A good zombie franchise gone boringly bad

Posted: September 11, 2010

It's hard not to fall in love with Alice, the stunning heroine played by Ukrainian-born supermodel-turned-actress Milla Jovovich in the video-game-spawned Resident Evil zombie action film franchise.

Sadly, it's impossible to feel the same for the fourth entry in the series, Resident Evil: Afterlife, despite its billion-dollar look and its phantasmagoric 3D effects.

Alice was beguiling in the 2002 opening flick, which had the winsome beauty karate-kick, shoot, stab, hack, and axe her way through hordes of drooling, human-flesh-eating zombies - all while dressed in a white cocktail number barely the size of a dinner napkin.

There's never been much of a story: An evil, biological-weapons-manufacturing multinational named the Umbrella Corp. - a cross between Halliburton, the Wistar Institute, and Blackwater - turns the planet's population into zombies by accidentally releasing a virus. (Oops!)

Alice and various groups of survivors have been fighting the Umbrella - you know, The Man - ever since. The battle became interesting when Alice was injected with the virus and became a super-duper superheroine, then began cloning herself!

Resident Evil: Afterlife opens with a breathtaking, spectacularly orchestrated sequence in which Alice and her army of Alices storm Umbrella's Tokyo headquarters. It's a delightful, lightning-fast action sequence that captures the video-game experience.

The rest is naught but a sad slide into mediocrity.

Director - and Jovovich husband - Paul W.S. Anderson breaks our hearts first by killing off all the Alice clones, then strips Alice of all her cool, superhuman powers. (Speaking of stripping, Alice remains conspicuously clothed throughout the flick.)

The paint-by-numbers plot has Alice find a new group of survivors holed up in a prison in Los Angeles. (Yes, we're shown a tattered, burnt-out "Hollywood" sign.)

Inevitably, Alice's new pals die one by one, and the film ends with a cliffhanger.

Resident Evil: Afterlife lacks the humanity - interesting characters, funny one-liners - that made its predecessors enjoyable B-movies. All we have here are senseless, and ultimately boring, killings.

Worst of all, in Shawn Roberts the film has one of the most uncharismatic, unmemorable archvillains in history.

Time was, I'd follow Alice to the corners of the world.

Alas, not anymore.


Resident Evil: Afterlife * (out of four stars)

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. With Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts. Distributed by Screen Gems.

Running time: 1 hour, 37 mins

Parent's guide: R (extreme violence, gore, profanity, mature themes, zombies)

Playing at: area theaters


Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com

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