The “Resident Evil” franchise has never claimed to be high-concept, brainy material. It’s a series about zombies so you really have to go in not expecting too much. The franchise consistently delivered for action fans even if it appeared to be losing some of its bite.
The third installment, “Resident Evil: Extinction,” had all the makings of a franchise-ender with a weak premise, weak villain, only one truly memorable fight scene and a terrible decision to make the main character, Alice (Milla Jovovich), a zombie fighting superhero effectively eliminating any type of suspense. But every so often, a franchise regains its footing by simply going back to what worked in the first place.
The series’ latest entry, “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” stops trying to “oooh, me too!!” the dozens of superhero movies and just focuses on pitifully outnumbered humans trying to survive against cities infested with zombies. Sure, it’s simple, but it’s effective enough to make “Resident Evil: Afterlife” the best installment in the series yet.
Series screenwriter Paul W.S. Anderson resumes double duty in this outing after sitting out the last two films. The break has done wonders for him as he has a much more distinct feel for what the Resident Evil film world needs.
For starters, no super-powered heroes so very quickly in “Afterlife,” Alice gets de-powered and is a regular human again. That’s after an inspired fight scene where Alice goes all Attack of the Clones on the Japanese Umbrella base seeking revenge on Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) for starting the incident that led to the virus infecting the planet. Not to mention using her as an anti-virus test subject. After Wesker escapes, Alice re-unites with ally Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and the two try to find the Arcadia, the rumored last stronghold for humanity.
They encounter another group of survivors holed up in a prison desperately trying to fend off the zombies while also trying to locate Arcadia. Anderson knows he doesn’t need to do any deep character development so they’re stock characters like the arrogant movie producer (Kim Coates), the hot girl (Kacey Barnfield) and the one likable guy we hope survives, Luther West (Boris Kodjoe). Luther delivers one of my all-time favorite movie lines in the perfectly appropriate moment.
Anderson finally brings series mainstay Chris Redfield (a miscast Wentworth Miller) into the action and video game fans will love seeing Chris and Claire taking on Wesker in a scene reminiscent of the now classic “Resident Evil 5.”
Anderson is well-suited for action films as they allow him to just jump from one big fight scene to the next without spending too much time on slow moments. Dialogue isn’t one of his strengths, but the guy knows how to make a fight scene look cool.
The pre-production work Anderson and his team utilized to shoot the film in 3D is commendable as it’s not just a blatant cash-grab with some hastily thrown together post-production effects. It helps that the series has that horror element so he can use the more obvious horror movie 3D cues such as a character tossing an axe “at” the audience to make the 3D a more interactive experience for the audience.
While Anderson could tone down on his reliance on slow-motion, it’s a minor offense and with a simple plot paired with great action scenes in its brisk run time, that’s all I really need from this series and “Resident Evil: Afterlife” puts some new blood and excitement into what was close to becoming a dead franchise.
Rating: 8 out of 10