September 16, 2010

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Resident Evil: Afterlife (R)
The world might have ended but the story of Alice and the Umbrella Corporation continues in Resident Evil: Afterlife, a movie that, if youíre willing to shell out a few extra bucks, gives you zombie killing action in 3-D.

Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still after the corporation that created the T-virus that turned most of the planetís inhabitants into angry, mutant zombies and left the few survivors scrambling to find some kind of safe haven. She has powers ó super speed, super strength, air-bending ó thanks to a version of the virus that turned her into not a zombie but a superhuman. At some point ó the last movie I think ó she was also cloned, so when this movie opens, scores of Alices are raiding the Tokyo Umbrella Corporation. The head bad guy, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), manages to escape in an aircraft with the real Alice who, thanks to a shot of McGuffin vaccine or something, is made regular-human again. This stops her not at all, and after she gets free of Wesker, she heads to Alaska to meet up with some people from the last movie including Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). Along the way, Alice hooks up with a new band of survivors, the most notable of whom is Chris, notable primarily because heís played by the dishy Wentworth Miller of Prison Break fame.

As I said, Alice has lost the powers given to her in movie, letís say, two but retains the kick-assery sheís possessed since the beginning. And this movie ends with what doesnít even feel like an open-ending ó itís more like the break you get in a show right before a commercial. So itís likely that there will be a part five.

And Iím fine with that.

While itís completely possible that my standards are lower than they once were ó that I even have standards after a summer that featured Sex and the City 2 and Marmaduke is debatable ó I think this series might be one rare example of a cheese-ball action junk food series that has actually improved with sequels. I donít think I saw the first Resident Evil and I didnít appear to have had a very high opinion of the second movie. But the third movie was more kicky-punchy-fighty fun and, while Iím not nominating it for any Oscars, Resident Evil: Afterlife was downright watchable. Even the 3-D effects werenít so bad (not so good either, so I think you can safely save that extra $5 or so and just see the 2-D version).

I canít believe Iím about to defend the plot of Resident Evil: Afterlife but even the plot of Resident Evil: Afterlife, just like that of Resident Evil: Extinction, works because itís streamlined. Thereís people vs. zombies and Our People vs. Umbrella Corporation. The story gives you just enough conspiracy theory and apocalyptic detail to make you think youíre watching something with some layers and otherwise itís all nifty escapes, gory zombies and deft fights.

Resident Evil: Afterlife might represent a great leveling of movies, with the comic book-type movies getting worse and B-movies like this getting better. I donít know how I feel about it either but, heck, letís take our kick-butt super-heroines where we can get them. B-

Rated R for sequences of strong violence and language. Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, Resident Evil: Afterlife is an hour and 36 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Sony Pictures.