Resident Evil: Afterlife (3D)

October 12, 2010

One of the principle agreements between filmmaker and audience is that the audience will engage in disavowal for the duration of the film and subsequently involve in an active “suspension of disbelief.” The degree to which a viewer must suspend their disbelief is determined, within the confines of the viewing contract, by the parameters established at the outset of the film. The opening sequence for Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) does this with aplomb. Opening onto a dark, wet night in Tokyo, hundreds of faceless humans cross a busy road; their faces protected from the elements by umbrellas. One solitary female stands still, without an umbrella, patiently waiting as the bullet-time raindrops continue to fall all around her. Giving the audience time to adjust to the tone and aesthetic of the film, she then violently turns and attacks a passer-by: she is infected. Before the film advances four years to the present day, the audience are told here everything they need to know in order to engage in the film world and to appropriately suspend their disbelief. 1) It’s a dark world. 2) There is a threat. 3) Everyone is hiding behind “Umbrella”; but they won’t save you.

Picking up where Resident Evil: Extinction (2007, the third in the film franchise) left off, Resident Evil: Afterlife begins with Alice clones (Milla Jovovich) fighting the evil Umbrella Corporation. After an almighty shoot-out and a fair spill of blood, Alice escapes the underground lair just before it implodes in a moment of unparalleled CGI spectacular. Having snuck onboard with her nemesis – and our suitably arrogant and self-serving “bad guy” for the duration – Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), Alice is stripped of her super strength and regenerative powers for which she appears to be surprisingly grateful in the wake of an apocalypse; “Thank you – for making me human again.” When their plane then crashes the two are somehow separated (explanation unnecessary due to the already entered into suspension of disbelief) and from here on in it’s back to the original premise and a one-woman show: Alice versus Evil.

Searching in desperation for true solace after hearing over an emergency broadcast offering sanctuary – “free from infection” – somewhere called Arcadia, Alice is determined to find her friends and other humans unaffected by the outbreak. Encountering the usual Benetton rainbow of potential survivors, the group includes; a black male (Boris Kodjoe), an Asian male (Norman Yeung), a non-specific Latino or Hispanic male (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) – and female (Kacey Barnfield), a likely but ambiguous Jewish male (Kim Coates), an old and weak miscellaneous white man (Fulvio Cecere) and the stock standard smouldering all-American white military male (Wentworth Miller) and hard-ass sexy, all-American, white woman (Ali Larter) one has, through an economics of predictability, come to expect. In addition to the type of banter and causal narrative anticipated in such an action/thriller/horror/sci-fi there is an amusing byline of sarcastic jokes made at Hollywood’s expense (although ultimately these serve as self-accreditation) and a nod towards an indeed more interesting exploration of an almost Foucauldian nature as the humans lock themselves in a prison to keep the infected, braindead masses out.

Aesthetically and aurally the film is a treat: if you want to see and experience the money you paid for admission, the good news is that with this film, you undoubtedly will. A fantastically relentless soundtrack from tomandandy accompanies excessive bullet-time cinematography and some fairly decent, if at times synthetic looking, 3D. With the addition of a giant “Axeman” who steps in for a showdown with fatal femme duo Alice and Claire (Larter), the film retains the pace, feel and aesthetic of a computer game. Certainly not the end – indeed, just another level – Resident Evil: Afterlife is high-octane of the highest order – and it seems level four has been set to “disavow”.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (3D) is released in Australian cinemas on Thursday October 14th through Sony Pictures Releasing.

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