My Sweet Alice
Watching the Resident Evil: Afterlife is a lot like watching Saw IV: you're not really all that sure what's happened in all the previous installments, but you're pretty sure there's going to be some good stuff happening on-screen all the same. So you, like me, pay for the 3D IMAX experience of it, because, if zombies are great, then wouldn't they be even greater floating out above the stadium seating?
As it turns out, not really. Or, by this point in the franchise, the undead are just a nuisance, to be swatted out of the way. The only real tension involved with them has to do with deciding which extra-creative way can we kill this one? Which, yes, points to Milla Jovovich's Alice for that: she's nothing if not ingenuitive. Though how she ever gets anything done, moving in slow motion like she's always doing, it's a mystery to me. This time, anyway, with her T Virus (Resident Evil's Trioxin) gone, at least there's the idea that she's not a super-soldier anymore. Which doesn't stop her in the least, either, but she's Alice. Nothing can stop Alice, right? We'd have it no other way. She's seriously bad, always double-gunning, twin-swording, diving through this or ducking under that. Fighting zombies whose heads can open like the vampires in Blade: Trinity (remember?), killing the bad guy who can't ever be killed, because he's Umbrella Corp personified, and we all know that corporations never die.
All satisfying, more or less, though: Final Destination 4? With Ali Larter in here, it's hard not to draw the obvious comparison: the first three FD's were pretty tight, got better as the series aged, but then, mix in a little 3D, and the whole thing crumbled, as the focus seemed to be less about story, more about what cool effect can happen here and there. Afterlife feels kind of like that. That's not to say the cool effects aren't exceedingly cool, just that the tension, it's in the effects, not the decisions the characters are making (unless it's which effect will best kill which zombie). And yes, I will hold a movie franchise based on a videogame up to the same standards as everything else. To do less would be to insult it, I think. Or, to say it from another angle: I dug the first three Resident Evils. This one, not quite as much.
However, that opening scene, where Resident Evil handily explores the closing shot of the first Matrix, and then the long fight sequence right after, which is Neo and Trinity again, storming the building in black leather, 360 cameras and all: it just about makes the rest feel completely worth it. So, if you're game for a series of choreographed explosions and near-misses, and one seriously cool zombie, then, yeah, leave your money at the box office, put your 3D specs on when the screen tells you to, and have fun.