On Second Thought: “Resident Evil: Afterlife”

Normally I’d come up with something interesting, which would lead to a potential overall theme for the piece, but I can’t. I sat through this film. I was optimistic, but apparently no amount of optimism was ever going to help me. I don’t think it’ll ever help most people. This film and franchise has finally hit an incredibly low note.

The Screen Gems film “Resident Evil: Afterlife” has hardly a single redeeming quality. Why it was made is seriously baffling me. I’m beginning to side with the idea that “Extinction” should’ve been the final film in this franchise. It certainly would’ve spared me and countless others, I’m sure, the heartbreak of witnessing the terrible direction this franchise has gone in.

How Do I Hate Thee?
Let me count the ways, of which there are many. It’s the most disappointing thing in the world, but it’s apparently how I still feel after many years. I shouldn’t be that surprised, for two reasons. First, it took me some time before I actually owned a copy of this film. I guess I was actively trying to avoid owning it, even though I’m a completist when it comes to a film series or whole series of a TV show. I eventually caved, but it was kind of painful. I was somewhat embarrassed as well. Second, is the simple fact that I didn’t like it the first time around. This explains my first reason and only looks more perplexing than it already does. I can’t explain it any other way than I already have, but these are the reasons why I absolutely hate this film. Some may see these as little things and almost like nitpicking, but when you have so much negativity weighing down the experience, none of it remains little.

From the first scene in Japan, that for some reason needed to slowly pan up to reveal a girl and then have her bite someone, the film started off badly. Was there really a need for this sequence at all? No. Not only is it recapping how the infection spreads, but in a different part of the world, it simply took too damn long. Way to bore me before the film really even begins. Since we’re already in Japan, I might as well jump to the next problem with having the film start in Japan. It contradicts everything that Milla Jovovich narrated in the previous film, and more or less, goes against any kind of logic that a zombie film like this should have. If the infection spread quickly, and it’s been four years since the T-virus got out, how is it that when Shawn Roberts’s Albert Wesker escapes and blows up the facility, which takes a big chunk of the unnamed Japanese city with it, is there that much of a pristine city to see? I thought the world drastically changed all over and that it was all pretty much in ruin? Was it just to have a somewhat cool looking sequence? Whatever it was, it’s idiotic and spits in the audiences face.

Not helping with continuity issues, but is similar to the Japanese opening, is Los Angeles. Alice arrives to a city that still has incredibly tall building standing and, for some reason, smoking. How and why is this possible? It shouldn’t be. Instead of looking like it’s been almost five years, which is what the timeline is after the film jumps another six months after the aforementioned four years, it looks like the infection started spreading a few days ago. It looks like the city was bombed only a few days ago and somehow there aren’t more survivors. Does writer and director Paul W.S. Anderson really think we’re that stupid or that we might not care? Whichever, it’s equal parts annoying and insulting. Anderson should’ve had more faith in the audience.

But, as it turns out, he never did. This is why we get so much damn narration and a flashback that’s just as irritating. For me, it’s not entirely that there’s narration. I can live with it, but only if it serves a purpose. This didn’t. It only recapped what we already knew (obviously), but in the most irritating fashion. One of the instances referenced events from the first film, which is even worse, because even if it had been the previous film, I seriously doubt the audience would’ve forgotten any of it. The flashback did the same thing. If I’d had amnesia, sure, this flashback would’ve been helpful, but I don’t and it wasn’t. I now have a legitimate reason to hate narration.

However, I might hate all the damn slo-mo even more. In this case, it was constant and annoying. It did what it was supposed to, but as an added bonus slowed the excitement and sequences down to the point where I just wanted it to end. I was over whatever action was happening. This slo-mo, coupled with the terrible 3D, which I’ll never understand the need for it in this film, ruined so much of the overall film and even the one decent action sequence in the film. When the Axeman shows up at the prison, it should look a bit cooler and be more fun, even though it was limited in scope and that hurt it alone, but doesn’t. The combination of 3D and slo-mo just dug deep under my skin. Granted, the 3D and slo-mo had already made numerous appearances, so it wasn’t too difficult.

Returning to the action sequences for a moment. They sucked. With the slight exception of the Axeman sequence, they just couldn’t wow me. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but that 3D shit and slo-mo didn’t do them any favors. Neither did the 30 to 40 minute slow gap between main sequences, which should’ve been for the characters to develop, but wasn’t. It just existed. The constant need for wire stunts didn’t help either. The thing with using wires in films, if only just for safety, is it can’t look like you used wires during production. If I wanted to see a film that looked like it were trying to be “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, which I hated, then I’d just see that film instead. That’s what I felt this film was trying to become, even if unintentionally. There was too much flipping that one of the Alice clones was doing, and where others may see a cool sequence, I saw bad CGI and wire work. That’s the other component that ruined these action sequences for some reason. Terrible CGI. I seriously think it got incredibly worse. Look at the new deadlier dogs or that sequence Jovovich does where she jumps off the prison to another level. Awful. The first film’s CGI is starting to look Oscar worthy. It became too much of a distraction. Like with the wire work, I should be able to know it’s CGI and be okay with it, but not know it is and obsess over it. I did that with CGI and wire work. Clearly I hated both.

And you’d think by now I would’ve run out of negative things to talk about. I haven’t, sadly. With so many new characters, you’d think that some would be worth getting excited about. Or, like with the previous film, there’d be some character insights and drama. There’s none of those things. In fact, I think Anderson managed to actually take several steps backwards. I never even slightly liked any of the characters and when they died, it didn’t mean anything. Even Wentworth Miller’s Chris Redfield bored me. He spent most of the film looking like he’s constipated or uncomfortable around people. He lacked charisma or anything else that’s pretty much made all other characters considerably more interesting. A real shame.

Just like the damn score. This is the final one, I promise. It was just bad. If any of these negative things can be considered big annoyances, it’s this. It’s the one thing I always remembered hating. I can see why. None of the film’s have ever had traditional score, whatever that is, but this one’s just too different, and not in a good way. It’s obnoxious. It felt out of place. With that score pretty much always there, it severely limited my ability to enjoy any of what I was being shown in the film.

I didn’t think anything could be more tiresome than watching the film itself. I was wrong. This was, and I feel like I’ve now gotten through a nightmare. I hope to never do that again.

Look On The Semi-Bright Side
If it’s even semi-bright that is, yeah, sure, look on that side! It’s where you’ll find the answers or something else. Perhaps it’s just a flicker. A small flame one might use in a dark and scary tunnel, in hopes of making it to the other side, but ultimately only finding they’re the monster’s next meal. Fortunately that’s not the case here.

For all the film’s terribleness, which just irritated me even more as I wrote about them, there are a few upsides. However, after everything above and the lackluster story at large, I can’t say they help too much. For me, maybe they just give me a reason to not chuck this film in the garbage or send it on its way to the nearest thrift store.

The creature designs were still pretty cool! They might not be if you’ve played the video games before, but since I haven’t, I have no other frame of reference. Looking at them, not only do the new creatures, with their nasty mouths, and the Axeman and his impressive, terrifying height, look well designed, but the more or less come to life quite well. Yes there’s a lot of issues with the CGI this time (see above), but somehow, perhaps just in the moment, I can more or less look past it. They may not present any terrifying moments, but they’re fun enough, and with this film being as terrible as it is, I can live the slight positives I get.

Milla Jovovich’s Alice and Ali Larter’s Claire are the other positives with this film. That’s not too surprising, but it’s kind of disappointing. As I’ve already noted, there were several new characters, however, they’re all just blah. While Claire and Alice are even more drastically underdeveloped than in the previous film, and most of that’s in the fault of the execution, which is the fault of writer and director Paul W.S. Anderson, they still bring with them trademark badassery. While the instances of them kicking ass, be it together or separately, are quite limited, the moments they do get are pretty fun. Larter’s best display is during the fight with the Axeman. It’s not much, but the run and flip up the wall and that slide just impresses me so much! Jovovich on the other hand, has a few cool moments with the Axeman as well, but beyond that only manages to look semi-cool elsewhere. The jump off the build and swing on the cable to the ground below, only looks so-so as does the beginning sequence that opens the film. I’ve listed my reasons why I hate them, but I can’t deny that they don’t still look somewhat stylish and fun. If only all of the other problems hadn’t happened, and the action sequences were grouped closer together and were bigger, better and larger in number, then this film might’ve been able to redeem itself. However, if that all had happened, the likelihood of those terrible aspects increasing goes up significantly.

Orange You Glad I Don’t Own The Sequel?
I couldn’t help it, and I am. As much as I’ve mostly enjoyed revisiting this franchise’s first three films and only tolerated this one because I had to, I’m definitely glad that “Retribution” isn’t in my collection. I think this too could be another case of my disliking that installment, and doing everything I can to avoid owning it. If not, well, then I can’t help you. I wanted to like this film, the first time and this time, but it didn’t work. I guess even franchises that only reach a certain bar have to hit a low point eventually. It’s just sad it was past what would become the midway point in the series.

I’m even more disappointed in Anderson. How could he get so far off track?! The chaos that makes up this film is something I’d expect from a completely different writer, not the franchise’s only writer. I’m baffled. This film makes me wonder if Anderson wrote it, but somehow, someone else went in and did rewrites, which Anderson still had to direct. If not that, then what? Did the studio just not care, so long as it looked fun and made money? That’s an even more depressing thought.

Upon further reflection, I’m certain this film had me caring less about this franchise. I no longer got excited for another film, but dreaded it. Would it end up as bad as this or worse? I fortunately can’t remember and luckily won’t have to find out anytime soon. While I do remember how the next film ends, I have to be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about learning that there would in fact be a final chapter. I’m not even pretending to plan on seeing it. That’s how afraid I am. Hell, I haven’t even seen the trailer, so I don’t really know what this final film is supposed to be about. That’s tragic, right? I guess the only bright side to this film series ending, well, other than it’s finally ending, is that at some point, I’ll just accept the rest of the mediocre films for what they are. I’ll be too numb to them, nothing else will matter. They’ll just play and I’ll stare on, but never with any full interest. At some point, a zombie film’s a zombie film. Once you’ve seen one (most of the time really), you’ve seen them all.

Original Release Date: Sept. 10, 2010

Written and Directed: Paul W.S. Anderson

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe and Wentworth Miller

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