I say it with almost every review of this series, so why stop now? I see every one of these in theater, regardless of knowing I’m not going to love it. I’ve never played any of the games all the way through, but I do know about a handful of the characters and the mythos. Not like it matters, since the movies are hardly anything like the games. Every film has made more money than the last while getting worse than the last (though, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, with Paul W.S. Anderson back in the director’s chair, Afterlife was kind of a step up fromExtinction). Anderson returns again for this one, but will this be yet another step up?
The film picks up exactly where Afterlife left off. Alice (Milla Jovovich) has supposedly killed Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and saved Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), K-Mart (Spencer Locke), and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) from the Arcadia ship. But then a mind-controlled Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) shows up to attack with Umbrella troops. She’s blown into the water and wakes up in a Russian Umbrella facility that tests real-life scenarios in fake re-creations of major cities (and some suburbs) with thousands of clones and some zombies and whatnot. But now Wesker is apparently alive, and he and his right-hand lady Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), who have defected from Umbrella, want to get her out of that facility and to safety so she can help them retake the planet before humans become completely extinct. They send in a retraction team including Leon S. Kennedy (Johann Urb), Barry Burton (Kevin Durand), and Luther West (Boris Kodjoe), whom she met in the previous film. But things get a little more complicated when they run into Becky (Aryana Engineer), a young girl who believes Alice is her mother. And due to the whole clone situation, we also get to see Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), One (Colin Salmon), and Carlos (Oded Fehr) again.
I’ll be honest, of all the sequels, this film easily has the coolest concept and story. Granted, it’s basically a rehash of the first two films (and there are a lot of connections to both of them). The return of One and Rain hark back to the original film, while Jill takes us back to the second. There’s also the return of the Red Queen, which brings us back to the first film, and the idea they need to get out of an underground facility. But they’re traveling through “cities” and need to escape before a bomb goes off, much like the second film. Despite rehashing old ideas, it worked, because this is easily the best film since the first one. Though there are still plenty of problems with it that stop it from being as good as the first, and put it closer to the quality of the second.
The story, despite being better and more interesting than others in the series, is very rushed. It felt like the film had just started by the time it was over. I suppose it’s a good thing I wanted more, though maybe not so much since I wanted more due to it being lacking. Oh yeah, and Claire, Chris, and K-Mart are nowhere to be found in this movie. I think Claire and Chris are mentioned once (K-Mart never), and it’s only when Alice asks where they are, to which I don’t believe she gets a response. In essence, this and the last film felt like Anderson is slowly trying to naturally retcon the series… and I would think that’s the case… if it weren’t for how this movie ends, which seems to retcon a previous retcon. But I won’t get into that.
A lot of the issues I had here I also had with Afterlife. For instance, this film has some fantastic action sequences, particularly in the first half of the movie. The entire bike chain/gun fight zombie attack sequence was pretty awesome. But there is just way too much slo-mo in this movie. I think if you cut out half the slow motion in this film, we’d lose 30 minutes of the movie. There were a couple scenes it was used well, but on the whole, it felt like 75% of the movie was in slo-mo. There were also some incredibly ridiculous moments where I felt somebody off to the side needed to press an “Easy” Button, because I kept thinking “Well that was easy.” There’s one particular moment in the climax where Alice is fighting Jill and she does something you knew was going to happen the whole time… but it’s done with such ease that the people sitting next to me actually said “why didn’t she do that hours ago?” Just way too many cop-out, easy defeats in this film for my liking for what are essentially “boss battles.” There were also a ton of really illogical, almost physics-defying situations in some action sequences. And I don’t mean like kung-fu kind of things, but like “cars don’t work that way” or “bullets don’t work that way” or “bodies don’t work that way” kind of situations.
Anyway, as I said earlier, I’ve never really played through the games, but I know enough to know what fans will be pissed about and what fans will let slide. I think, for instance, they might let Barry’s portrayal by Kevin Durand slide. It was average enough. And Li Bingbing was freakin’ hot in this movie. Ada Wong doesn’t do a whole lot, and she has some nice action scenes, but damn was she nice to watch. The biggest blunder here is Leon. Holy Hell was that a disaster of a character adaptation. They got a guy who looks very little like the character, made his hair look freakin’ stupid (because that style doesn’t fit that actor’s face), and then make him one of the least interesting characters in the movie. Leon has pretty much become the face of the games. He’s a badass. And here… he was lame background fodder that couldn’t even get the look right, much less the personality. I’m also relatively sure they don’t know what Las Plagas are (the whole Moscow/Las Plagas attack sequence is probably the worst scene in the film).
The acting is your typical Resident Evil fare. Shawn Roberts’ Wesker is campy as hell, and fun for being so. Sienna Guillory can’t act her way out of a paper bag (she isawful). I wish Kevin Durand had been given more, because he had potential to be a fun, snarky character. Milla Jovovich is the same as in every other movie. To be honest? This movie belonged to Michelle Rodriguez. She stole almost every scene she was in. And she was basically playing two roles here–a good guy and a bad guy. And the good guy character was so against her type that it was actually refreshing and really funny (and I’m sure purposefully done as such for that reason). She had some good lines and is really entertaining. I’m glad they brought her back, because she really was the best thing in this movie. Though the little girl, Aryana Engineer (coolest name ever) was actually a pretty good little child actor, especially for this series.
One more thing I want to mention before wrapping this up. The film starts out really solid. We start with a slow motion sequence being played in reverse of the attack on the Arcadia during the opening credits. It’s done very well and looks really cool. But then that ends and we cut to what is apparently a pre-requisite for every movie in this series: the Alice Recap. I wonder if Milla is getting tired of giving the same damn speech in every film, just slightly altered to include new events from the previous film? And it goes on for about 5 minutes this time before cutting back to the opening sequence, but playing it forward this time (and shortened, thankfully) before opening up in the suburbia sequence shown in the trailers. So yeah, the first five minutes are really cool. The five or so that follow are very been-there-done-that (literally). And then it goes back to being decent again, at least for a little while.
This is a very, very flawed movie… but I still actually liked it. There is a lot about this movie that doesn’t make sense. Plot and logic holes galore. And there’s too much slo-mo. But I still really liked the idea behind the story, and some of the action was pretty dang cool. And Michelle Rodriguez was great. If you’re a fan of the series, I don’t think this one will disappoint too much (unless you’re a major Leon S. Kennedy fan). But if you’re not a fan of the series, this one won’t convert you. Would have liked more, but still pleasantly surprised. (The following score is more of a mix of entertainment and quality with a heavy preference to entertainment… as the quality itself is worth much less.)
(P.S. The 3D actually wasn’t that bad. There were some sequences when it was actually used well. Not the greatest 3D film ever, but better than most these days.)