Films based on video games never usually go down well critically, but the Resident Evil movies have weathered the storm of their lukewarm receptions by consistently delivering at the box office. As for me, I've always found the series to be enjoyable. They're by no means great films, but a lot of fun is to be had with the first three. Yet not the fourth. Resident Evil: Afterlife is where the merits of its predecessors are obliterated and replaced with an hour-and-a-half of instantly forgettable, monotonous nonsense.
Jovovich reprises her role as the ultimate femme fatale Alice, who loses her superhuman powers at the top of the movie thanks to her nemesis Albert Wesker (Roberts) of the devious Umbrella Corporation. He injects her with a drug that neutralises the T-Virus in her system during a high octane battle in the skies. Six months later, Alice follows a radio transmission from a safe haven known as Arcadia in Alaska where there is supposedly no sign of the virus, yet it's no where to be found. She does however find the almost feral Claire Redfield (Larter), who suffers from memory loss and has been tagged with a strange device that completely controls her.
After heading to the ruins of Los Angeles, Alice discovers a number of survivors, including Claire's brother Chris (Miller), holed up in a maximum security prison that's surrounded by thousands upon thousands of zombies. They too have heard of Arcadia, and they've in fact seen it, but getting there is another story. What follows is their deadly escape from the building and the sea of undead as Alice attempts to lead them to safety.
The film begins with a fight scene so outrageous and over-the-top that everything that follows simply doesn't match-up. There's the obligatory weapon-coming-out-of-the-screen 3D moment, countless bullet casings flying about the place, fiery explosions, incredible dives in slow-motion, decapitations, samurai swords and enough of Jovovich to fill God knows how many other movies. The opening is just an excuse for bloody destruction, but it greatly hinders the rest of the film.
I was quite taken aback by just how archaic the visual FX look. Barely any of the CG shots are seamless and I've even seen video game cut-scenes that are more impressive to the eye. Some of the effects, combined with the choppy editing, are so bad that they'd look out of place in a SyFy original movie.
The film has no real plot and does absolutely nothing to the progressive story that has been told since the inaugural picture in 2002. It's just like this chapter exists for the sake of it as an ugly mishmash of guns, girls and zombies. Failing to bring anything fresh to the series, Resident Evil: Afterlife messily tries to be current by incorporating elements from the most recent video game, namely an undead axe-wielding colossus known as the Executioner, and the Manjini, who are victims of an infection unrelated to the T-Virus which uses their bodies as hosts for hideous creatures. Of course, the film sticks firmly to the lore of the T-Virus and doesn't even explain the Manjini, but they're there for gamers to spot, albeit in a relatively silly capacity that seems only to exist to feed Anderson's fanboyism.
This is not the 3D release of the film, so I have no input on how well they pulled that off with James Cameron's Fusion Camera technology, but what I do know, all too well unfortunately, is that Resident Evil: Afterlife is a creatively bankrupt and mercilessly stupid film. An utter disappointment.
EXTRAS ★★★ Undead Vision: a picture-in-picture feature that shows storyboards, production designs and interviews as the film plays out; an audio commentary with writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson and producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer; deleted and extended scenes; outtakes; a sneak peak of Resident Evil: Damnation, a feature-length, 3D CG film; trailers for other films; BD-Live connectivity; and seven featurettes (Back Under the Umbrella: Directing Afterlife, Band of Survivors: Casting Afterlife, Undead Dimension: Resident Evil in 3D, Fighting Back: The Action of Afterlife, Vision of the Apocalypse: The Design of Afterlife, New Blood: The Undead of Afterlife, and Pwning the Undead: Gamers of the Afterlife).