Monday, 17 December 2012

Resident Evil: Afterlife

2010, US / Germany / France, Directed by Paul W S Anderson
Colour, Running Time: 97 minutes
Review Source: Blu-ray, Region B, Sony; Video: 2.39:1 1080p 24fps 3D, Audio: DTS HD MA

Infilitrating a huge scientific laboratory, Alice massacres her way through to locate Wesker, one of the people at the top of the nefarious Umbrella Corporation.  The ensuing battle results in a mass of bodies and the nuclear destruction of place, just before she hitches on an escaping jet containing Wesker.  Her assassination attempt fails, however, and in the brief struggle she is injected with a cell 'normalisation' serum by the now-superhuman Wesker.  The jet crashes (as Wesker rather foolishly takes his attention away from the non-automated controls to beat up Alice!) as they conclude their combat and Alice is left to roam a barren landscape in search of uninfected humans and a final solution to the organisation responsible for the worldwide mess.  Eventually locating a small aeroplane, along with an unwilling partner, she sets off on an airbound mission in search of a reportedly safe 'town' called Arcadia.  Closing in on her objective she sees a group of people stranded atop a building surrounded by infected, and particularly hungry, crowds.  Crash landing the plane on top of the building Alice and the group have to find a way off the place in order to reach Arcadia, which they can see via binoculars just a few miles away.
Crossing back and forth over genre borders, Afterlife is as much a superhero action movie as it is zombie horror.  The plot outline above could also be summarised as 'Alice and a group of survivors have to find a way from point A to point B in the hope of discovering safety', and the sequences prior to Alice's arrival on top of the building may have formed the opening set up of an RE console game, just before your take control of Alice to find a way out of the place.  But that's really the tradition of this series.  Emotionally as empty as anything the Resident Evil cinematic cycle has to offer, the film is nevertheless a slickly moving pounder of the senses,becoming a constant stimulus for eyesight and ears as it shows off cutting edge film-making technology and highly tuned technical/artistic flair.  It could at many points topple into the category of 'pop/rock video' if not careful but somehow manages to carry its slim plot and lack of emotional enagegment on its visual achievments and sensory pummelling.  Somewhat inspired - consiously or otherwise - by The Matrix, Wesker is modelled embarrassingly closely on the principal 'Agent' of that film, actor Shawn Roberts doing his utmost to out-Hugo Mr Weaving, while elsewhere flo-mo has been perfected and Alice drifts almost serenely through showers of bullets with near balletic poetry.  In fact, slow motion is used so much during the meticulously designed action sequences the film would probably lose ten minutes or so if everything had been played at normal speed!  Strikingly designed Milla Jovovich appears to be quite comfortable in the role of Alice, while everyone else (including the pretty hot Ali Larter from House on Haunted Hill, the first couple of Final Destination films, and Resident Evil: Extinction) function as they should, probably cognizant of the fact that they are never going to be the stars of the show in any Resident Evil film... Speaking of the stars of the show (aside from Alice), the Dead are there in their millions, as is to be expected, and the gore is quite plentiful, though largely of the digital variety as far as I can tell (and all the less offensive for it unfortunately).  By its conclusion you will be aware that this would not fail to lead up to another sequel, which you may actually be tempted to watch, Afterlife essentially being the guilty pleasure that it can be if you switch off your powers of reason.

Complementing the astute visual imaginations of the film-makers themselves, Afterlife was shot in 3D, specifically using the same PACE Fusion cameras that made the equally emotionally void Avatar so powerful an impact upon the eyes.  The Blu-ray is very sharp and near flawless throughout, with a vast palette of colours and plenty of opportunity to marvel at what you're looking at, whether there's anything else to engage the brain or not (thankfully Anderson avoids the use of annoying shaky cam in this film, something that would probably result in any 3D film becoming unwatchable).  The world is enveloping, compounded by the pounding rock soundtrack along with gunfire, explosions, and anything else the DTS HD track wants to throw at you from varying directions.  The BD can be watched in either 3D or 2D so this is the disc to get (rather than the standard 2D Blu-ray), because even if you don't own 3D viewing equipment yet, you should - and when you do you're gonna wanna watch this on it!  A moderately enjoyable film + a stunning AV presentation = a thoroughly fun experience.

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