Paul W. S. Anderson returns to the director’s chair for the second time in the series to helm Resident Evil: Afterlife, the sequel to Russell Mulcahy’s lean and sandy Resident Evil: Extinction. The 2010 entry features a screenplay by the director and was filmed in 3D with cinematography by Glen MacPherson.
The plot is based on the video game series of the same name, with Anderson’s screenplay presumably extrapolating a lot of information from Resident Evil 5. Characters and creatures are from the games, including a set of diseased dogs that have morphed into more mutated versions. And there are tentacles.
Milla Jovovich is back as Alice, security officer turned superhuman because of the T-virus. She starts the movie in Tokyo, sorting out an Umbrella facility with the help of a few sexy ponytailed clones. This leads to trouble when an encounter with Umbrella chairman Wesker (Shawn Roberts) injects her with the anti-virus.
Alice heads to Alaska in hopes of joining up with the group of survivors she sent off in Resident Evil: Extinction. This goes awry when she meets another group of survivors and learns that the location she sent the first survivors to was not the location she thought it was. There are more infected people, other characters, a big ship, and a giant with an axe.
From the outset, it’s clear that Anderson is pushing a distinguishing if derivative look. There is a lot of slow-motion and one imagines that the actual movie would run for about a half-hour were it not for the host of moments in which a gun is thrown to a character or sunglasses are thrown at a character or coins are expelled from a 12-gauge or whatever.
Anderson also loves overhead shots. He employs them every time spatial relationships are worth exploring, like when there are a lot of zombies outside a gate or when Alice is facing off with a villain or when someone jumps off a building. Sometimes these shots effectively show the scale of things. Sometimes they’re just pointless.
Tempo is another feature of Resident Evil: Afterlife’s aesthetic. Anderson jars the action from scene to scene and the score, a plodding slab by Tomandandy, drones through and frequently changes pace. Music may be rocking away one minute before the bottom drops out and any momentum is blown in a hurry.
The look and feel of Resident Evil: Afterlife is most of what this movie is about, after all. It is an exercise in dynamic fiction, where plot details matter as much as acting prowess and where everyone looks hopelessly hot irrespective of how long they’ve spent in the core of a zombie apocalypse. At least Resident Evil: Extinction had the decency to make people look somewhat tired.
There are some neat moments, like when Claire (Ali Larter) battles a gargantuan beast in a bathroom or when Alice jumps off a building all Die Hard style. But Anderson comes close to blowing these sequences with his apparent tendency to actually avoid the best-looking perspectives.
It’s funny because Resident Evil: Afterlife does feel like it can really move. But it also feels inert, especially when one considers all the time spent crawling through a great many scenes that just go nowhere. And when one considers Anderson’s penchant for splendour amid lassitude, can Resident Evil: Paralysis be that far behind?