Resident Evil: Afterlife is a strange, strange film; dull and lifeless despite (and even during) frequent slo-mo action sequences, it nearly put me to sleep after 15 minutes and didn´t exactly pick up the pace afterwards. But the overbearing dreariness is pushed to such an extreme that Afterlife becomes interesting for the style alone – in particular, the state-of-the-art 3D effects, which are obsessively lingered over while plot, story, and character are forgotten.
The 3D is, indeed, the only reason to see the film: Matrix-influenced slo-mo and bullet-time sequences work wonderfully in three dimensions, the camera carefully surveying the images while the eye takes in every last detail. In 2D, you´ll probably sit there perplexed while a single shot of a giant executioner swinging an axe goes on for half a minute. If you´re still awake, that is.
Afterlife begins with the siege of Umbrella´s Tokyo headquarters by a horde of Alice (Milla Jovovich) clones. I´ve seen the three previous movies and played most of the video games, but I´m already lost here. No matter: Umbrella (the company responsible for a zombie outbreak that has devastated the globe) is the villain, Alice the heroine. All you need to know. I´m sure Umbrella´s motives for post-apocalyptic villainy in a desolate wasteland were sufficiently explained in the previous films.
Umbrella Corp. is eradicated along with the Alice clones, but the real Alice makes it out alive along with supervillain Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), a far more menacing character in the games; here, he´s just another suited, sunglass-wearing Agent Smith variation. Alice then travels to Alaska in search of the friends she said goodbye to in Extinction, who left looking for the last remnants of civilization; she finds only Claire (Ali Larter), who has suffered some kind of memory loss.
And now what? By this time, the lack of any momentum in Afterlife is readily apparent: no drive, no ultimate goal, just a zombie wasteland and a couple heroines. They travel down the west coast in search of other survivors, and eventually find some in an abandoned prison surrounded by masses of zombies. And now ? Dialogue, arbitrary event, action set piece. Rinse and repeat, with no active story or rooting interest for the viewer to interact with.
Those action set pieces do work in 3D: Claire and Alice vs. a giant executioner, Alice vs. Wesker and two zombie dogs, a rooftop zombie showdown, all shot with Avatar´s Fusion Camera System. There´s real depth in other scenes too, but the filmmakers seem to be mostly interested in throwing gimmicky 3D objects out of the screen.
Not all the technical aspects of Afterlife live up to the 3D, however. The CGI in the film doesn´t quite mesh with the dimensionality – certainly not to the standard set by Avatar – which creates an overprocessed, digital look to the film that frequently makes the foreground objects – airplanes, bullets, even characters – look cartoonish.
Afterlife was directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, who directed the first (and best – though that isn´t saying much) in the series and produced the next two. Along with his trademark sparseness, he´s successfully toned down his quick-cut style to accommodate for the 3D, creating a pseudo horror-art piece that occasionally threatens to become a Koyaanisqatsi or Baraka.
Of course, Afterlife is no piece of art, nor is it a good film by any measure; it´s a rather curious one that brings a refreshing change in style to the series, even if there´s nothing new in terms of story. I didn´t hate it, which is more than I can say for Apocalypse or Extinction. Now if only they´d make a Resident Evil 4 that was true to the game, the best in the franchise
Note: the above rating refers to the 3D version of the film; you can probably knock off another star if viewing in 2D.
And: Román pro muže (showtimes), a follow-up to the popular Román pro ženy from director Tomáš Bařina and writer Michal Viewegh. Screening in Czech.