x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Despite the raunchy outfits and provocative, the end result is repetitive, callous and dull.

The Axeman (Ray Olubowale) in Resident Evil: Afterlife.
The Axeman (Ray Olubowale) in Resident Evil: Afterlife.

Director: Paul WS Anderson

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates

There is something innately claustrophobic about Resident Evil: Afterlife. The film is the fourth in the perplexingly successful zombie massacre series (originally adapted from the eponymous video game), and somewhere round its midway mark you realise that you are trapped utterly inside the head of a teenage boy. For all around you are the screamingly obvious signifiers of male adolescence that the director, Paul WS Anderson, the franchise's mastermind, has nurtured from the beginning.

Thus the heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich), who was a genetic super-experiment in the last movie but has now been transformed back into a mortal action babe, spends most of her time in form-fitting PVC jumpsuits, 12cm stilettos, and a series of holsters and needless thigh-straps. Alice here is charged by Anderson (writing this one, as well as directing) with bringing her best female action buddy Claire (Ali Larter) to the safety of a converted tanker moored off the coast of California near Los Angeles. But first she must first fight a million dim-witted zombies while breaking free from the safety of a multistorey prison with some hapless civilians in tow.

Alice, typically, executes her task by donning her raunchiest outfit and performing provocative cartwheels and backflips in an ostensible attempt to avoid slow-motion bullets and flying zombies (all of which leap crudely from the screen in the 3D version). Elsewhere the skull-splintering violence is repetitive, callous and dull, and appears to be fulfilling an adolescent urge for gore rather than the demands of narrative.

However, the problem with Resident Evil: Afterlife is not that it is violent and sexist (see, well, most Hollywood blockbusters). No, the real flaw here is that it is done with such a thundering lack of originality. The entire opening sequence, for instance - during which Alice penetrates the Japanese headquarters of the Umbrella Corporation (the unthinking nasties who created the zombie virus in the first movie), and perpetrates a massacre of thousands - is a shameless pastiche of the Matrix trilogy. And that's just the tip of the purloined iceberg.

The cumulative effect of all this is, as previously mentioned, a mildly depressing feeling that you're watching the copy of a copy of a slightly uninteresting teenage boy's half-remembered dream. Which is ultimately perhaps, a disservice to teenage boys. For, as this summer's big cerebral action hit Inception proved, teenage boys can handle brains as well as guts. Maybe it's the adult filmmakers who need to be reprogrammed.