9.12.2010

REVIEW: Resident Evil: Afterlife (Paul W.S. Anderson, 2010)

Her name is Alice. She was head of security at The Umbrella Corporation's underground laboratory. She remembers everything, and now she's back to kick your ass in Paul W.S. Anderson's second directorial effort and fourth overall installment in the undead exploitation opera that is the Resident Evil film series (Alexander Witt and Russell Mulcahy directed Apocalypse and Extinction, respectively, while Anderson, who is to Roger Corman as Rob Zombie is to Alice Cooper, wrote and produced).

2002's initial film was marrow-chilling fun while it lasted, but it wasn't until '04's bombastic sequel I really perked up to take note. Extinction, unfortunately, was more fun to anticipate than actually experience, but all that and far more is forgiven here in the Afterlife.

The inherent horror zombies bring to the table is not entirely out the window, but as Apocalypse accomplished with bravado, this new piece is all about sleek action, sexy aesthetic and the "woah" factor. Imagine Keanu's monosyllabic moment of marvel from The Matrix, mix in a racing pulse, gaping grin and a single sneaky tear of bliss and you've basically pictured me for Afterlife's entire ninety-seven-minute runtime (though admittedly I wasn't having as good a hair day as Keanu was on that rooftop). Only two times before do I recall exiting a theater shaking with excitement from what I had just seen. This makes three.

Let's just talk about the first act. Forgive my hyperbole, but the fifteen-twenty minute sequence is a masterpiece of action - one of the greatest I've seen. It embraces a stark and stylized production design (as does all to follow), coins the descriptor "jaw-dropping" and smacks strongly of Æon Flux' dynamic (and characteristically ambiguous) pilot short for Liquid Television in which the seemingly unstoppable title femme plows through hordes of henchmen. If this opening were a short in and of itself, it would still warrant full accolades. Anderson & Co. should be damn proud.

For all the characters picked off or left behind by the Extinction, the Afterlife proves bountiful with lovable new protagonists and love-to-hate-'ems, including a sniveling movie producer - likely Anderson's critique of Hollywood money men who've shafted him in the past. Of course a few familiar faces are back, along with a thrilling surprise appearance from one thought lost (hint, hint, tease, tease). If Sylvester Stallone's new crew is The Expendables, the ever-electrifying Milla Jovovich as Alice and the much-missed Ali Larter as Claire form a duo of "Expendablettes". The two women, gorgeous as they are formidable, tear up scenery with a trove of automatic weapons and equally deadly smirks of sick pleasure for each baddie they topple. As for villainy's chief executor this time 'round, he may be the cheesiest cheeseball since Blade: Trinity's take on Dracula (excuse me... "Drake"), but his firmly gelled hair and contrivedly bemused demeanor hardly matter in the face of their literally breathtaking surroundings. Besides, 'tween our heroes' cleanly shaved heads and perfectly groomed beards, the macho malefactor is far from alone in holding personal preening before post-apocalyptic survival.

I fondly recollect discussing Marilyn Manson's score for the original Resident Evil with Miami Rhapsody composer Carlos Hernandez. Carlos quipped something to the effect of, "It sounds as though hammer-toting apes were set loose in a kitchen". Funny and memorable though his observation may have been, I have to disagree. That first film's hard electronic backing signified its companion scenes, making for a taught and occasionally terrifying experience. Tomandandy's (a pair of composers named - go figure - Tom and Andy) avant-garde score for this latest installment brings back the pounding, experimental techno with hard guitar edge. Even the least imposing scenes meet you halfway, beckoning further with powerful and seductive electro-rock.

All considered, this film may be the boldest an actioner has been since '05's Doom went berserk in first-person-shooter mode, and it's thanks in no small part to the third dimension. I've gone back and forth regarding the spatial technology's resurgence, but now I've been field-goal-kicked from the fifty, scoring a critical two pointer for Team Triple-D. Afterlife embodies precisely how I feel 3D should be used in the realm of entertainment while exploring creative new executions. Honestly, I shudder at the prospect for at-home re-watches in 2D since here the 3D is so deeply woven.

Throughout Resident Evil: Afterlife, I hardly wanted to blink for strong desire to bask in every last morsel of audio/visual awesomenosity. Had nature called, it would have heard a busy signal for I wasn't about to budge. Never before have I enjoyed a movie so rabidly. Seriously. Please. Bring on the fifth. Resident Evil: Rebirth?

6 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I've always been a HUGE fan of the video game franchise, like countless others, but from what I can tell, the storyline for this installment closely coincides with that from the most recent (fifth) RE title. Considering how much I enjoyed playing the game, and coupled with your glowing review, I might just have to venture out and give this one a gander, even though I absolutely loathed Extinction.

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  2. I want to say I enjoyed Extinction, but there's no doubt it was a disappointment based on what came before it. If I can finally remember to get my current Netflix shipment back in the mail I'll be re-watching it soon. If anything, I'll definitely be trying to make it back to the theater to catch Afterlife one more time before it's relegated to 2D home viewing.

    I can't be too sure, but I want to say the only thing that really coincides between Afterlife and the latest RE game is the AxeMan. AxeMan's got some killer screentime, though, so probably even cooler for those actually familiar with the game. Like I mentioned I have only actually played RE2, but having done so made the Nemesis storyline in Apocalypse that much cooler... so might be the same with RE5 fans here.

    Really appreciate the read, by the way! It's too bad flicks like this are so misunderstood by critics and art fiends who seem to ask more (or at least different) than is in fact being offered. Gotta say, with remnants of adrenaline still raging from my screening on the 11th, I've garnered a whole new respect for W.S. Anderson. Especially after having worked so in-depth making Scream Until You're Hoarse come to fruition, seeing the things Anderson & Co. manage here... man... just trying to think of the proper way to describe my reaction is speeding my breath. Especially that opening sequence in Tokyo... Unbelievable. That alone has already coaxed my butt into a seat for Anderson's upcoming Three Musketeers adaptation... and possibly for anything else he does from here on out.

    I'll stop gushing now... and maybe get those friggin' Netflix DVDs back in the mail!!

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  3. I've always had a soft spot for Anderson, mostly because of Event Horizon, but I did enjoy the first RE film immensely when it first came out, especially in relation to the second two entries. I do agree with you though; Afterlife's intentions were most likely disregarded by the general public and critics especially, hence the negative press.

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  4. I can understand it to an extent, I suppose... last night I was streaming minute-long HD clips of the film to my television through Roku's Flixster channel (sheer bliss, I'm telling you) and out of context it becomes particularly noticeable how it's mostly all just for flash, bang, shock and awe. But then, it's some of the best flash, bang, shock and awe I've ever experienced. Many people seem to write off this sort of thing without thought... but the frequent use of bullet-time, the exploitative use of water (to get the characters wet and provide an insanely awesome sense for the depth of field)... it makes prior uses of such things in other, similar films look embarrassingly amateur.

    I've held a similar soft spot for Anderson because of childhood favorite Mortal Kombat... should re-watch that soon. Event Horizon I've not seen... but it's on Netflix Instant so I'll try to take it in soon. The synopsis sounds exciting if nothing else.

    Other than the films mentioned, I'm not sure I've seen anything else from him. I've seen bits of AVP but didn't care for it. Death Race looked silly so I skipped it (even though I did rent the Asylum rip-off, Death Racers starring ICP and Raven... ha...)... but it did seem to come from a place of honorable intention (and had Corman's enthusiastic blessing) so it's been added toward the top of my queue.

    I enjoyed your review of The Expendables, by the way. I adore Stallone and was looking forward to it, but the trailers made it look just as you described it to be so I skipped it. I'll still rent it out of dedication to Sly... but my expectations will be very low... on par with what they may be were I to rent something like, say, The Condemned starring Stone Cold.

    I did put up my Going the Distance review that I had mentioned in that one comment if you're still interested, but I pre-dated (is that indeed a proper term?) it so it would publish to the date I actually wrote it.

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  5. I'm definitely still interested in reading your Going the Distance write-up, so I'll leaf through your older posts until I find it. As for The Expendables, I feel bad because I suggested to my friend that we go see it on account of it being the only thing out I hadn't seen. Eleven dollars I'll never get back.

    Really do check out Event Horizon when you get a chance. Anderson creates a fantastically eerie atmosphere and the narrative, while slightly derivative, is intriguing enough to hold your interest.

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  6. Excellent - Now that I'm through with Gurren Lagann I'll be sure to watch it the next evening I'm awake enough to watch a feature-length film after Jaime konks out.

    Man, I hate dragging friends to movies that end up sucking :/ ...the day Kill Bill Vol. 2 came out I planned to see it twice - matinee with mom and late showing with a group of friends - but for reasons I've admitted before (on this blog, even) but am too embarrassed to admit again, I urged the friends to see Punisher instead as two KB2 viewings in one day didn't end up seeming as appealing after all. They agreed since I was so adamant that if anything, the Thomas Jane factor would redeem all. I was so bored by the mediocre flick I fell asleep :( Later I found out some of my film school classmates had gone to see it after hearing me rave in class about how good I thought it'd be. Oy! Erm... hopefully none of this will repeat itself if you do indeed decide to see Resident Evil: Afterlife... haha. I swear it's good! And for once I don't seem to be the only person who thinks so (in spite of critical reception and a bounty of haters who probably haven't even seen the first movie).

    Oh, and here's the GtD link, incase you haven't leafed yet: http://wetoldyouwhattodream.blogspot.com/2010/09/review-going-distance-nanette-burstein.html - didn't want to post it in my last comment for want to avoid (or at least looking like I'm avoiding) shameless self-promotion.

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