After a one-woman assault on the Umbrella Corporation's fortress, Alice's (Mila Jovovich) superhuman abilities are neutralized. Now, fleeing the Undead masses created by the T-virus, Alice reunites with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and her brother, Chris (Wentworth Miller). Together they take refuge with other survivors in an abandoned prison, where a savage zombie mob stands between them and the safety of "Arcadia." Escaping these bloodthirsty mutants will take an arsenal. But facing off with Albert Wesker and the Umbrella Corporation will take the fight for survival to a new level of danger.
I have no problem admitting that I love the 'Resident Evil' film franchise, despite its flaws in every entry. It's odd, really, since I literally wanted to break the game discs in half every time I'd try to play them, but I'm not one of those fans who holds the movies up against the games and years worth of expectations. I see this series as a cutting edge sci-fi horror series, featuring my favorite horror creature, the undead, reanimated humans who now hunger for flesh. With the bipolar, yet still scary (to this day it gives me the creeps), claustrophobic original standing as the high note, a horrid misfire of a sequel with the least intimidating villain ever (seriously, Nemesis looks like a human-pug hybrid), a fun third entry that ended on such a bad note that I wrote the live action series off as being unrecoverable, and a CGI survival tale set early on in the outbreak, tying in some of the more popular video game characters, the 'Resident Evil' film franchise surely could have been retired. It would have been somewhat graceful, considering the difficulties that would surely arise due to the finale of 'Extinction,' where the special effects budget to make the twist believable in future volumes would have cost as much as the original did in its entirety.
I won't say that 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' pulled off the impossible and made a bad situation good...because it didn't. It is a 97 minute live action video game, complete with gimmicky effects, too many moments that felt like boss battles, and an ending that not even a mother could love, as it would rather blow the doors off for another inevitable sequel, rather than offer any sort of hope. By the time the twists and turns are over, viewers may leave wondering why this film blew its load too early, gave us the worst villain in the series, and forgot its own plot devices in lieu of convenience for the sake of some pretty sweet looking, though utterly unbelievable, special effects shots.
Four years after the Umbrella Corporation "accidentally" "unleashed" its deadly T-Virus on the world, creating a host of zombie-like creatures that soon overran any vestige of humanity, Alice (also known as Project Alice, or Milla Jovovich) and her *spoilers* clone army invade the underground Tokyo Umbrella headquarters, taking the fight to the company that destroyed the world, and is living without a care for its actions. Her target? Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), a fellow human injected with the T-Virus in order to become superhuman.
Soon after, Alice begins to search for signs of life, somewhere, anywhere, hoping that the rumored safe haven known as Arcadia is as safe and infection free as the emergency radio waves declare it to be. What she finds instead is a desperate group of souls who have locked themselves into a Los Angeles prison, surrounded by zombies, that are beginning to tunnel their way under those amazingly thick walls. With Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and the mysterious Chris (Wentworth Miller) in tow, Alice is seeking to regain her humanity by ending the biggest threat to her kind.
'Resident Evil: Afterlife' isn't so much a bad film as it is one that requires brains to be turned off in order for any enjoyment to take place. It's a film that focuses so much on style above substance that it lacks the ability to bridge larger action sequences together, creating an experience that would have made for an amazing video game, but still a disappointing movie experience.
Without Jovovich, there would be no 'Resident Evil' film series, so it's nice to see the underrated female action star again kicking zombie ass and taking it to the man. However, it's lame that, after throwing her kit off so casually in the first few films, Alice is constantly surrounded by more clothes than the prison is by zombies. And let's just say that prison has itself an entire city's worth of zombies keeping it surrounded. We get teased with the allure of a shower scene, but it's quickly thrown away for an action sequence before we even get that nice, needed break from the constant negativity. Since when was this film series so above the simple exploitation of nudity? It's so full of random kills (that focus more on originality than practicality) that demand the most dedicated suspension of belief, and sequences that continue to offer that last ditch escape route, that I just found the sudden chastity to be a bit of a turn off, if you'd appreciate that irony.
The opening sequence in Japan had potential, but it's botched, as the overly-'Matrix'-y battle sequences (and they get even more 'Matrix'-y in the final battle, never you worry) with the army of fodder Alices failing to deliver any sense of connection to the character. We get so few words out of the head of the facility, our main baddie Wesker, that it just seems tacked on so the rest of the film has some sense of continuity with the segment. Worse yet, we see Alice have her superhuman powers stripped of her, yet later on in the film, she still has that amazing speed to easily dodge and weave her way through hordes and hordes of flesh eaters that have been chomping at the bit for months, if not years. She also has some damn amazing stamina, fighting off some of the bigger nasties she's had to face. Odd.
The prison sequence has to be the highlight of 'Afterlife,' despite its heavy flaws. Sure, the new survivors are annoying, and are most certainly just there so we can have some entertaining deaths, but we finally get to see the humans stay in place to try to fight, as 'Extinction' featured roving bands that failed to hit home. Being trapped in prison, with the danger on the outside, rather than the inside? That's one of the best ideas this series has had yet. Still, we get a botched handling in the way we meet the Chris character, and we get too little human drama, despite the way we are kept on our toes due to the increasing threat, particularly due to the appearance of the Axeman (referred to in the supplements as Executioner), a horrible mutant giant with a burlap sack covered head and the Biggest. Axe. Ever. That fight sequence has to be the pinnacle of the film, and yet, the film has a ton of time left. Uh oh. Arcadia. To progress without spoiling the plot points to the film is impossible, but needless to say, the final act of the film is the most heinously silly, over-the-top, stupid as sin mishmash of action sequences, trying to capture the great mysterious feeling of the opening of the Hive in the first film, and delivering foes that just don't give us reason to root for or against anyone. Everything feels like a foregone conclusion. There's no tension. The film is over, yet it drags on, pretending it still has something to show us.
Claire is handled as poorly as Chris, with the all-too-cliche convenient "amnesia" effects that wear off right when they need to, and Larter is far removed from the days when she was an entertaining, believable actress. She's just window dressing in this film, anyways, let's be frank. Everyone is window dressing in this film where Alice, and only Alice, is worth paying attention to. This is a film that has far too many "comin' at ya!" moments intended to take advantage of the 3D it was filmed with (which was, by far, the biggest hype this film had coming for it, as the trailer advertised its use of the 'Avatar' camera system), to not be distracting and silly in 2D. It features instrumental music that's far from relevant or even remembered (A Perfect Circle? Isn't that side group about as forgotten as Zwan these days?!?), and cookie cutter cardboard cut out characters that fail to do anything but take up valuable screen time. This isn't the worst zombie film, or video game film. It's not even close. But it is still far removed from the original, too convoluted for its own sake, and it is only getting messier by the minute. If you haven't been keeping track with this series, this is not the one to start with, as it requires extensive knowledge of the previous entries to be even a quarter of the way coherent. It's just a big dumb compilation of big dumb action sequences. Keep an eye out for an early Biohazard reference, that being the name of the game series in Japan.
It still puts garbage like 'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' to shame, though.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for an UltraViolet Digital Copy and glossy slipcover. At the moment, we are unable to verify the size of the content, but the dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-elite keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive main menu that changes screens when switching between the usual options while music plays in the background.
The fight for humanity's survival persists on Ultra HD Blu-ray with a fine-looking and strong HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10, offering some improvements offset by a few lesser ones.
To start with, the 4K presentation crash lands with slightly better resolution and clarity, from the tiny holes and water stains on the prison's concrete walls to the rust on Axeman's weapon and the bloody grime all over his body. Speaking of which, the fabric and fine threading in the creature's burlap sack mask is much better defined while Alice's outfit reveals more details in the leather belts strapped around her body. Filmed on digital HD cameras, viewers can make out the tiny pores and wrinkles in the face of the cast. However, facial complexions look pale and flushed, making everyone appear sickly, which may or may not be intentional. There are also several instances of aliasing, some more glaring than others, along the sharpest edges. On top of that, much of the CG work looks more cartoony here than on the BD.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the 2160p video is markedly brighter and more vibrant than its predecessor, showing intensely brilliant whites throughout, most noticeably when flashlights are turned on and during the climactic battle aboard the Arcadia. However, contrast tends to run hot in many areas, ruining a bit of the cleanly defined lines and causing mild posterization. While black levels are richer and fuller with excellent gradational differences between various shades, some of the deepest shadows and darkest portions of the frame occasionally obscure the finer details. The palette is about on par with its HD counterpart, though reds and blues really standout better here, and secondary hues are, frankly, lackluster. On the other hand, the deliberate photography didn't really come with a wide array of colors.
All in all, the UHD version of the third 'Resident Evil' sequel is a small improvement over the BD, but not by a great deal.
Unlike the video, Alice and friends come equipped with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that offers a surprisingly notable, reference-quality upgrade to an already outstanding DTS-HD MA version.
The film erupts with a thunderous, passionate techno tune that immediately fills the entire screen, generating an engagingly wide and broad soundstage. Imaging is dynamic and extensive, maintaining outstanding clarity and distinction even during the loudest, craziest segments. Background activity and a variety of noises move off-screen with convincing effectiveness, keeping things continuously busy and bustling while giving the movie an expansive, spacious presence. Much of that racket and music spreads into the front heights, elevating the excitement into a half-dome wall of sound. Amid the mayhem, dialogue remains crystal clear and well-prioritized while the low-end is aggressively powerful and responsive.
Rear activity is equally exciting, employing the surrounds and overheads fairly often and bursting forth with enthusiasm. Of course, the action-packed sequences best exemplify the design's quality, exploding with a consistent wave of discrete effects, superb directionality and flawless panning. Planes fly overhead from the front to back and vice versa, the voracious guttural grunts of the dead echo everywhere, and the racket of the high-tech, computerized gadgets aboard Arcadia fills the entire room. The debris from explosions and the metallic dings from Alice's shotguns ricochet all around with stunning clarity. The best moment demo-worthy scene easily goes to Alice and Claire's battle against the Axeman in the prison shower where the water from the burst pipes rains down, creating an immersive 360° dome-like soundfield with exhilarating realism. Quieter moments also arrive with subtle atmospherics and the music bleeds into the ceiling speakers, making this object-based format a great listen.
All the bonus features are ported over from the previous release and only available on the accompanying standard 2D Blu-ray disc.
Well, I can't say I feel any different about the film this third time viewing it in less than a month. In fact, I have more and more questions, and noticed more and more missed opportunities and curiosities (for example, where exactly does this roaming axe man come from, why did it take him so long to join his undead brethren, and why does it take so many headshots to kill this beasty? Doesn't that redefine the zombie rules just a tad?!). Still, the mindlessness can be explained due to the fact that certain depictions of zombies like to eat brains. That's my story on why this film lacks any semblance of intelligence, and I'm sticking with it.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a strong 4K video presentation, but unfortunately, it doesn't offer a significant upgrade over its Blu-ray counterpart, in spite of delivering an otherwise satisfying picture quality. On the plus side, the audio has been upgraded to a reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack, delivering a nice improvement over DTS-HD MA predecessor. Accompanied by the same collection of supplements, the overall package is only worth checking out for fans and early adopters.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.