Let me start by getting something off my chest - I'm not a fan of Paul W.S. Anderson. I'll never forgive the man for making Goro (Mortal Kombat) sound like one of the monstrous baddies from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, and furthermore, I hope he burns in hell for tarnishing two of my favorite franchises with Alien vs. Predator. Although you might think I'd have his name blacklisted from my media library by now, you should probably give me a little credit. Admittedly, I really enjoyed Event Horizon, but my favorite Paul W.S. Anderson film for some time has been Resident Evil. I know, I know - It's an action/horror popcorn flick with little substance behind the mayhem on-screen... but so what? At the risk of completely making myself out to be a hypocrite (after all, I do tear movies apart for having little to no substance more often than not),there's absolutely nothing wrong with a flick that requires you to do little more than shut off your brain, and enjoy. I'm sure you know how it is - Sometimes you just don't want to watch a movie that's supposed to be thought-provoking or laced with heavy themes. On occasion, all I want to do is sit back, relax, and have some fun. Resident Evil fit that bill perfectly. With very little plot to go on, the film loosely based on the games by Capcom delivered lots of action, gore, and best of all, zombies. Lots and lots of zombies. Mindless? Absolutely. Fun? Oh hell yeah! I've been hooked ever since. I may not like Paul W.S. Anderson, but his 'all flash and no substance' style of filmmaking really worked well for that film, so I have no qualms about admitting I was actually excited when I learned he would be returning in a directorial capacity for Resident Evil - Afterlife. With many complaints about the decline in quality with Apocalypse and Extinction however, is Anderson's return too little, too late?
In an attempt to make good on her promise to find Albert Wesker and put him out of his misery, Alice brings the fight to his underground Tokyo base... and just as she promised, she's brought some 'friends' with her - An entire army of Alice clones. With the Tokyo base infiltrated to its very core, Wesker blows the base to kingdom come as he makes his escape in an aircraft. Anticipating this, the real Alice ambushes him, but is quickly overpowered and injected with a serum that neutralizes the T-virus. Without the T-virus active in her system, her superpowers and super-strength are nullified, leaving Alice to be merely human again. With Alice completely vulnerable to any attack Wesker can dish out, he moves in for the kill. Before he can finish the job though, the aircraft crashes and Alice emerges from the wreckage alone.
With nowhere left to turn, Alice spends months looking for Arcadia, a supposed safe haven located somewhere in Alaska. It's a long trek for Alice to make for sure, but her optimism for finding human life that hasn't been affected by the T-virus yet, keep her going. Unfortunately, that optimism is chipped away day by day, as she doesn't come across a single person, living or 'otherwise'. Fearing that she's the only human left alive on the planet, hope is looking like a distant memory after six months of no contact. Fate isn't finished with Alice yet however, as she's eventually reunited with her old friend Claire. Together, they take a small plane and continue the search for any and all survivors. Eventually in a deteriorated Los Angeles, they come across a small band of people that are holed up in a prison that's, of course, surrounded by zombies. After crash landing on the roof of the prison, Alice and Claire learn from the survivors that Arcadia is actually a cargo tanker that's been making its way down the coast to rescue the non-infected. Even better news, is that it's right outside of Los Angeles... they just need to find a way to get past the thousands of zombies that are in their way. A means of escape is offered up by a dangerous man the survivors have locked into a maximum security cell, but he'll only reveal his plan if they set him free. Yet again fate plays a role in things however, as the man locked up in that cell is actually Claire's brother. A decision has to be made quick though, as the zombies outside have found a way to infiltrate the prison walls. Not only that, but a tall monstrosity lurks outside with a hammer as big as a Buick, and he can't wait to get inside.
This film has received some mixed reviews, but for me personally, this is easily my second favorite entry in the series, coming second only to the original. I won't waste your time by dissecting every single aspect of the movie - The acting isn't stellar, the movement of the overall plot is minimal at best (except for the bookends of the film that deal with Albert Wesker), and character development is practically non-existent. Of course, if you've already seen any of the other Resident Evil films, this should come as no surprise. And to be honest with you, I wouldn't want any of these 'issues' to be tweaked or fixed. At this stage of the game, I don't walk into a Resident Evil flick expecting any of the above mentioned qualities to impress me, let alone be worthy of an Oscar nomination down the line. Just give me the eye candy - Good, messy fun, and I'll be a happy camper. So, other than these 'issues' that are the norm for this film franchise, there are only two beefs I really find worth mentioning. The first problem is the pace. Paul W.S. Anderson did a great job at making the original Resident Evil a non-stop thrill ride, and Afterlife begins in very much the same way. The opening scene of the Alice clone army invading Wesker's Tokyo base is phenomenal. It's one of the most ridiculously awesome high-octane scenes I've witnessed in a while, but as soon as the aircraft crashes... it's like the movie crashed with it. In the blink of an eye, the fast paced action that had the film screaming bullets out of the gate just stopped. For a while after that, Afterlife moves at a sluggish pace. It's not until sometime after Alice and Claire arrive at the maximum security prison that things begin to pick up again. Fortunately, the rest of the film continues to sprint with ease towards the finish line, but that block of 'meh' in the middle really made Afterlife feel like it was dragging for a while. I simply cannot believe that Alice could trek on for six months without coming across some sort of infected person, animal, or... something.
The second issue I have is the hammer toting monstrosity that comes out of nowhere. Don't get me wrong, this guy is completely bad-ass. He provides us with one of the coolest scenes in the entirety of Afterlife... but who is he? What is he? He just shows up outside of the prison walls, makes his way inside, and all hell breaks loose. Of course, this brings a lot of questions to mind. Most notably, if the T-virus is infecting humans and animals across the globe, then where did this guy come from? He could be some sort of scientific experiment from the Umbrella Corporation gone awry, but there's not a single detail in this film about his creation. Instead, we're just expected to swallow his arrival with little question, and why? Because again, Paul W.S. Anderson is a guy that loves making movies that are all flash, and no substance. I mean, that's all well and good, but only to a point. If you're going to introduce a monstrous muscle-dummy like this, then there needs to be some sort of explanation, even if that explanation only comes in the form of a single estblashing shot. Otherwise, it just comes off like a 'boss fight' from a video game, and before you say it, yes, I know that this is based on a video game. However, it's only loosely so, and this isn't a video game... it's a movie.
Despite these concerns, Resident Evil - Afterlife is still head and shoulders above Apocalypse and Extinction. When it comes to the stylized action that made the original such a blast, Anderson doesn't disappoint. Typical for the director, many scenes in the film are presented in slow motion while some rockin' guitar work from none other than Wes Borland (yes, of Limp Bizkit fame, that Wes Borland) bumps the kick-assery up a few notches. For some people, playing heavy music over slow-mo footage is considered to be a cheap trick, and that can certainly be true depending on the film. For a popcorn action/horror flick however? Bring it on. Whether it's Alice jumping off the roof of a building that's exploding, the hammer goon throwing his weapon of choice, sparks flying out of the end of a shotgun barrel, or even a simple shot of a girl standing in the middle of a sidewalk amidst a rainstorm, this is the most eye popping film in the series to date. This brings us back to the original question at the beginning of the review though - Is Anderson's return to the franchise in a directorial capacity too little, too late? Absolutely not. I have to admit, after watching Extinction, I was feeling like the series should just take a knee and call it quits. Now, I can't wait for another installment. I can't believe I'm actually saying this about Paul W.S. Anderson, but he actually revitalized this bitch! That being said though, if you're not a fan of the Resident Evil series already, this film isn't going to win you over. It's really just more of the same... it's just that it's done so much better. If you're a fan of the series like I am though, you should be pleasantly surprised.
Presented in 1080p using the AVC codec (2.35:1), Resident Evil - Afterlife looks pretty damn good. The grain structure is just as it appeared in theaters - It's there, but it's minimal. Don't let the sound of that scare you though, as there have been no digital 'enhancements' made here. This movie was shot for 3D, so grain was kept to a minimum by design. If you need further evidence that there's been no DNR or EE applied, the image is consistently sharp, sports immaculate detail, and full of depth. Colors leap off the screen whenever they're allowed to (predictably, much of the film takes on a bit of a bleak tone), color tones are mostly accurate, and the contrast is impressive most of the time. Whites never lead to details being lost via blooming, and that's fairly impressive considering there's a major action scene in a room that's totally white, and blacks are deep and inky. It's worth noting however that blacks can come off looking slightly murky at times though, but this, again, is how I remember these particular moments of the film looking in theaters. All in all, Afterlife is a damn fine looking disc, and nobody should walk away unsatisfied.
Congratulations. If you own this disc, you just found yourself a new demo-worthy title for your monstrous home theater speakers. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track on this disc is, without question, flawless. If you're properly calibrated, you're going to feel like you're right there with Alice and Co. as the film moves along. I don't think I've heard gunfire or explosions this sonically pleasing since Terminator - Salvation, and that's saying a lot. Sound effects are always loud and proud across all channels, and directional audio for said effects are executed with pinpoint precision and stunning depth. Dialogue is crystal clear no matter what's being fired or blown up on screen, but the best part? Zommmmmbies! I used to love popping the original Dawn of the Dead into my DVD, and eventually, Blu-ray player, so I could hear the masses of zombies in the shopping mall grunting and moaning all around me. I don't think any film since has been able to reproduce such a chilling sound as effectively... until now. To complement the entire mix, Wes Borland's guitar licks are just what the doctor ordered, and prove to be an integral part of the overall experience that Anderson was trying to provide.
Audio Commentary with Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, and Robert Kulzer - I was hoping to maybe come out of this track respecting Anderson somewhat more as a person, but, I guess a commentary track can't perform miracles now, can it? There's certainly some interesting tidbits that are worth hearing about, but the track as a whole isn't entirely informative. The best commentary tracks I've ever heard have come from the people that worked on a film behind-the-scenes actually being critical of their own work. This track however is very heavy on the compliments, and unless you have a phenomenal cast in the recording room with you, there's really no need for people to sit around and pat each other on the back for the great work that they've done. I want to hear the nitty-gritty, the problems... ya know, all the good stuff! This isn't the worst commentary track I've by far though either, but in order to obtain the few precious gems of info that are contained within this track, it's not worth listening to the whole thing in order hear them. Skip it.
Featurettes - Back Under the Umbrella - Directing Afterlife, Band of Survivors - Casting Afterlife, Undead Dimension - Resident Evil in 3D, Fighting Back - The Action of Afterlife, Vision of the Apocalypse - The Design of Afterlife, New Blood - The Undead of Afterlife, Pwning the Undead - Gamers of the Afterlife - These mini-featurettes, although numerous in number, only come to about 45 minutes cumulatively. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though - Instead of going back out to the extras menu every so often to start up yet another short supplement, we're given the option to view them as one large 'making of' feature. The name of each mini-featurette is pretty self explanatory, so taking a browse through those should give you the gist of all the goods this package has to offer. Much like the commentary track, this still isn't as in-depth as I would have liked, but given the choice between the two, I'd much rather sit down and watch these featurettes again.
Undead Vision - Picture-in-Picture - Now this is more like it! This picture-in-picture track has everything - Behind-the-scenes footage, early artwork for the film, animatics, and interviews from the cast and crew that get right to business. This isn't just a reworked version of the featurettes either, as there's actually a bunch of footage available here that isn't available anywhere else on the disc. This is the best offering on the disc by far, but it still feels kind of incomplete, and a little more care could have been put into making this a little more enjoyable.
Deleted/Extended Scenes - The film is tightly cut as it is, and considering it's a popcorn action flick, that's the way it should be. These deleted and extended scenes only would have served to unnecessarily drag the film out. As is, they're not even really entertaining as omissions. Another skip.
Outtakes - I was expecting the outtakes on this release to be fairly lame (I don't know, the tone of the Resident Evil films just make it hard for me to imagine everyone having a laugh on set), but they're actually quite entertaining. Make sure not to this supplement for some good laughs!
Sneak Peek of Resident Evil - Damnation - This is only about a minute long, and it works alright as a promotional piece but, really offers nothing of substance to the supplemental package on this disc as a whole.
Also included is the Sony trivia supplement, MovieIQ.
Resident Evil - Afterlife may lack the things that make a movie... well, a movie. Character development, plot advancement, and acting take a back seat to Paul W.S. Anderson's vision. Fortunately, Anderson knows how to spice up the visuals enough to make his audience care less about such (non) trivial things. The bottom line is this - If I want a mainstream flick that's going to make me think about everything that happens, I'll grab Inception off the shelf. If I want a movie that's going to deliver eye-popping action in slow motion with head banging guitars playing over it, I'm grabbing Resident Evil - Afterlife. As said in the review, this installment comes as a close second to being my favorite flick in the franchise to date. Anderson has successfully made this reviewer excited to see more out of the series in the future, but if you haven't liked the franchise thus far, this latest entry certainly won't be changing your mind. As far as the disc is concerned, the supplemental package is rather 'meh', but superb video and reference audio earn this release the right to be highly recommended... as long as you don't mind mindless popcorn action/horror flicks! Trust me. Give this one a whirl and just try not to have fun.