3-D films have been around since the 1950s, but such films were expensive novelties. The technology for producing 3-D films was not advanced enough for mainstream practicality. Their appeal has only become big business in the past few decades, when several IMAX features and most recently, Avatar, set new standards for the format in both filming technology and artistic vision.
This newfound popularity has led to a torrent of creation -— several genres in the past decade. For the most part, they have been widely successful at the box office. Resident Evil: Afterlife is among the films riding the revenue-generating wave created by its 3-D predecessors.
Afterlife is the fourth film in the series of video game-inspired apocalyptic films where flesh-eating zombies and mutated monsters spread a plague known as the T-virus — a lab-created scourge designed to create super-soldiers, but instead has wiped out modern civilization around the world.
Fighting for humanity throughout the franchise is the one-woman powerhouse, Alice (Milla Jovovich). She represents the only human to have successfully processed the T-virus into her DNA without horrible side effects; thus, she is tremendously powerful. She is hell-bent on bringing down the Umbrella Corporation, the genocidal super-organization responsible for releasing the virus and causing her current, less-than-human condition.
Afterlife begins with the infiltration of the Umbrella Corporation’s underground laboratory in Japan. Alice, with the help of several of her clones, chases the main Umbrella bad guy, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), as he attempts to escape via an armored Osprey-like aircraft. Alice, a stowaway onboard the aircraft, encounters Wesker, loses her superpowers and the aircraft crashes.
The aforementioned scene is nonstop action as slow motion, Matrix-style “bullet time” and a tremendous amount of computer-generated graphics depicts a lot of Umbrella security personnel deaths. 3-D is particularly effective in this opening scene and it is definitely the most exciting scene in the film.
After the destruction of the Umbrella Lab, Alice begins searching for a safe zone at a location in Alaska known as Arcadia. Instead of finding Arcadia, she runs into Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), a protagonist from previous films who strangely, has no memory of her past. The two women travel to Los Angeles where they find a group of survivors holed up in a prison. The survivors include film producer Bennett (Kim Coates), athlete and model Luther West (Boris Kodjoe), actress Crystal (Kacey Barnfield) and a few others.
After several escape options are exhausted, a suspicious prisoner, Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller), is released and aids them in their escape. Late in the film, K-Mart (Spencer Locke) makes a cameo appearance and helps save the day.
Being a huge fan of zombie movies and having followed Resident Evil video games and films, I was anxious to see Afterlife, but I was a little disappointed. With the exception of one boss-like zombie and a new take on the “Cerberus” (Doberman Pinscher zombie dog), there really aren’t any new monsters. The structure of the film is also unoriginal — with people getting stuck somewhere, getting chased by zombies, and where, ultimately, a few are lost before the end.
Cost is also a factor. I saw the premium-priced film in a theater that featured premium seating — one ticket cost me $14. I considered stopping to buy a soda and popcorn, but realized I had already dumped enough money into my cinematic experience. If you’re not a serious fan of the franchise, you might want to wait for this one to come to video.