I’ve always been inclined to cut Paul W.S. Anderson a little slack—viewing him as a guy who unapologetically just makes dumb, undistinguished movies. But when he told Rotten Tomatoes that this Resident Evil opus was going to be “epically epic,” he lost my slack. He then compounded that moronic claim by revealing that his epically epic idea was to make Resident Evil: Afterlife in 3-D. Talk about a visionary filmmaker! Well, actually, if you want to talk about a visionary filmmaker, we’ll have to change the subject.
What we have here is more of the same in reasonably good—though hardly awe-inspiring—3-D. For those still living in hope of another gynecological peek at Ms. Jovovich, I must report that she gets very close to a shower scene and then is interrupted by a would-be Peeping Tom and mutant zombies of some kind. Whether this is intended as a joke at the expense of those in the audience with a propensity for prurient interest, I have no idea. It does seem like a pretty deep notion for a film this dumb, regardless of its epically epic epicness.
In all honesty, I have no idea if this thing picks up where Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) left off, since I don’t exactly commit this stuff to memory. It hardly matters anyway. Following an admittedly atmospheric opening, the film gets down to it by having Alice (Jovovich) invade the Tokyo branch of the Umbrella Corporation. These are the big-business bad guys responsible for the “T virus” that has turned the world into a wasteland populated by zombie-like horrors with tatty pockets of survivors. As usual, Alice is out to get her vengeance on them. It’s pretty standard Alice vs. hordes of bad guys, with Alice—who can now turn into multiple Alices—coming out on top. Limbs fly, guns blaze, stuff blows up.
In ways that make no sense, Alice ends up losing her powers and then walking away from a plane crash, setting her on the road to a place called Arcadia in Alaska, where there are survivors—it’s said. Well, at least she finds old pal Claire (Ali Larter, Resident Evil: Extinction). After subduing the mind-controlled Claire, the pair flies south and ends up with a little group of survivors holed up in a maximum-security prison. Of course, zombies are at the gates trying to get in—a situation that becomes more dangerous with the arrival of some inexplicable really big zombie with a burlap bag on his head and a giant meat tenderizer for a weapon.
Once again, the evil Umbrella Corporation is being nefarious and out to corner the market in something. What market, you ask? Everyone is either a zombie or an experimental subject. Who’s buying anything? That’s something these movies never explain. I was sorry to see the zombie crows from the last film make only a token appearance here, but this was balanced by a return of the zombie Dobermans from the first movie. You win some; you lose some. And speaking of losing some, Mr. Anderson’s epic of epically epic epicosity ends with the threat of part five. Now, that is scary. Blessedly, these things have so far only shown up every three years, but it’s just as well to be prepared. Rated R for sequences of strong violence and language.