Let’s get this out of the way quickly, shall we? Resident Evil: Afterlife – the fourth film of the RE saga – is boring, but you probably already knew that. The primary source of inspiration for the screenplay seems to be Alien 3 – the very worst of the Alien films – in both its content and incomprehensibility. Its characters are less than one dimensional, and are slaughtered in exactly the order you imagine, (and in the most unimaginative of ways). It is very light on the zombie carnage, which is disappointing, considering that the video games upon which the films are based are primarily concerned with zombies. And director Paul W.S. Anderson’s filmmaking style seems to be a lazy concoction of tired bullet-time special effects and lingering, slow-motion shots of his leading lady (and wife) Milla Jovovich. To anyone who has ever sat through a Resident Evil film, this should come as no surprise. So there you go. Film reviewed. Now, if you’ve got a moment to spare, join me as I ponder the film’s major lingering questions.
1. What is the Umbrella Corporation’s main goal here anyway?
For those of you unfamiliar with the Umbrella Corporation, they are the big bad of the Resident Evil universe. From what I can recall from playing the game as a teenager (no, I will not go to the effort of researching this further), they were a pharmaceutical company responsible for developing the T-Virus, a fatal pathogen that was to be used as a biological weapon. Unfortunately, it all went Pete Tong when the T-Virus mutated and turned everyone on the planet into a zombie. O.K., you’re caught up.
I’m no entrepreneur, but if I was in charge of a major corporation that sold a particular product, wouldn’t it be in my best interest to, oh, say, not wipe out an entire planet of consumers? It’s one thing if the release of the T-Virus and the subsequent zombie apocalypse was an anomaly. An apologetic press release to the public, a quick restructuring of the company, and you could surely return to business as usual – and perhaps even aid in the rebuilding of humanity. But the Umbrella Corporation seems to encourage the evisceration of mankind, for no reason other than it is in the script. I think these guys have cribbed a little too generously from the business model of South Park’s underpants gnomes: Step 1) Wipe out the entire universe. Step 2)??? Step 3) Profits!
2) Does Paul W.S. Anderson hate Hollywood?
Aside from Alien 3, Resident Evil: Afterlife has taken a couple of major cues from George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (or perhaps more accurately, Zack Snyder’s remake). In this instalment, Milla Jovovich’s invincible Alice flies her plane into a prison compound surrounded by hundreds of thousands of zombies (a’la the shopping mall in Romero’s classic satire). There are about six or seven humans living in the prison. One is a male model, one is a desperate actress, one is a sleazy movie producer, and another is his assistant. Based on these credentials, I think it’s safe to assume that these people all met at the casting call for the next Resident Evil movie. How meta! Anderson must have some beef with Hollywood, and must be trying to make some point based on the careers of his characters. Needless to say, his satire is less refined (and coherent) than Romero’s in Dawn of the Dead.
3) Why does Milla Jovovich keep doing these films?
You may scoff, and say that Milla Jovovich is merely a model-turned-actress – surely playing a sexed-up heroine in sub-par genre films is exactly where she belongs. Well, how dare you?! She is without question the one element of the Resident Evil franchise that remains even remotely interesting. She is charismatic, a convincing action hero, and is committed to each of her roles (no matter how ridiculous). She even manages to convey a certain world-weariness and gravitas here – which is impressive for a film in which she is required to fight a couple of rabid zombie dogs. She’s made the most of interesting roles in the past (The Fifth Element, Dazed and Confused); surely it’s time for her to step up to the next stage in her career? Even if Paul W.S. Anderson was my husband, I don’t know if I would agree to a fifth Resident Evil film.
Resident Evil: Afterlife is in cinemas now.