Muuuhhh. Braaaaiiinnnnss (*chomp chomp*). Muuuhhhhhh. Braaiiiiiinnnsss (*chomp chomp chomp*). And that's just the audience. Not having seen any of Paul WS Anderson's Resident Evil series, the packed auditorium of mouth-breathers, chronic texters and grazing fat-asses chewing popcorn in my ear should have been my first clue to the quality of the movie on offer: it's the very definition of 'switch your brain off' entertainment.
I've played the Resident Evil
games, or at least the first three PlayStation ones anyway. Naturally, I figured the movies would be part survival horror, part conspiracy thriller, with lots of traipsing repeatedly up and down corridors, eating herbs and placing gemstones in conveniently located statues. Not so. Resident Evil: Afterlife - the fourth movie in the series, and the first to go 3D - is all about firing guns. Firing lots of guns. LOUDLY AND REPEATEDLY. The fact there are even zombies at all almost seems like an afterthought.
There's no concession to franchise late starters like muggins here. Alice, played by Milla Jovovich, clearly holds a grudge against the Umbrella Corporation, who - judging by the hurried opening narration - are responsible for turning the world's entire population into braindead, shuffling idiots. A bit like Apple, then (*waits for rimshot*). The movie starts with Alice's assault on Umbrella HQ. She carries two katana swords and makes sushi of the company henchman. She also hides lots of automatic weapons, despite wearing a skin-tight PVC costume that practically qualifies as body paint.
And there are lots of her. She has clones, for some unexplained reason, which she uses to storm the building. All the Alices fire all of their guns and kill every single Umbrella employee - even the receptionists, janitors and Alan from PR - in their mission to get to the head honcho, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). Why? Because he's evil, because he smirks all the time and talks slowly, like he's been taking intimidation lessons. He's also very smug. How smug? Picture Val Kilmer with a winning lottery scratchcard. That smug.
After the real Alice stows away on Wesker's ship, there's a big explosion and all the Alice clones are presumed dead, because they're never seen or mentioned again. To me, that's bad clone management. Even if you knew you were going on a deadly mission, you'd leave a few of your clones back at home, just in case of emergency. Plus, it'd be nice to have dinner ready when you got back.
Oh, I almost forget to mention: Alice has special mind powers, which I assume she got for defeating the end-of-level boss in the third movie, and uses them to kill guards when she gets bored of pumping their bodies full of lead. Except moments later, evil Wesker injects her with a serum that takes away her special mind powers. So that's that. "Thank you," she grunts. "For making me human." Then the ship hurtles into a mountain at around 500 mph and Alice walks out of the wreckage without so much as a headache. Cuh! Humans!
And that's just the first five minutes. Needless to say, Resident Evil: Afterlife is bollocks of the hairiest, dangliest kind. I could feel my IQ dribbling out of my ears. Strangely, though, I rather enjoyed it, but only in that 'My God, surely this can't get any w- no, apparently it can get worse' kind of way. Here's a poster quote for you: "The acting in Resident Evil: Afterlife is easily as good as in its videogame counterpart's cut-scenes." And that's the truth.
Jovovich can't really be blamed, because she actually makes a rather fine action heroine and certainly wears it well, even though her dialogue is atrocious and delivered in the throaty manner of a woman on a quest to find the world's last remaining Strepsils. It's Milla's dearly beloved director who fails to make a movie about the zombie apocalypse even remotely fun. Characters strafe rapid gun-fire through the encroaching undead hordes with all the enthusiasm of bored teens at a seaside shooting gallery. The zombies have no bearing on the plot whatsoever - they only exist to get even more undead.
Action scenes, like the one with the giant, sack-faced executioner wielding a mammoth axe, are included purely because they look cool, not because they're relevant or meaningful. The Axe-Man sequence is especially ridiculous: the character is only introduced moments before his big fight, turns up, swings his big chopper round in slow-motion rain for a few minutes, then gets shot in the face. Twice. Remove the slow-mo and the real-time fight would be about eight seconds, but considering nobody has any idea who he is or why he has an axe or why he wants to kill everyone, that's probably fair enough.
Afterlife has an aesthetic that works for it, and it's not a bad looking movie, but despite the use of the Pace 3D camera system - the hi-tech set-up created for Avatar
- it still
looks murky and dingy. A few moments make the extra ticket price worthwhile (a couple of head explosions, a nice aerial shot over Alaska complete with Jovovich dressed as Amelia Earhart) but otherwise, the only time you'll remember it's in 3D is when characters fling stuff at the screen, including, bizarrely, a pair of sunglasses. Not necessary for this movie.
As an action movie, Resident Evil: Afterlife is derivative and repetitive and a towering bore. As a horror movie, it's cookie-cutter; all the scares are telegraphed by obvious framing. It's completely and totally humourless, yet somehow unaware of how ridiculous it is. It's barely a zombie movie. Christ, it's barely a movie. Right before an underwater section, one disposable character pipes up, "I was a swim champ in high school!" (*facepalm*) How lazy is that? It's the equivalent of the Resident Evil videogames' core gameplay mechanic: finding a key in one room that conveniently opens the door in the next.
Yet the audience I watched it with loved it. Someone even woofed when Wentworth Miller appeared on screen. You don't get to movie number four in a franchise without pleasing somebody somewhere, and I'm very obviously not Resident Evil's target audience. However, If you have any semblance of grey matter in your skull, you probably aren't either.