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 Disc: Vital Stats
The 3D release of 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' arrives on a Region A/B/C BD50 Dual Layer disc, housed in a transparent eco-vortex case. Like other retail Sony Blu-ray 3D releases, the liner art inside the case helps create a quasi-3D effect that looks pretty damn nice, a bit better than those lenticular slipcovers.
This release contains both versions of the film, both 2D (playable in 2D players), and 3D. The menu matches whatever type of television/player combo the disc is being played on: 2D or 3D. There is no $5 off coupon for other Sony titles included in this version of 'Afterlife,' oddly enough.
I have to complain about the menu for this film, as it spoils a major plot point in the final act of the film. It made me see the sequence coming a mile away, ruined plenty of suspense, and made most of the film just a big stop before "getting there." Way to go, Sony. Way to spoil your own damn film.
The Full HD 3D version of 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' is, in my opinion, the best looking Blu-ray 3D release available, either on shelves or in bundle sets. 'Avatar,' good as it looks, just cannot compare to the technical prowess and constant 3D utilization that this film boasts from start to finish. The amount of miscues and goofs on this release is by far the least for a full length feature film in this new format, and it may take some time for any film, live action or animated, to one up this absolute beast of a release.
Colors retain their strength versus the 2D release, while detail levels are just as sharp as they were before. Textures are a bit improved, really, as countless walls and set pieces reach that point where they come as close to reaching photorealism as any film can. Black levels are amazingly rich, whites are clean, and shadow detail is strong, with nary a moment of real crush. Contrast is un-freaking-believable, and the wow factor from the constantly sharp, rich picture never seems to get old.
The 3D? Outstanding. Marvelous. Generic adjective expressing praise, you name it. I can't begin to express how frequent and seamless the 3D is on this release, as it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, with sequences tacked on to get that awe factor. The entire film is that way (of course, that's easy when the film has so little substance, but that's besides the point!), from the moment the credits hit until the end credits roll. Even the most mundane of scenes, meant solely to piece together weak story points, are planned in a manner that give it some sort of visual pop, as even the silly exposition in the opening raid can be ignored by staring off into space in the underground Umbrella facility. The burning city of Los Angeles is an absolute sight to behold, while the first moments of the boat landing are absolutely astonishing and so sharp and deep they really do feel like real life playing out in front of you. Slow motion sequences, like those found in the shower fight scene or a few of the prison escape moments, are so layered they easily become instant demo material, even if retail stores cannot play the film to do such due to its content.
Depth is absolutely unrivaled, as this film, which was planned to be an immersive 3D experience, using the 'Avatar' camera system, doesn't ever disappoint, or bring a single flat shot into the mix. From the early sequence featuring Japanese Umbrella Corporation snipers, we know what kind of treat we're in for, as the shots, through the faux scopes, leap with intense realism that puts any 3D first person shooter (FPS) to shame. Reticles, as well as display icons (like those found on Alice's recorder) constantly leap forward from the picture, without distracting or feeling gimmicky.
As deep as the picture is (and in the infinite Arcadia corridors, deep doesn't begin to describe it), and as detailed as the backgrounds are, it seems almost secondary to one of the more silly aspects of 3D films, those moments where effects seem to come out of the screen towards the viewer. I'm not a fan of this type of effect, at all, but I couldn't help but get a gleeful kick out of every random moment and shot that was obviously planned for such an effect long in advance, as ninja stars, bullets, quarter-laden shotgun shells, and even the world's biggest hammer come crashing through the screen, retaining their detail and clarity rather than becoming a blur that's difficult to see like this effect creates on some other discs.
Please note, that while I do feel a five star video score is necessary on this release, it isn't perfect, as no Blu-ray 3D release to this point has been. Ghosting is not a major issue, at all, but there are a tiny, tiny handful of shots that have this problem, like one shot of the torches inside the prison, a few columns in Wesker's helicopter room, a single Alice clone, and the final shots of the Luther West character (not spoiling these moments by explaining their circumstances) all have fairly minor, but visible miscues (as does the opening credits Constantin logo, but that I absolutely will look past). There are a few moments where edges feel a tiny bit jaggy, particularly on the Umbrella logo in the opening raid, but they're very few and far between. Banding is not a frequent issue, but in the underwater sequence, which has odd lighting to begin with, some bands seemed inevitable, and they're thick, though brief.
Take all that as a hint. We're talking about a jaw-dropping 3D experience, easily the new standard bearer for this relatively new format. The positives outweigh the few negatives dramatically. Throw in the fact that this release has the 2D version of the film to boot, there's no real reason, other than store availability, that any other version of 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' should be considered. If you have a 3DTV and don't have this Blu-ray 3D release, I feel confident in saying you just wasted a few thousand bucks.
The audio for the 3D release of 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' mirrors the 2D edition in most ways, so let's let what was already said do the talking for me:
The movie may not have a point. The video may have its flaws. But damn if the audio isn't wall to wall awesome. If you aren't impressed by this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, then you're dead to me. Maybe undead.
This one is worth more than the sum of all parts. It's an immersive experience, that pulls you into the experience so accurately and frequently that it helps the shortcomings of the film become less of a concern, as you wait for the mind-numbingly ridiculous action sequences to go above and beyond what they already have, in a film that constantly tries to raise its own bar. The soundtrack separates through the channels throughout the entire film, and despite its bravado at some points, never drowns out the rest of the goods. Of course, usually spiked soundtrack volume is accompanied by an exponential rise in the amount of firepower in use, but it all mixes together brilliantly. Dialogue is sharp and accurate, though occasionally a tad unnatural (due to some probable ADR work), despite otherwise amazing room dynamics. Rears get more movement and localization in this film, per capita, than any other film I've heard. It's damn near constant, and literally stunning. The undead horde outside the prison sequence literally fill the room with the sound of a half-a-mile wide army groaning with the hunger for fresh flesh. The film has an appropriate sense of weight, amazingly unchecked range, and one of the coolest sounding explosions in film history in the first act.
Amazing audio. Stupendous audio. Demo material, for sure. Much like the way this film was one of the biggest reasons I wanted a home 3D set up, after reading this review, I hope any homeowners without a high end surround set up realize that discs like 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' also make that a necessary splurge. This is one film experience that just cannot be told through the television speakers or an outdated last generation home theater in a box. Ever.
In an interesting note, the 2D release had a Portuguese lossless audio dub track, whereas this 3D version does not. Additionally, there are more European subtitle tracks this time around that weren't offered on the 2D release.
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.
This 3D release is the way to go. Yes, the 2D version can be had in a Steelbook at Wal-Mart, and numerous stores have the 2D version for a mere $20, including a $5 off coupon for other Sony Blu-ray titles. That's all well and good, but with a demo-worthy 3D video track, the same demo-worthy audio track, and a nice heaping of extras for just a few bucks more? Go this route, folks, even if you don't have a 3DTV just yet. You're going to have to rebuy this film when you do upgrade, since it looks that damn good, so why not just spend a few more bucks now to save even more money down the road?! Buy it. Don't rent. Don't borrow. Buy.
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.