Monday, 13 September 2010

A Touch of Resident Evil

Resident Evil Afterlife 3D 2010 US
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Screening at UK cinemas now

Here be evil spoilers!

I’ve mostly kinda liked the Resident Evil movies... (see my review of the first three here) even though I’ve never really got on that well with the game. I remember trying to play one of the first two Resident Evil games periodically only to keep getting either eaten or “crow’d to death”. I never really got in to the idea that I had to outrun things or sneak around them because I’d run out of bullets. I just wanted to mow all the zombies down Quake-style in a powerful ballet of gory violence... not worry about where my next shot might be coming from.

The movies though, I’ve pretty much enjoyed and this fourth installment is no exception. Like the last two movies, the opening sequence doesn’t quite pick up where it left off and the pattern seems to be that these movies can sometimes take a little while to hit the synch points from the last movie. On this one we have a really beautiful sequence of a babe standing in the heavy rain in Japan while pedestrians walk around her. This movie has been released in 3D and for once this really works “with” the movie... instead of against it. This is what 3D was meant for... giant axes popping out the screen at you and blood splashes coming at you from the back of people’s heads. And this opening sequence is probably the best bit of 3D I’ve seen in a while because it is dark but brightly lit in the heavy rain so it gives you a bit of texture and a lot of the focus is on a pair of extremely sexy legs clad in fishnets (if my poor memory serves) as a woman stands in the rain. At first I thought the 3D rain effect was so good that it was falling out of the screen onto me, on discovery of a wet patch down my shirt. After a minute or so though I’d figured out it was just where I’d been drooling at this woman’s legs.

But, of course, from the start it’s obvious that this lady is a zombie and as the big-beats title sequence ends with her taking a bite out of one of the passers-by, it’s obvious that you are right back at the outbreak of the T-virus again. What’s not obvious is what the heck this sequence is doing in the movie at all when it really touches upon nothing in the film... but it’s not too much of a problem, I’m fairly forgiving of it because it’s a cool looking title sequence. Also, how the heck would just one woman in Japan suddenly find herself infected with the T-virus and all zombied up on her lonesome. This makes no sense... but again, it’s a nicely shot opening so I’ll let it slide.

Straight away after this you get the Milla Jovovich voice over narrative along with, well a glorified diagrams and slide show I guess, catching us up with the plot of the previous movies and pretty much being a dead spit for the opening “catch-up” on the third movie.

Then... and only then... does it make good on the ending of the last movie, where a cloned army of Jovovich’s character Alice was plotting revenge against the bizarrely and consistently surprisingly evil Umbrella Corporation. After the Japanese Umbrella HQ is penetrated by a mysterious and deadly force it’s clear that Alice has decided to “Send in the Clones”. Unfortunately, all the Alices apart from the one true original seem to get taken out (although possibly not if the end of this film is anything to be given a clue by) and the one true Alice gets her superhuman powers taken away from her via an antidote injection... there’s lots of holes in this movie though... like why, if the supreme bad guy was able to be fast enough around Alice to actually inject her with this thing before she could stop him... why would he not just put a bullet through her head instead. He has no plans for her.

But no problem... we’re basically in reset mode as far as the status of our main girl is and it isn’t long before she comes across a machine controlled, amnesiacal version of the Ali Larter character from the last movie who tries to kill her. The two of them land on the roof of a prison to try to help some survivors who have decided, quite unwisely it turns out, that the absolute safest place to hide from a gazillion zombies surrounding your hideout is a maximum security prison. They’re kidding right. Anybody who’s ever had to deal with surviving a zombie holocaust knows that the absolute safest place to hole up and wait things out is a shabbily padlocked shopping mall with fragile glass windows and awkwardly positioned safety points. Blimey, these guys are amateurs.

Soon, of course, these fearless... well quite fearful in some instances it turns out... survivors are being attacked by squid-faced zombies that come out from the floor and, my favourite, a giant pointy hat-masked man with a giant axe-hammer who is following our heroes. It’s a completely surreal character, very reminiscent of a similar character in the Silent Hill movie, just a complete non sequitur of a character who is given no explanation for being in the film at all and who I assume is from one of the video games. One thing's for sure about this cool and menacing character though... the costume is a darn sight better than that awful Nemesis costume which totally destroyed the mood of the second movie.

Anyway, moving on from here a handful of characters end up on a ship fighting bad guys and rescuing a load of survivors in the process... however, this movie leaves the action in even more of a cliffhanger than the previous installments in that a whole fleet of lethal black flying machines carrying Umbrella Corp soldiers is descending on our heroes. Can they escape? Well, if there are still a large number of soldiers from Alice’s clone army lurking somewhere nearby then I suspect they can... but we’ll know more when the fifth movie gets made. If you want to catch a brief glimpse of long standing game character Jill Valentine, who also appears in the second movie, wait until just after the first batch of credits... where you can see her in her machine controlled amnesiac form about to unleash hell on Alice and her friends.

All in all this film hits a lot of the marks from the previous installments... lots of guns, gore and explosions plus those hounds are back again, this time in mutant form but the one point it didn’t hit and which I sorely missed were the weak pretensions to Alice's Adventures In Wonderland... could have really done with that.

Ditto the music. This time the score is by Tomandandy but the main theme from the first film which was alluded to in the third movie is not present here. Having said that though, the tone of the score is very much in keeping with the tone of the movie and the style of the first and third movies in the franchise. Probably the least successful score for maintaining a sense of synchronicity with the first film was the second installment... although it is still a pretty good score.

If you like movies with zombies, gals and guns and you like whizzy things popping out at you in 3D, then you could do a lot worse than to give Resident Evil: Afterlife some of your time. Be warned, though... it doesn’t feel like a stand alone experience and to get the most out of it you really need to have seen the three previous movies.

1 comment:

  1. Well it'll be Resident Evil: Sea Hawk or something