Friday, September 10, 2010

'Resident Evil: Afterlife' is best since original

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller, and Shawn Roberts
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

After destroying Umbrella Corp's headquarters with an army of clones, the sole surviving Alice (Jovovich) goes in search of Arcadia, the one place in the world where the zombies don't prey on the living. But Arcadia won't give up its secrets easily.

"Resident Evil: Afterlife" is, as some critics might say, a spectacular thrill-ride. The quiet moments in this film are few and far between, and even when they happen, they are pregnant with the promise that violence, mayhem, and bloodshed is about to erupt all over again. It works both as a video-game adaptation--like in previous installments of the series, you can feel the story progressing through "the levels" and this one even has obvious "boss encounters" along the way--and as an over-the-top action film.

Although I think this is the best film in the series since the original, it's not a horror movie; that's one aspect the first film had that this one doesn't. This is an exciting action film that's full of zombies... and even has a few scary moments here and there.

While I was entertained and engaged throughout the whole movie, nothing in it quite topped the opening sequence with all the Alices storming Umbrella HQ... for once, a "Resident Evil" film not only acknowledged but also lived up to the promise of the sequel hook at the end of the previous film. Some of the sequences came close--like Alice and Claire's fight against an axe-wielding super-zombie, and Alice's running battle with a hoard of zombies consisting of half the population of Los Angeles--but Anderson really gave the best the film had to offer in the first few minutes. (Or maybe I just feel that way because I've been hoping for that sequence for the past three years.)

Character-wise, there isn't much to say. Milla Jovovich is really the only person who has an opportunity to act in the film, even if it generally just consists of being a bad-ass. She is in nearly every scene, however, so it says quite a bit about her charisma and presence that she can carry an entire movie like she does here.

Of course, the gimmick of 3D also helps, and it's a gimmick that's put to full and complete use in virtually every frame of the film. Some uses are subtle, some are funny, and some make the film's couple of "boo!-gotcha!" moments even more startling, but they are all very effective. I still don't like 3D--I had to move to another seat because the runner lights on the theater steps were reflecting off the glasses, and I once again ended up with a mild headache at the end--but I have to say that this is probably the best 3D movie I've yet to see, and it has managed to weaken my hostility ever-so-slightly.

If you liked other "Resident Evil" movies, if you like Milla Jovovich in her bad-ass comic-book warrior chick mode, and if you like the 3D gimmickery, I'm certain you'll love this movie.