Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

When we last visited the Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil universe, we were left at perhaps cinema’s greatest cliffhanger. Resident Evil: Extinction concluding with an army of cloned Alices (Milla Jovovich). This after Extinction’s predecessor, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, ended with Alice gaining practically every super power in the world. So we were left with an omnipotent army made up of cloned supermodels. How in the world do you continue the series with any sense of conflict? Alice can kill you just by looking at the surveillance camera you’re watching her through! As she can kill you with a thought, and there’s now hundreds of shes, just how scary can sprinting commando zombies be?

Thus imposing a case of writer’s block so potent that it would take series mastermind Anderson three years to think up a sequel. His solution? Lead film four off with his army of Alices attacking the Umbrella Corporation’s Tokyo headquarters. Sensing that the odds are clearly in her favor, the assault starts off with a lone Alice, dressed up like Snakes Eyes, wielding ninja weapons. Because, hey, this is Japan, and why would you attack the world’s last heavily armed, standing army with anything but swords and throwing stars?

In a beautifully subtle nod (so subtle I doubt it was intentional) to King Kong, Alice’s own sword is of ambiguous length. Lengthening and shortening depending on what the shot needs, the same way Kong’s height changed scene to scene.

I sure hope that Agent Wesker (Shawn Roberts), the film’s antagonist, is acting so wooden because Shawn’s trying to approximate the character’s video game portrayal. He blows up the Alice army, strips the last remaining Alice of her powers, and conveniently crashes his helicopter to fake his death. (Actually already his second fake death of the movie.)

Alice, again a mere mortal, starts dressing like Amelia Earhart and searching for Arcadia, the place she sent Extinction’s refugees. (And not, apparenty, the home of FL’s greatest rodeo.) Not finding it in Alaska(!?!), Alice travels to LA; finding it devoid of either human or undead life. She also picks up Claire (Ali Larter), from Extinction, who tags along.

Claire’s inconsequential, so much so that Alice completely ignores her when flying her bi-plane through downtown LA. Alice talking to a convenient camera set up in front of her, informing the audience of the exposition usually passed between characters. This is Milla’s ride, thank you, and you will not commandeer it.

Claire serves as a spout for useless exposition; as all she ever says is “I don’t remember.” She saw Arcadia (now a boat, not a town), but doesn’t know why she didn’t join the rest of the refugees on it. So she just stands around, with characters periodically picking her brain.

“Do you remember yet?”

“What about now; anything?”

Alice and Claire meet a group of survivors living in a prison. Which, as far as ideas go, is perhaps the series’ only bit of sense. Prisons being probably the one place you’d be safe from LA’s zombie hordes. Unfortunately, along with this safety comes ennui. As the zombies can’t get in, and our heros won’t leave, creating the type of impasse that’s usually edited out of a script.

Leave it to Paul W.S. Anderson, the genius who made a zombie movie without the zombies(!), to make an action movie without any action! Such contradictions now permeating his scripts, as one character explains to Alice that they found the prison empty, since, when (undead) man is now eating man, the idea of “prisoners,” as well as concepts of “right” and “wrong,” go right out the window. Until literally the next scene, when we meet Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller), a prison guard who was locked up by the prisoners before they left, and is now still locked up; because philosophical discussions that happen in stairwells should never be carried over in holding cells.

If there’s one thing noteworthy about Anderson’s script, it’s that he knows how to build an action sequence when he wants to. Alice and friends raid the prison’s armory, and prep the UAV (an urban assault vehicle straight out of a Daryl F. Gates wet dream). The zombies, meanwhile, have learned how to dig; tunneling down to the Underdark where they’ve either cross-bred with illithids, or giants.

Don’t fear for Alice though, since even without her powers she still have numerous “infinity” guns shaped like six-shooters. She’s also immune to any and all laws of physics; so fight sequences with her are still a sure thing. Everyone else dies except for Claire and Chris, who, as their alliterative names suggest, are both Redfields. Claire just couldn’t remember.

Claire does finally remember everything when the trio reaches the good ship Arcadia. She remembers that it is a prison ship (naturally) run by the Umbrella Corporation. A ship that never ends; if the final fight is to be believed. Inside the normal prison ship is a secret level, one filled with helicopters and more prisoners. Which makes one wonder why Umbrella wasted all that time building an underground base in Tokyo when they could’ve just kept all that stuff in a boat. A mammoth boat manned only by Wesker and two illithid zombie dogs. (Umbrella could’ve saved some payroll too.)

Wesker, who infected himself with the superpowering T-Virus, is now so fast that he dances around all the bullets Claire and Chris fire at him; no matter what the range. Shockingly, he can’t however, dodge knives; which presumably move significantly slower than bullets. That’s right, while guns with 4,000 shot clips are useless against him, two knife slices brings him down.

While silly and impossible, even within the confines of Anderson’s own universe, this ending is a proper “fuck you” to all of Anderson’s critics. Thoroughly derided for abandoning his franchise’s “survival horror” roots, he concludes things here with said genre’s weakest weapon, the knife. In the games, once you ran out of ammo, you were left fending for yourself with a knife, and thus quickly becoming zombie food. Anderson flipping the script, and the bird, to naysayers by combining both his pen and the sword into one final insult.

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