Monday, April 25, 2011
7.1 RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010)
Dir.Paul W.S. Anderson
I should admit up-front that I have a soft spot in my heart (and head) for the Resident Evil movie franchise. I've loved all but the second film, and as you could probably guess, I really enjoyed this one, too.
But first, some history. Paul W.S. Anderson doesn't get a lot of respect, but I've enjoyed most of his films. Mortal Kombat is a guilty pleasure (as much for the soundtrack as for the film making), Event Horizon was interesting and scary until the end (I really need to revisit that film), AVP: Alien vs. Predator was a lot of fun (almost as much fun as Freddie vs Jason), and, of course, Resident Evil is one of my favorites.
Anderson didn't direct Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), that was Alexander Witt (his only directing credit) or Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), that was Russell Mulcahy (Highlander), but he wrote both of them. This latest Resident Evil film is actually the first time he's returned to a franchise as a director.
Milla Jovovich returns to play Alice, the star of the franchise (and someone I've had a crush on for fifteen years, since hearing her first album, The Divine Comedy), and is joined again by Ali Larter as Claire Redfield. Joining the cast this time out are Boris Kodjoe as Luther West, Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) as Chris Redfield, Shawn Roberts as Umbrella Corporation head Albert Wesker, and Kim Coates (Tig from Sons of Anarchy) as creepy film producer Bennett.
A funny note about the appearance of Wentworth Miller: When his character first appears, brooding in the shadows, both Dr. Girlfriend and I thought for a second that it might be Jensen Ackles from Supernatural. We both said it at the same time and laughed. Then, today while looking up info about the film, it turns out that in 2007, Jensen Ackles was being considered to play Leon S. Kennedy (from the video games), however the character didn't make it into the film. Instead, Wentworth Miller plays the new young male lead.
I had forgotten that at the end of the last film, Alice had discovered a group of Umbrella Corporation clones of herself. And there's nothing in the beginning of this film to remind you of that, until the clones start showing up in the extended action sequence that owes more than a few details to The Matrix. I'll just go with the idea that it was homage rather than just stealing ideas. The fight choreography for two parts of the battle are almost shot for shot from The Matrix, so I'll stick with homage.
But anyway, Alice's clone army invades the underground headquarters of The Umbrella Corporation beneath the ruins of Tokyo in an all-out suicide attack to kill Albert Wesker, the head of the company. Most of the action is pretty nicely done, although there are a couple of moments of wire-fu that could be a little smoother.
And did I mention that this was filmed in 3-D? It was, and a lot of the action takes full advantage of this. I didn't watch the 3-D version, however, but even in 2-D it was a well-done piece of action. Lots of carnage, lots of bullets flying. No zombies, though.
In fact, there aren't a lot of zombies for a large chunk of the film.
Wesker escapes, nuking the base behind him and killing all of the Alice clones in a scene lifted, or in an homage, if you will, straight from Akira. And it looks amazing. This film was made on a budget of 60 million, making it the most expensive film of this year's marathon. A lot of that budget went into the effects and it all looks great. Devastated cityscapes look real, and except for an explosion or two that could have used another pass, all of the effects are the most impressive of the marathon as well.
The original Alice and Wesker fight on-board his escape plane, and he injects her with a cure for the T-Virus infestation that had turned her into a superhuman. Human again, she still somehow survives a fiery plane crash and stumbles away, leaving Wesker in the wreckage. Six months later, she is in a two-seater plane of her own and flying toward the coordinates of Arcadia in Alaska, a place of refuge that promises no infection, food, and shelter. That's where she sent all the survivors of the previous film.
I suppose that having a love of these films helps me to overlook the fact that if you went into this film fresh, having no experience with the earlier films, you'd probably be kind of lost.
Anyway, when she gets to Alaska, there's nobody there, except for a lot of abandoned planes. Ready to give up on the whole search, she runs into Claire, who attacks her. Even though she's human now, Alice still kicks ass and easily subdues Claire, who has some sort of scarab-like mechanical device stuck to her chest. It was pumping a drug into her that wiped her memory. So with no memory of who she is or how she got there, Alice decides to take her along and head down the West Coast looking for other survivors.
They end up finding a group living in a weird high-rise prison that is surrounded by every single zombie in Los Angeles, trying to get in. Well, not every zombie. One of the monsters from the video game is on his way: The Executioner. He's a gigantic zombie with a sack over his head and lugging a gigantic axe. Again, if you're not familiar with the world of Resident Evil (this guy's from the games), then you may not be willing to accept this new arrival. I thought he was pretty awesome.
It turns out that these new survivors are also wanting to get to Arcadia, but not in Alaska. There's a ship docked off the coast, and its name is Arcadia. This explains why there was no one at the Alaska site. With a new target, the gang needs to figure out how to get through the zombie horde outside and over to the ocean. That's about the time The Executioner busts down the gate and the zombie action begins.
Yeah, that's the last half hour or so of the film, but I honestly never found any of it boring. I'm invested in this overall story and really enjoy seeing how they expand and build upon it with each consecutive film. And since this one ended up making nearly 300 Million world-wide, there is a fifth film on the way. It'll probably be out next year, if the current schedule holds up.
Most of the cast doesn't survive, and of course, the slimy movie producer betrays them, but Alice, Claire, and her brother Chris (who just happened to be locked up in the prison, placed there by the inmates who were fleeing when the zombie outbreak began) make it to the Arcadia, only to find Wesker. There's another knock down, drag out fight, this time involving two zombified Doberman Pinschers. Their entire heads are mouths!
Before he is beaten down, Wesker explains that even though the T-virus gave him superhuman powers, the T-virus fights to take him over constantly. In order to keep it at bay, Wesker has to continually ingest fresh human DNA, which is why the Umbrella employees deserted the ship, leaving him there alone with hundreds of freeze-dried uninfected humans who had followed the Arcadia message. Since Alice is the only individual to bond successfully with the T-virus on a cellular level, he hopes that by eating her, he will be able to control it too.
This is what I'm talking about when I say a film has to earn its craziness. If this was just dropped into the end of a film that had been a traditional zombie film up until that point, it wouldn't work. But we've got a film that opens with an army of Milla clones invading a gigantic underground complex in Japan. It establishes the crazy from the very opening moments, so when the craziness of burrowing zombies, or The Executioner, or eating people to maintain control over one's super powers shows up, it works.
Welker escapes again, but this time Alice was ready and his self-destruct device takes him out instead of the Arcadia. Things look like they might be looking up for a change.
Except for that sky full of Umbrella Corporation airplanes heading right for them. And the fact that Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) is under the control of one of those Umbrella scarab devices and leading the attack! She was in the second film, by the way.
I know this film got bad reviews. But, you know what? I don't care. I really enjoyed it. Resident Evil films are like delicious candy, and if you can't enjoy delicious candy, then what can you enjoy?