“That’s Right. Star Power, Bitches!”

Today’s movie: Resident Evil 4: Afterlife.


Last year at Comic Con, I watched a panel for Afterlife, and I was interested despite how much I despised the second and third movie. For starters, Paul W.S. Anderson was back on board as director, and Paul W.S. Anderson is an awesome guilty pleasure director. For another, I dug this ridiculous action scene that we got to watch in Hall H (even though the whole thing’s in 3-D, and I kind of hate 3-D to the point of wanting to TP James Cameron’s mansion.)

So, we rented the movie. All in all, it was . . . okay. Definitely not the worst sequel in the bunch, but still not as good as the original.

But if you’re into exceptionally non-realistic action sequences and lots of slow motion rain? This movie is definitely the one for you.

I’m going to try and not spoil things for anyone who doesn’t want to be spoiled, but this review will cover at least a few things that happened in the previous three films. So if you don’t want to be spoiled for any of those films . . . sorry.

NOTES:

1.) One of my biggest issues with R.E. Apocalypse and R.E. Extinction is my frustration with the ridiculous, godlike powers they keep piling on Alice. And the clones, good God. Don’t even get me started on those clones.

So, I like that, in R.E. Afterlife, a good chunk of what I didn’t like gets addressed in the first five minutes. The fourth movie is kind of a reset button for much of the previous suckiness. This pleases me.

2.) On the other hand, we’re continuing with Milla Jovovich’s voiceover monologues. So, blech. Not everyone can work a voiceover. In fact, most people can’t work a voiceover. Milla Jovovich is no exception.

3.) Maybe one of the reasons I like the first Resident Evil is that it seems a little more like a horror movie than an action movie with monsters. (I mean, not entirely, but it walks the line better than the sequels do, particularly Extinction.) Afterlife, too, is most decidedly not a horror film. That’s okay; action with monsters can be completely fun, but I do think I’d have liked the movie better if I felt tense even once while watching it. I haven’t played the games enough to know all the references or the inaccuracies, but I do know that the R.E. games are freaky and nail-biting as hell. It’d be nice if the movies captured even half of that tension.

4.) And once again, better minor characters would make this a much more interesting film. At the very least, more interesting character deaths. Lead Girl + Lead Guy + Extra Person go into a dark tunnel together. Guess who’s not getting out of the tunnel? Honestly, I’m not even sure why Paul W.S. Anderson bothered naming anybody. They could have just been Red Shirt Number 1, 2, and 3.

And for that matter, a lot of the deaths were weird, too, like they were sudden without being even remotely surprising. The whole point of a sudden death is to shock the audience into jumping, but man, task not accomplished here. I think one death in the whole movie was well done, one. And if they had built up that person’s character even a little, it would have been much more shocking.

5.) On the plus side, Afterlife does introduce Luther, played by the not-exactly-hard-on-the-eyes Boris Kodjoe. Kodjoe was in the very much hyped, very short-lived series Undercovers, and if I had seen this film before that show premiered, I might have given it a whirl despite my total lack of interest. Kodjoe is funny, pretty, and easily my favorite part of the film.

6.) Of course, no group of survivors would be complete without That Guy. You know That Guy. He’s the one who’s only helpful contribution is snark, and the first chance he gets to backstab you, he’ll be there with bells on. In Afterlife, that guy is played by Kim Coates, who I always associate with The Client. Coates is serviceable enough—he gets the job done—but if you want to see That Guy done by the master, go watch Dawn of the Dead (the remake). Ty Burrell has sneer down to an art.

"Why does he stay here while I go on the suicide mission to rescue Terry's already-dead girlfriend?"

7.) Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter aren’t new additions, so I’m not going to waste too much time talking about them. They’re both acceptable, if not exactly exciting. (Larter, in particular, has nothing to do but look fierce and, in one scene, confused.)

So, moving on to Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) and Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) who are both important characters in the games.

First, Wentworth Miller: he isn’t quite as bad as I was expecting him to be . . . which is mean but true. I was expecting a lot of overdramatic, “Claire!” screams, you know, in the vein of “WAAAAAAALT.” I don’t know why. Actually, Miller went the opposite direction, going 1000% smirky. And normally I approve of smirk—especially when given by somebody with eyes like Wentworth Miller, damn—but after the first five minutes, it just felt kind of forced and overdone. Again, if you want the epitome of hot awesome smirky, you go back to the first Resident Evil with James Purefoy.

"Please, I wouldn't wanna shoot you. I might need the bullets."

This man can work snark.

Now, Wesker on the other hand . . . he’s doable for me. I think Shawn Roberts does a decent job of speaking ominously, as well as pounding his fists into people and throwing his sunglasses in a threatening manner. I like what little I’ve seen of Shawn Roberts so far . . . he’s one of the most redeemable things about Skinwalkers, and he’s in my very favorite episode of Psych ever . . . so I’d be interested in seeing more of him.

8.) Although, while I’m on the subject of Wesker . . . I get that people, bad guys in particular, love to stroll calmly as though nothing can possibly faze them . . . but when you’re inside a building that’s about to blow up, maybe you can double-time your way to the escape jet? Just a thought.

Actually, I shouldn’t single out villains in this. Heroes like to do this too, only instead of strolling casually after their victims, they prefer to boldly stride towards the camera while shit blows up behind them.

No ones believes in running anymore.

9.) Most of the time, Alice, Chris, and the others are very good about having their guns at the ready at any given moment. Like, that’s their first reaction. Hear something that sounds like a kitten meowing piteously? Guns out NOW! It could be a zombie kitten.

However, one hero—and I won’t say who—does have one exceedingly stupid moment toward the beginning of the film, and I never really forgave them for it. If you can easily kill a bad guy from ten feet away before he can see you, why on God’s green earth would you possibly move closer, like, kissing-distance closer? Hero, that’s not even a rookie mistake. That’s a mustache-twirling villain’s mistake. Don’t you know anything?

Hmmph. Apparently freaking not.

10.) Of course, we rented Afterlife on Netflix, so I did not watch this in 3-D. Looking at the filming, I could see how some of it would have been pretty cool in 3-D . . . because this was the “Avatar 3-D,” not the “slapped on, super shitty 3-D” . . . but I still don’t think it would really have been worth the thirteen bucks to see it in theater. Honestly, I don’t even know that Avatar was worth that.

11.) And while we’re sort of on the subject, Mr. Anderson . . . I know that slow-motion rain, particularly in 3-D, is a fun thing to do . . . but twice in one film? A little overkill, sir.

12.) I’m not even going to waste my time decrying the action sequences as ridiculous . . . of course, they were ridiculous. That’s half the fun. What I must mention, however, is Ali Larter’s perfect godamned hair. Cause I know, I know, that movies always make their characters look 50 times better than I ever do in the morning, but in one scene, it’s night and Ali Larter’s wearing dirty clothes, has a dirty face, and has dirty, matted hair. When she wakes up, Larter is wearing lipstick and obvious eyeshadow, and her hair is conditioned to the point of perfection. Seriously. She looks like she should be in a fucking Pantene Pro-V commercial. I don’t mind that someone might have changed her or washed the dirt off her face while she slept, but really? Did they bust out their supply of Mac and find a spare blow dryer on the Alaskan coast?

Conclusions: Resident Evil: Afterlife is watchable—and less annoying—than some of its previous predecessors. There’s no Jill Valentine, at any rate, and the movie certainly goes quickly enough. But it’s not really a bad enough film to be awesomely cheesealicious, and it sure as hell isn’t good enough to be something I’d ever buy for myself. The acting’s adequate for what the movie is; the plot’s fine; the action’s good, but the deaths aren’t really all that impressive, and there’s absolutely no tension in this film at all. A B movie can still have characters that you care about at least remotely—this movie had one, and that’s it. One (admittedly hot) character.

So, if you want a quick zombie action film, this will certainly work . . . but there is better work in the genre if you’re willing to look for it.

Grade: B-

Moral: Never forget that someone always needs to be flying the fucking plane.

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2 Responses to “That’s Right. Star Power, Bitches!”

  1. Fatpie42 says:

    And the clones, good God. Don’t even get me started on those clones.

    I’m going to have to ask you about the clones. As far as I remember, there aren’t any clones in RE2 (unless the Alice right at the end is one). In RE3 they serve as quite a clever link back to the first movie at the beginning and serve as a cliffhanger at the end.

    As far as I can tell, it’s RE4 where we are left going “oh ffs, those bloody clones!” WS Anderson has written all the RE movies, so you the intro is not him cleaning up someone else’s mess, but rather him showing that he doesn’t have the imagination to follow up on his cliffhanger in an interesting way. So we get several characterless and indistinguishable canon fodder characters who are acting as a substitute for the main character. The callousness with which they are allowed to be killed off as if their deaths didn’t matter was pretty disgusting and since we are clearly not expected to care when they die, the whole intro ends up being pretty boring. Action scenes are made interesting by our investment in the characters and that simply doesn’t happen at the start of RE4.

    Not everyone can work a voiceover.

    Then she meets a character. “Hallelujah!” I thought. “Finally we can have some f***ing dialogue!” Then we discover that the new character can’t speak and Alice continues to dictate her predicament with the character sitting in the background. *facepalm*

    I mean, not entirely, but it walks the line better than the sequels do, particularly Extinction.

    Extinction is an action movie, plain and simple. What’s more, it’s a really good fun one (which is served well by shamelessly nicking ideas from “Day of the Dead”). The “Highlander” director did a damn good job with it and it remains my favourite of the series (and I’m fairly confident in announcing that RE4 was the worst – by stark contrast to the videogame series…).

    Again, if you want the epitome of hot awesome smirky, you go back to the first Resident Evil with James Purefoy.

    I’d seen James Purefoy in several tv things before “Resident Evil” and I was expecting good things. Based on what I’d previously seen, I didn’t get the impression that he was really trying. Plus his American accent sounded distinctly wrong to me.

  2. SPOILERS!!!!!

    Yeah, the clones don’t come in until RE3. The special powers and whatnot start in RE2 and continue into RE 3, but the clones don’t come until the third film.

    You know, we are just never going to agree on RE3, not ever. We have two fundamentally opposing viewpoints on that movie, and I think we’ve talked that one to death. I get what you mean about the way the clones are killed off in the fourth movie, and if I’d liked them even remotely, that might have bothered me too—because I am all for seeing a science fiction movie really deal with the individuality or lack thereof with multiple clones and how they see each other and themselves and death and all that good stuff—but since I absolutely couldn’t stand them OR Alice’s super special powers, I was happy they just reset it.

    I love James Purefoy in RE 1, but you’re right about the accent—it’s not that good. The best attempt an American accent in that movie is Kaplan’s. Still, that didn’t end up ruining my enjoyment of his performance. I guess what you saw as not trying, I saw as seemingly effortless. Which sounds like the same thing but has a much different emphasis in context : )

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