Resident Evil: Afterlife (Biohazard IV in Japan) will almost certainly be critically panned, as if inducing a feeling of euphoria in viewers is less worthy than existential despair. If you like movies where the main characters walk away from explosions without looking behind them, you’ll love this.
While there are a number of jump scenes (the cheapest kind of scare and yet one that gets me easily), this is more of an action movie. It’s less about zombies and more about the evil Umbrella Corporation who just won’t stop making the virus that makes them. This is a welcome relief — zombies are becoming overplayed right now thanks to the glut of available media and people who think having a zombie escape plan for their city makes them quirky and interesting.
As promised in the previous installment, Resident Evil 4 begins in Tokyo where Alice (Milla Jovovich) is trying to destroy Umbrella Corporation’s headquarters. It’s not too difficult as she has superpowers and a clone army at her disposal. This makes for stunning fight scenes as the clones shoot, abseil, and explode things with impunity. When they die, they’re replaced. It’s easy to wonder how they can maintain tension during the film if it’s this simple, but Umbrella’s CEO injects Alice with a special serum to make her human again.
The setting rapidly switches to Alaska, where there’s said to be a virus-free colony called Arcadia. Alice’s plane flies above beautiful icy landscapes to the coordinates she’s been told, and finds a field of abandoned aircraft and Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). Claire has lost her memory due to an implant injecting drugs into her bloodstream and she doesn’t remember Alice at first, or what happened.
Together, they fly down the west coast of America until they come to Los Angeles. The detail on the burned out skyscrapers is amazing. In the center, surrounded by zombies, is a prison with the words “help us” written on the roof.
Those trapped in the prison tell her Arcadia isn’t a settlement, but refers to a ship which is now anchored within sight of the prison. Alice and Claire have to figure how to get everyone past the zombies and to the safety of the Arcadia. To complicate matters, an evil being called The Executioner is following them. Who he is or what he’s doing is never explained within the script — you’re expected to have either played the games or have access to Google. There are also zombies bursting up through the sewers and… Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller).
The camerawork is an experimental mishmash of styles which generally work. The least impressive include things like floating a giant, hyper-detailed bullet past the camera and random negative filters during a scene where a plane crashes. But when it works, it really works. One of the most memorable occurs when the camera zooms in on Tokyo in a spiral, creating a dizzying feeling of falling. I hope you like speed ramping too.
The 3D is the highlight. While the previously mentioned CG bullet is over-the-top, most of the fight scenes are well thought out, with great care taken to have interesting things flying into the camera or other moments which benefit from added depth perception.
At one point in the movie, Luther (Boris Kodjoe) introduces Alice to the prison showers and you know they’re gonna feature in a scene sooner or later. The movie eschews the most obvious one and goes for the second — a fight scene where The Executioner’s axe destroys the shower piping so each unit shoots 3D water upwards and onto Alice and Claire as they take him down in the artificial rain.
Overall, I loved this movie. The 3D effects which prompted me to see it in the first place are used to great effect.
Japanese audiences may be disappointed, however. The current poster campaign features Mika Nakashima, a Japanese pop singer and actress, with the tagline “Patient Zero: the girl who’ll attack Shibuya.” She certainly does, during the opening credits, and with no dialogue. It lasts just a few minutes.