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Resident Evil: Afterlife

Resident Evil: Afterlife

The evil Umbrella Corporation is back in the fourth installment of the videogame-inspired franchise. Alice (Milla Jovovich) continues her quest to stop the corporation responsible for releasing the deadly virus that animates the dead and led (through the previous films) to the near eradication of all life on earth. Alice teams up with another group of survivors who are tracking a signal that promises safety from the infected zombies.

No one expects a movie based on a video game to be Hamlet, but the newest Resident Evil movie really pushed stupid to all new levels.

In the last movie the planet was a zombie-infested wasteland, with only Alice (Milla Jovovich) wandering through the dust in leather garters and hose. Alice was infected with the T-virus (in one of the earlier movies) and her DNA was somehow 'stronger' (grrr) than everyone else's. The virus gives Alice superhuman agility, strength, etc. The virus turns everyone else into a zombified monster. Of course, the Resident Evil movies past plots are so labrynthine and ridiculous there's no way to provide any of this exposition. This movie is made primarily for fans of the franchise; everyone else is going to wonder what on earth is happening. There's some minor exposition, but the opening action sequence gets almost none.

A bevy of Alice clones attack the Umbrella Corporation's Japanese bomb shelter (which looks to be larger than Tokyo itself) but if you didn't watch the last movie you would have no clue as to how Alice was cloned. But hey, it's hard to argue while salivating over multiple Jovovich's jumping and leaping around in skintight, black lycra bodysuits. In the last movie, the clones were discovered in another underground Umbrella bunker. The company cloned Alice in order to study her and at the previous film's conclusion Alice frees all her clones and promises to lead them in an attack on Umbrella.

But unless you saw the previous movie, this will be a completely mystifying violence-fest.

The action itself goes beyond ridiculous right into stupid-land. Alice and her clones attack Umbrella's shock troops, dodging bullets, tossing swords, performing aerial barrel rolls that left this reviewer laughing out loud. There's so much CGI at work here that nothing looks real. And half the film feels like its in slow motion. Does slow motion really make everything so much more dramatic that it has to be in every action sequence? I yawned loudly during some slow motion scenes in open protest.

If you took all the slow motion out of the film you would have about a 30 minute film. The rest of the action is groan-producing nonsense, such as one scene in which Alice runs from a rooftop filled with rampaging zombies (these are the fast zombies, not the slow ones) and she instantaneously improvises a bungee jump escape using steel cables.... in slow motion. Laughably, all the zombies fall lemming-like over the edge of the building!

Of course, the evil Umbrella Corporation is just as ridiculously hyper-competent as ever -- their backup plans have backup plans with golden parachutes. The apocalypse probably hasn't even affected their 401k plan. The whole world is gone, but hey, let's get those TPS reports done, okay? Clearly, Umbrella is 'too big to fail.'

The CEO of Evil Incorporated is personified this time around by a smirking Aryan evil guy named 'Wesker' who says stupid things like, "You're carrying Umbrella property and we're taking it back." as he injects Alice with a serum that kills off the T-virus infecting her body, thereby taking away her superpowers. When he isn't delivering his lines with a droning, Victorian, monosyllabic "I'm-so-evil-my-elocution-is-flawless' tone, he's smirking just ever so slightly.

Jovovich's acting isn't bad, but not much demand is put on her talents, other than looking good. The rest of the cast are archtype zombie chow. There's a well-meaning but noodlely Asian guy. There's the tough, sonorous, soulful Latino guy, the hot chick, the evil bastard who betrays everyone, etc. This new crop of survivors are holed up in a huge prison which is surrounded by an ocean of zombies pushing up against the gates. In what has to be the single silliest plot point, a huge zombie wearing a bag over its head arrives in town, dragging a huge maul behind it. It marches directly to the prison and starts hammering away at the gate with the maul.

What is this thing? How is it twice as tall as any other zombie? Why the mask? Why can't the defenders kill it with gunshots to the head, like other zombies? I'll tell you why -- poor screenwriting. Every Resident Evil movie must have a 'big baddie' for the hero(es) to face down. So the Deus Ex Machina Zombie monster was written into the movie. The battle between it, Alice and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) is a testosterone fantasy played out by women. Ali Larter's character runs directly at the huge zombie (in slow motion, of course) in order to attack it. Crazy idea here -- let's run away from the rampaging super-monster? It all goes down in the prison's shower room, so there's plenty of spraying water to wet the babes down and give them slow motion water droplets to charge through while screaming.

About the only good thing in all this horse hockey is the music, a series of thumping techno beats that actually fit the action pretty well. There's nothing scary here whatsoever aside from a few jump scenes. The secondary cast members are just camera fodder, and we never get to know them well enough to care about their deaths. And of course, there is good news at the end of the film -- with the heroes helping the last remnants of humanity out of a cryogenic sleep. They are immediately surrounded by evil agents of Umbrella in order to set up the next predictable zombie soap opera.

Resident Evil: Afterlife is well-named, as the franchise was resurrected but had deserved death with some dignity. If all you're after is a brainless action movie filled to the brim with slow-motion action shots of babes in catsuits with guns, then you'll be fine. Otherwise, pass on this one.

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