Saturday, September 18, 2010


Spectacular 3-D visual effects, larger-than-life action situations, and audacious characters make the fifth entry in the “Resident Evil” franchise a lot of fun. Virtually everybody is referring to “Resident Evil: Afterlife” (*** out of ****) as the fourth entry. Basically, with some justification, each is ignoring director Makoto Kamiya’s “Resident Evil: Degeneration.” Mind you, “Resident Evil: Degeneration” was an animated epic without Alice as the chief protagonist, and it went straight-to-video when Sony released it back in 2008. As far as I’m considered, Sony scraped the bottom of the biohazard barrel with “Resident Evil: Degeneration.” Nothing about it was remotely memorable. Meanwhile, “Death Race” director Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the helm with the latest entry “Resident Evil: Afterlife.” For the record, Anderson directed the original “Resident Evil” (2002) and has penned all four of the live-action features as well as served as producer. “Resident Evil: Afterlife” qualifies as a crisp, invigorating, 97-minute actioneer never wears out its welcome. The digital 3-D prints are scintillating to see. When the butt-kicking heroic babe charges the camera and hurls those ninja throwing stars, you want to dodge them. Meaning, Sony Pictures produced the movie in 3-D. Lately, some studios have simply converted a 2-D movie into 3-D, and the movie looks terrible. This is not the case with “Resident Evil: Afterlife.”

This action-packed post-apocalyptic zombie flick unfolds in Tokyo. An outbreak of the T-virus devastates the capital city of Japan. By the time that practically everybody is dead, the Umbrella Corporation posts snipers to pick off wandering zombies. Without warning, the Umbrella snipers begin to die. Of course, Alice with her samurai sword is at work, and she brings multiple clones of herself armed with Heckler and Koch MP-5 submachine guns. Initially, she kills close to 500 soldiers at the Umbrella Corporation’s underground headquarters and targets the evil Umbrella Corporation Chairman Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts of “Edge of Darkness”) who manages to escape in a twin-engine helicopter with wings. The real Alice sneaks aboard to kill him and he drains her of the mutant resources that the T-virus instilled in her. Basically, Alice goes back to being a mortal. Wesker, who has been infected by the virus, is struggling to control the effects of the T-virus, and he needs what has been rolling around in Alice’s system. Suddenly, the hover chopper jet that Wesker escaped in from the Tokyo Headquarters crashes on a mountainside. Miraculously, Alice survives. She sets off to find her friends, Claire Redfield (Ali Larter of “Final Destination”) and K-Mart (Spencer Locke of “Spanglish”), who flew off in helicopters to Alaska to find safety at a place called Arcadia. The catch is that Arcadia is a super tanker operated by the Umbrella Corporation. and they capture everybody who left the desert in the previous film “Resident Evil: Extinction.” The Umbrella henchmen slap a ruby red spider-like contraption onto their chests that robs them of their memory. Claire managed to escape, but K-Mart and over two thousand others were imprisoned to be used in more Umbrella experiments. Alice commandeers a propeller-driven plane, flies to Alaska and finds Claire. The ruby red spider like device on Claire’s chest has wiped out her memory, and Claire tries to kill Alice when they first met.

Together Alice and Claire wind up flying to Los Angeles. The city of Angels stands in cinders and only seven people have survived. They are holed up in a skyscraper prison, and zombies have laid siege to the building. Alice wings her way in and makes a cliffhanger landing on the prison roof. She almost overshoots the roof. By now, Claire has regained her memory. They meet a sleazy movie producer Bennett (Kim Coates of “Waterworld”), Bennett’s intern Kim Yong (newcomer Norman Yeung), basketball superstar Luther West (Boris Kodjoe of “Surrogates”), Angel Ortiz (Sergio Peris-Mencheta of “Love Ranch”), aspiring actress Crystal (Kacey Barnfield of “Popcorn”), and Wendell (Fulvio Cecere of “Watchmen”). Initially, they believe Alice and Claire have come to fly them to the nearby supertanker Arcadia. The supertanker is visible from the top of the prison, and they’ve heard the radio station about safety and food. Of course, Alice has to disappoint them. Nevertheless, Alice is intrigued about the ship. Claire meets her older brother Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller of ABC-TV’s “Prison Break”) who has been mistaken for a killer and locked by Bennett and his people. Chris has a way that they can escape from the prison and make it to the coast where they can get transportation to the Arcadia. Eventually, the zombies break into the prison after a Goliath dragging a gigantic hammer smashes his way through the locked gates and comes after Alice. As our heroes struggle to escape from the zombies, they are whittled down by the opposition.

Ultimately, the flaw that afflicts “Resident Evil: Afterlife” and all the “Resident Evil” sequels is story. In the original "Resident Evil," the Umbrella Corporation manufactured viral weapons and an industrial spy broke into the corporation’s Raccoon City complex and unleashed it. Everybody died, but they did not remain dead. They came back from the dead as ravenous flesh eating zombies. Not only did the men and women come back as zombies, but also the laboratory animals and mutant laboratory experiments. Since “Resident Evil,” Alice (Milla Jovovich) has been destroying zombies as well as Umbrella executives who want to carry on business as usual. Anderson hasn’t altered that serviceable narrative very much. You can only do so much with zombies unless you are cult filmmaker George Romeo, and Romeo changed zombies in “Land of the Dead.” Nevertheless, aside from the deadly familiarity that the franchise suffers from, everything else in “Resident Evil: Afterlife” looks fantastic. Jovovich’s gravity-defying antics, the exotic settings, a variety of new zombies: burrowing zombies, zombies octopus-like mandibles, water zombies, and a gigantic zombie with a gargantuan axe, as well as glossy production values, George Washington quarters as Alice’s shotgun ammo, a high body count, and the thumping tomandandy soundtrack make this adaptation of the Capcom survival horror videogame a blast to watch.

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