentine has gone through some changes. Maybe the “black hair” in the story was hair-colouring. Maybe she dyed it after surviving Apocalypse in an attempt to avoid Umbrella spies. We just don’t know. I hope Anderson explains this in his next sequel.

      The only other negative for me was the severe lack of back-storying. Afterlife was pure action — and for me pure action just isn’t satisfying.

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