I've said something like this in my review of the first Resident Evil, but the Resident Evil franchise is like a girlfriend I know is bad for me, but I can't quite get rid of. I dumped her in 2007, but here we are in 2010, and I get back together with her immediately. I'm even excited that this time it could really work. It's been almost 10 years, right? This has got to be the one that makes all that disappointment worth it, right?
Wrong. Sort of.
Reviewing Afterlife takes two approaches in my view: one, there's the zombie movie fan approach, and the other is a action movie fan approach. If you're the latter, you likely won't mind Afterlife, but the zombie fan is what propels me, and frankly, writer/director/producer Paul W.S. Anderson doesn't care about me anymore, if he ever really cared what zombies meant to Resident Evil.
Oh, they are zombies. They're there. They exist. They just aren't important. What is important is Alice's (Milla Jovovich) fight against the Umbrella Corporation, which, several years in, has left the world ravaged and almost completely devoid of people, yet Umbrella still wants to find all remaining survivors and experiment on them for purposes that are completely unknown. What is Umbrella's end game? They've already destroyed humanity! What other nefarious plot can Umbrella achieve now? What are their experiments for if almost everyone is already undead? Anderson doesn't have much of an answer for Umbrella's twisted plot other than to dress Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker, have him speak in deep, English-y accented voice, and surround him with dogs.
Then there's Alice and her many clones. As promised at the end of Extinction, Alice goes after the Umbrella Corporation in Tokyo, and, in the process, loses her "powers" that enabled her previously to fill the sky with fire and uses telekinesis to destroy anything in her path. Don't worry, if her power loss is a concern for you, there's almost no difference between Alice with powers and Alice without.
In face, I would argue Anderson goes out of his way to prove that the super power-less Alice is still capable of amazing feats. This is accomplished, oddly enough, by tearing a page from some of the most famous sequences in action movie history. Some might call this a "homage". Others would call it laziness. Without giving away too much, there is an "homage" to Escape from New York. There is the obvious "homage" to Die Hard (if you've seen some of the clips, you know what I mean). Finally, there is a persistent tip of the hat to The Matrix. Again, action movies, not zombie movies.
The one section of the movie dedicated to zombies, in fact, had so much potential for zombie awesomeness, but was used for the battle with the game character of The Executioner, which, while the action was good, the character was given no introduction and the thousands of zombies surrounding the building were left simply to trim down the number of hastily-introduced survivors, often off-camera. In fact, Anderson's nods to the game have the same pastiche quality as the movie's "homages."
The whole movie feels transitory, and for a reason. Anderson seems bent on transitioning the franchise from one that had no choice but to include zombies, to one that likely won't have to include them ever again. Again, if you like action movies - particularly ones filmed in 3-D with an obsession with slow-motion, rain, and slow-motion rain - then Afterlife is your kind of movie. And considering Anderson ends Afterlife with a clear set-up for another Resident Evil, you'll get your chance to enjoy another in a couple years.
Let's hope Anderson will get it right then.