‘Afterlife’ a glossy production mostly devoid of life
Many things can be said about the live-action adaptations of “Resident Evil.” When it comes to the latest sequel in the series, “Afterlife,” two things can be said for sure: It’s gorgeous to watch and practically devoid of any real emotion.
“Afterlife,” the fourth installment in the zombie-spawning franchise, feels a lot like the its predecessor, “Extinction.” Throughout the entire storyline, we have Alice (a distractingly stunning Milla Jovovich, reprising the role) trying to bring down an evil corporation while fighting zombies and other such mutated monstrosities while inadvertently meeting up with a whole group of survivors — who then promptly die off one by one until only Alice and the a small core remains.
And so it with the paint-by-number exercise that is “Afterlife.”
Taking place shortly after the events in “Extinction,” “Afterlife” kicks off with a stunning opener: Alice (still bonded with the zombie-causing T-virus and gaining super-abilities randomly) and her super clones take on an underground Umbrella Corp. facility in Tokyo, entering the foray in a beautifully choreographed sequence involved copious amounts of blood and bullets. Moving at breakneck speeds, Alice and her sisters quickly dismantle the building, slaying everyone in their wake. It’s quite impressive to watch.
Sadly, despite its awesome entrance, the movie quickly reminds us that it is a “Resident Evil” sequel.
This time around, while still searching for Arcadia (a supposed haven free of the infected), Alice stumbles across old faces and a dangerous epiphany: Not all is as it seems when it comes to Arcadia, especially when she runs into a very aggressive Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). When the dust clears, Alice and Claire make their way down the West Coast to Los Angeles, where they hold up in a giant, gothic prison. Because those exists in Southern California, I’m sure.
If you’re confused as to why the duo ends up in California — fighting for their lives with a group of survivors against countless zombies and one persistent bio-organic weapon — or why it is that nearly everyone she meets at the prison exists simply as undead fodder until she meets more important friends, join the club. I know the world is dangerous, what with Umbrella’s deadly virus killing off everything on Earth, but it’s been well established that hanging out with Alice is as close to a death sentence as you can get.
But I digress, because I have other aspects to criticize, mainly the terrible villain in this movie and the utter lack of emotional connectivity here.
Look, this may be the Resident Evil nerd in me, but Albert Wesker is one of the most calculating, ruthless and brilliant villains out there. This man has no sense of morality, only an undying belief in his own continuing perfection. In other words, a worthwhile villain bent on taking over the world because, as he sees it, it’s what the world needs. Instead, we get an infuriating dull Wesker (portrayed by an even more boring Shawn Roberts) who does little utter than maintain stony facial features and move really fast. In the games, it’s quickly explained to us that Wesker experimented on himself to grant himself enhanced abilities. In “Afterlife,” we’re never told that. We just have this dude basically teleporting around with glowing red eyes and zero emotions for no reason.
Speaking of emotionless, “Resident Evil: Afterlife.” Enough said. Which is a shame, because what made the other entries in the series memorable (if not good) were the little quips, the bonding between main characters. All of that is lost here. Directed by series staple Paul W.S. Anderson (who also is Jovovich’s husband), “Afterlife” comes across as simple and boring. There’s little to make us want to root for Alice yet again.
In the end, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” fails to make use of the series’ strengths: humor and connecting us to the ever-in-danger Alice. Jovovich’s character and her crazy skills have always been the heart of these movies, so for Anderson to not only remove them early on (along with her awesome clones) but to have her become withdrawn just about borders on stupid. Not of that would matter, though, if “Afterlife” didn’t just serve as a vehicle for its next sequel. Because we’re getting to that point where we really can have too much Resident Evil.
Two “It’s a trap!” stars out of five.