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“Prince of Persia” again proved right the curse of adapting a video game for the big screen. The final product made the acting and movements of any video game feel more real. For better or worse, another series of films has actually long held the title for strongest video game adaptations, “Resident Evil”, and part four, “Afterlife”, actually makes the series look a tad more promising…just a tad.
We return to a zombie-invested world where the Umbrella Corporation is responsible for the worldwide spread of the T-virus, known for transforming the living into flesh hungry zombies and, in some cases, more powerful and grotesque mutations (let’s just borrow the video game terminology and call them bosses — the big villains you take on at the end of each level). Starting in a secret lab and eventually moving to Raccoon City, things got out of control and by the third film, “Extinction”, civilization ceased and Umbrella was still up to some pretty evil shenanigans. At the start of the forth installment, our heroin, Alice (Milla Jovovich) takes the fight to Umbrella’s doorstep (or their secret hideout in Japan located hundreds of feet below the surface).
Last we saw Alice, she’d uncovered a lab filled with clones of herself. Like her, the clones have telekinetic powers and heightened physical abilities. In short, get ready for a whole lot of Jovovichs running around with machine guns and samurai swords taking down security guards, who outnumber them, 100 to one. But the battle at headquarters only lasts five minutes past the opening credits, and Alice heads for Alaska, in search of the survivors she encountered in “Extinction”, who sought refuge at a mysterious place called Arcadia. Alas, her reunion is put on hold as she discovers an abandoned region and an amnesia-stricken friend, Claire (Ali Larter), who doesn’t seem to remember Alice. The two make their way to Los Angeles for another adventure with a gory conclusion as they try to find out what Arcadia really is and where the other survivors are.
The director the first film in the series, Paul W.S. Anderson, returns, bringing with him his love for an electronic soundtrack and slow-motion sequences in place of extensively choreographed fight scenes — just imagine the stylized editing of “300” without the visual flare. Yet there’s something enjoyable about the film’s action ludicrousness. Anderson – the man responsible for combining the “Alien” and “Predator” properties and making them gruelingly boring – at least relearns the importance of pacing and filling the acting and action holes with enough CGI to almost make up for the low-intelligence plotline. In the end, I expected a zombie/sci-fi film and that’s exactly what I got—and I’m rather OK with that. The film’s nothing lasting, or even memorable, like “Zombieland”; it’s just mind-numbing enough to make me curious about a fifth film.
I realize I should know better, but there’s something appealing about dystopian zombie thrills and sci-fi “big brother is watching you” films, and Milla Jovovich holds high nostalgic value since her breakout role as Leeloo in “The Fifth Element” — that fantastically obscure sci-fi marvel by French director extraordinaire, Luc Besson. She can’t act very well but there’s something charming about her. Maybe I’m just comparing this film to her other disasters, like “Ultraviolet” or the previous two “Resident Evils”. But I didn’t hate “Afterlife”. Bad one-liners, a hefty death toll and overdone special effects — it could’ve been worse (and I can name about 15 films from this year alone as proof).
Two television stars make their way back to the big screen here: Ali Carter (Niki Sanders and Tracy Strauss from “Heroes”) and Wentworth Miller (Michael Scofield from “Prison Break”). Trust me, they basically adapt their small screen characters and don’t offer anything new, but they do get to show off their combat chops as they take on the undead and lab experiments-gone-wrong. Boris Kodjoe as Luther (ready for a lead role in the new TV show, “Undercovers”) even provides some memorable screen time.
I’m aware that endorsing a film like this doesn’t live up to my high standard of artistic expectation for most films, but sometimes you just need to take in some fast food entertainment in order to let the real substance have more meaning. “Resident Evil: Afterlife” was marketed as the first film to use the “Avatar” film technology, offering an IMAX 3D viewing experience. Ignore the ploy, rent this one or wait for dollar theatre prices. Then just relax and escape in the dumb fun.
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