Resident Evil: Afterlife (UK - BD)
Our Marcus doesn't feel bad siding with the zombies on this one. Finish 'em off!
Paul W. S. Anderson returns to the Resident Evil series with Afterlife. After an over the top, near incoherent opening sequence (which was only really missing Godzilla turning up to go totally out there), we catch up with Alice (Milla Jovovich) as she searches for Arcadia, the mysterious location for any survivors of the virus outbreak.
Discovering that the last place of refuge she's in search of may be a lie and that she may very well be alone, Alice flies over Los Angeles and notices a small band of survivors held up in a maximum security prison surrounded by zombies. Upon landing she finds out that Arcadia is actually a large freighter currently situated on the coast, and with the help of her new acquaintances (including Chris Redfield (Wentworth "I am the map" Miller) there may still be some hope left.
The Resident Evil movie franchise is a bit of a head scratcher for me. How, in a world where The Lord of Rings franchise had trouble getting The Hobbit made, Warner Bros. struggle to make a good Superman movie and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World makes tuppence at the box office, has Resident Evil got a fourth instalment (as well as a couple of animated spin offs)? I heard that Resident Evil: Afterlife was "the best of the bunch", but after seeing it (and having only seen the god awful original movie and not Apocalypse or Extinction) I'd like to know just how much worse those other sequels were for this to be considered "the best".
Paul W. S. Anderson smashes straight out of the gate with a series of action shots that feel like you're getting punched in the face for absolutely no reason at all. It doesn't help that he's been allowed to play with 3D. I wasn't watching it with a 3D TV or anything, but each and every shot shows off its 3D by coming straight at you and while I'm sure it would have been quite impressive from a depth of field point of view on the big screen, all of the shots are about as subtle as a brick and ended up feeling like a show reel of what 3D could do without actually doing anything clever with it. In fact it felt like one of those over the top adverts for 3D TVs where they show generic movie moments running around the 3D glasses-clad viewer donning a goofy grin in a living room.
When Wesker (Shawn Roberts) showed up, the gamer in me perked up but when he was about as rubbish as he was in the Resident Evil 5 game, it suddenly dawned on me that Wesker only just about works in the game nowadays so having his over the top Matrixness all over a movie could only come off as silly and out of place and it really did.
Anyway moving on through the opening sequence, which felt like Anderson cleaning up the mess from the previous instalments to get whatever story he wanted to tell up and running, everything calms down a bit and Alice goes about doing 3D stuff with planes. Once they get to the prison we're introduced to this movie's bunch of zero charisma cannon fodder including Crystal Waters (Kacey Barnfield), who I swear Anderson has a version of in all his movies; y'know, the pretty girl with a push up bra and a vest top. All of these characters feel far too clean and level headed despite the tons of zombies on their doorstep and it's here that it dawned on me just how fake all of this is.
Honestly nothing in this world feels real. Not only does the entire movie feel like one large and overly clean set, but with the combination of unconvincing effects and almost non-human responses to the events this feels more like... I want to say a game, but as all you gamers out there know, even games get this stuff right for the most part (well except maybe Resident Evil 5, which was a real let-down too).
Without giving much away (not that there's a lot) Alice and a few others (bet you can't guess which characters survive.... Hint: if Redfield is your surname in a Resident Evil story, you're probably gonna be okay) we meet up with the main bad guy (again for any Resident Evil fans, this is probably a no brainer) there's a big fight which highlights how special powers in games do not translate well to our movie screens, coming off as goofy at best and with the bad 3D effects thrown down our throat again it's hard to care about the badly played out finale. After that we're left on a big 3D cliff-hanger promising an even bigger incoherent opener to our already announced fifth instalment and I'm left wondering what's the word that means more than "watchable", but isn't as strong as "liked"?
As much as I'm enjoying dissing the movie, there's no denying the prettiness of this transfer. Every single shot, no matter the lighting (not that this movie is ever anything less than over-lit) or the tone, it looks absolutely glorious. That said, because of the clean looking nature of the movie everything looks fake as hell. Every prop feels like a prop, every set feels like a set and every single effect feels like an effect (and not a very good one at that).
Colours looks great in the scenes, reds and blues glow and explosions and flames (check out just how many torches light that prison... overkill much?) really look alive on the screen. The closing scenes in the all-white lab/ freighter really show off the HD presentation with Milla's slightly muddy presence popping off the plain background really well (something that the 3D design does well. Shocker).
Anderson does his usual and makes the action here a relentless assault on your senses. Gunfire, punches, sword swishes, explosions. He throws the works at you with an aggressive mix that the DTS-HD Master Audio track handles well. Of course he undermines the whole thing with that generic dance rock score cheapening the whole effect but what else did we expect?
Dialogue has a nice presence in the track as does the handful of the more subtle atmospherics. Overall the strong aggressive track is about as offensive as the visuals require. The track does its best to infuse the tepid and utterly unconvincing visuals with a techo-rock heartbeat and for those that like this sort of thing, there's plenty to turn the volume up to eleven for.
The commentary track with Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, and Robert Kulzer (though it's heavy on the Anderson) is just a group of three people talking about what we're seeing on screen, telling us stuff we already know from the wide world of movie making and giving us little nuggets about 3D and the franchise in general. It's pretty dull and honestly quite a slog to get through.
'Undead: Picture in Picture' is a solid picture-in-picture addition with plenty of cast and crew interviews, loads of animatics and production sketches and while it could have been a slightly bigger box it’s a pretty good feature.
There are eight deleted and extended scenes (06:48 HD) all of which offer up ever so slight details to the rest of the movie (like Alice making her coin bullet shells) and the 'Outakes' (04:30 HD) are a collection of snippets with the cast pulling faces or laughing.
Moving onto the featurettes, ‘Back Under the Umbrella: Directing Afterlife’ (06:43 HD) tells us how much Anderson loved the first Resident Evil game (while showing us footage of the fifth one?) and a whistle stop tour to who Alice is and what Resident Evil is.
‘Band of Survivors: Casting Afterlife’ (06:39 HD) introduces us to Alice and the Redfields as well as the other cannon fodder... I mean cast. There’s plenty of on-set footage and interviews and this continues in ‘Undead Dimensions: Resident Evil in 3D' (07:27 HD) which has Anderson regurgitating James Cameron’s speech about how audio became more immersive, now it’s the visuals turn. We get a look at the tech and plenty of Avatar name dropping and we get a few animated diagrams about how this all works.
‘Fighting Back: The Action of Afterlife’ (05:31 HD) continues with talking heads of the cast intercut with movie footage set up and talk about the fighting and such and ‘Vision of the Apocalypse: The Design of Afterlife' (07:28 HD) goes into the production design showing us sketches and animatics and what not.
‘New Blood: The Undead of Afterlife’ (07:31 HD) talks about the oodles of undead that don’t really do much in the film but they do seem quite proud of the fact they have digging zombies and swimming zombies now (like they’re Lemmings now?). We get to see the make-up effects and the process of turning someone into the undead and of course some extras hanging out on set dressed as zombies.
‘Pwning the Undead: Gamers of the Afterlife’ (06:11 HD) has Anderson telling us how he recreates the game on screen (he hasn’t outside of a handful of characters and the odd shot— Resident Evil games have tension and a real threat, something these movie sorely lack). There’s plenty of shots from the fifth game, they try to convince you that because they have Chris Redfield we suddenly have the perfect adaption (we don’t) and of course Wesker. I really want to say it was the film that let Wesker down, but honestly re-watching the scenes from the fifth game and being reminded how over the top Wesker has got, it had all gone wrong before Wesker joined the movie.
‘Sneak Peek of Resident Evil: Damnation’ (01:10 HD) is a short and sweet look at the next animated movie. I quite enjoyed the last one but the trailer for this new one didn’t do much for me really.
Lastly we have trailers for Blu-ray is High Definition, Salt, Faster, Ticking Clock, Takers and The Virginity Hit as well as BD-Live and movieIQ.
Resident Evil: Afterlife didn't do anything to make me regret missing out on the last two sequels, in fact it made me thankful I didn't see them. If anything it just added to my disappointment with the entire Resident Evil franchise of late and left me yearning for the simple walking around a mansion shooting zombies that the original game did so well. Now that'd be a great movie.
The disc itself excels in the A/V departments and has a good splattering of extras that fans of the movie franchise will probably enjoy a little more than I did, although saying that it all seems like it's aimed at newcomers as opposed to whoever bought into the previous movies. Fans have got a good little package to enjoy, but for me, I'm just left sitting here praying that Paul W. Anderson's next game adaptation isn't Metal Gear Solid. Oh god, just writing that down made me sick in my mouth. Apologies to anybody out there who had the same reaction.
* The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 10th January 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Spanish, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Catalan, English Audio Description Service
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian
Extras: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted/Extedned Scenes, Trailers, Outakes, Sneak Preview of Resident Evil: Damnation
Easter Egg: No
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller
Genre: Action and Adventure
Length: 96 minutes
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