September 16, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) and Resident Evil (2002)

I had only seen bits and pieces of the Resident Evil films on television before I really got deep into the video game sequels, RE4 and RE5. I had played some of the original games when they first came out but never got around to owning any, up until RE4 a few years back. I'll be completely honest here and tell you that I was never a big fan of the gameplay method of the first games. Pressing up made you run downward, there was no real aim feature and the graphics of that time weren't up to snuff. Of course, what made the original video games stand out weren't the graphics, but rather the atmosphere and intensity of it all. There are strong and visually stimulating characters, very creepy and awesome monsters, and a diabolical villainous corporation with a cool logo and name. I bought Resident Evil 4 for my GameCube after doing some research. Many were complaining about the change in format, how now it's an over the shoulder shooter, and the complaints didn't stop there.

Resident Evil 4 didn't really feature traditional zombies, but rather a herd of Spanish townsfolk under a plague and  mind control; and for Resident Evil 5, pretty much of the same with different nationality. I cared not! And it's not really that big of a difference the way they handle these biological human monster hybrid weapons anyhow. Resident Evil 4 quickly became my favorite game, and once I got my PS3, Resident Evil 5 and my big ass high def television, 5 took over much of my spare time. RE4 will always have a place within me, as it is so utterly outlandish, unpredictable, frightening, time consuming and funny. But even though these two games took me on a RE thrill ride, I didn't really seem to take much notice in the films. That all changed the day I went to see the NoES remake, and the trailer for Afterlife 3-D played beforehand.

Resident Evil: Afterlife: 3-D (2010)

Consider me impressed! The past films have had bits and pieces of the video game series injected throughout (and unevenly), but Afterlife by far has more of my absolute favorite things about the series right here. I'll tell you straight out, they had me with the trailer. Filled with mindblowing shots from some of the best moments in the film, we catch glimpses of Uroboros, Wesker in his full badassness launching the sunglasses, The Executioner taking on the incredibly hot duo of Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter (drool!) in the prison showers, and Alice in full infultration matrix mode. I'm not really much of A Perfect Circle fan, but the song really fit the trailer and the whole presentation simply put, kicked ass. It got me excited, which is something of a difficult feat as of late. And though the 3-D gimmick has only been done right a few times in the past, my expectations were high with this one.

Like Paul W.S. Anderson's earlier RE scripts, he doesn't go about explaining much. Everything is laid out pretty simply, but leaves one wondering a whole lot when it's all said and done. Luckily this time around, he is back behind the camera in the director's position so no matter how it goes down, it's going to be a polished one. PWSA is the master of ultimate slow motion shots. Does he overuse them? Perhaps. But I'll be damned if that man doesn't know how to choose just the right shot and slow it down to perfection. The most notable example would have to be the finale during The Executioner battle, when Alice standing in front of Claire slowly raises that shotgun through the raining waters. It was perfect, everything about it. The fact that Wesker is the main villain (finally) this time around, use of SloMo is most certainly required. In the game Wesker has the ability to move so incredibly fast, that his scenes require the slower rate and Anderson certainly steps up his own game with his work here.

Afterlife's slow boiling introduction scene in Japan is breathtaking, where the camera takes its sweet ass time rising up from a beautiful young woman's heels to her hungry enraged eyes. She stands alone and still on the streets in the rain, while hundreds of Tokyo's finest pass her by, all with umbrellas held high. The hovering shot of her drenched hair, these haunting umbrellas and the menacing pounding music make it a most memorable opening credits sequence. Suddenly as one man passing by gets a long glance at her, she attacks(!), spreading yet again another outbreak unto the world. From here we're reintroduced to Albert Wesker, this time portrayed in an above average manner (His character and the actor playing him in Extinction couldn't have been more off. Uhg!). He's cool, cold and dressed for success this time around. When Alice and her clones silently slip into Umbrella's underground facility, we're given an all out heart pumping ninja massacre, and a small taste of the future Wesker/Alice battle to come.

These two introductory scenes are intense as fuck. So naturally things slow down a bit as Alice goes looking for her old friends, only to find Claire under Wesker's chest device's control. After beating the shit out of her and tying her up calming her down, she removes the device and takes her short term memory loss afflicted friend by plane to search for signs of life. She finds survivors on the rooftop of a prison (complete with the standard huge white 'HELP US' written for passing by aircrafts) and she, in an absurd and completely suicidal fashion, decides to land the plane on the roof (with not nearly enough space to do so). This place is completely surrounded by thousands of the zombified, and the probability that she'll be able to take off again with no runway is less than 5% so she just pretty much fucked herself. These people are your usual mixed array of zombie food and all get dealt with in one way or another. Despite being an abandoned prison, Claire's brother Chris was left in a special cell down in the lower depths of the place. When the survivors found him there they kept him locked up and fed, fearing that he may be super dangerous or some such shit. It takes a strangely long amount of time before he's let out, only to be shocked that his sister is right there with the others.

While playing Resident Evil 4 and 5 for the tremendously long periods of time that I have, I've become accustomed to Leon, Ashley, Chris, Sheva and Wesker. Shawn Roberts plays Wesker here, and I think he does a bang up job. The look is only slightly off, but so well done that it becomes less than noticeable. Wentworth Miller of 'Prison Break' fame plays Chris Redfield. At first I was a bit speculative and uncertain, but I guess as time goes by I can see him becoming more comfortable in the role. I don't see how he needed to be imprisoned for the story, like some sort of reference. It's all a bit strange but you gotta get over those kinds of things. With some tweaking his introduction, appearance and incorporation into the storyline could have been improved and I suppose that's really my only complaint. If you really want to get into it, I guess the same could be said about every single important character in these films, so what the hell. Moving on.

One character who was done justice is The Executioner. He came in at the most precise moment in the film, ominous, alone and dragging his axe. Approaching the prison, he delivers a strong and terrifying impact and during his battle scene he's fierce and seemingly unstoppable. His look is dead on, his actions are dead on and his assault on Alice, Claire and poor Split Kim Yong is what takes this film into badass status. Afterlife has the best use of the 3-D platform that I've ever seen apart from the My Bloody Valentine remake. So far these two are the tops and nothing else is coming close to sizing up, despite either being shot with 3-D cameras or not. Whoever and whatever teams worked on these two films, they knew what they were doing and just got it. Paul W.S. Anderson's style is suited for 3-D as well. It was truly a great mixing where everything just came together to look and sound as amazing as it could. The Soundtrack from tomandandy is pulsating and mind-bending, and gives each scene a amped up feeling.

When Alice discovers that the safe place she's been searching for this whole time is actually a huge cargo ship and not an island, she and the others make their way there. The zombie mayhem, escape scenes and amount of gunpowder n' quarters is utterly absurd. When the chaos finally hits things get rediculous and nearly approaches, yet somehow eludes, stinky cheese. Zombies with a new strain of virus, Uroboros in nature but not named aloud, pop up from all sorts of nowhere ready to devour. Yet in victorious fashion, Alice, Chris and Claire make it unto the ship only to find what they of course, should have known: It's a trap! Umbrella Corp's seemingly abandoned yet functional ship, familiar kidnapped victims organized in the computer system and their bodies stored in Stasis Chambers, medical supplies and weird looking corpses as subjects... and there, sitting alone with his split-head zombie dogs, enjoying it all, Albert Wesker! Black leather trenchcoat, glowing red eyes beneath the sunglasses, cool as all shit, and ready to play.

Resident Evil (2002)

Despite my immortal lust for Milla Jovovich, I ignored her leading role series of zombie films (WTF? I know!) on the assumption that it just plain sucks. I don't know if I did myself a favor by doing so. Would I had liked the films as much as I do now if I had seen them back then instead of all back to back this year starting with the latest? My toleration for films and hatred that they may produce has been changing in a unique fashion lately, much like the T-Virus running through an adaptive system. I'm far more apathetic than I used to be, and less likely to thrash. After RE: Afterlife 3-D kicked some serious ass, I felt it was about time to go out and buy the Blu-Rays of the first three films. I ended up getting the Wal-Mart Exclusive Steelbook Editions, even though they all have the same bonus disc in each one, my PS3 RE5 is the Steelbook boxset so they all match.

Milla Jovovich plays a mysterious woman named Ada Wong Alice, who awakens naked in the shower (hubba hubba!) not knowing who she is or why the fuck she's got an arsenal of weaponry in her panty drawer. Soon thereafter comes familiar and exciting fanboy thrilling camera shots that echo moments of the games. After some swift investigation, Alice is slowly walking through the pillars outside of the door, and then !Ravens Scare! She's pulled back inside the Mansion and so begins the tale of the extra characters ready to die. After getting high with the help of her newly rediscovered friends, Alice goes down the rabbit hole into the HIVE, unarmed and unknowing about the situation. Soon she discovers not only what has happened to all those poor souls down there, but also that she's got something special inside of her. That she's a totally hot super soldier in a short red nightgown that she calls a dress.

Some hardcore gamers were turned off by the first film since Alice wasn't a character from any of the video games. This is understandable. Back when this came out my tolerance for sci-fi was about next to nothin'! That on top of the fact that Michelle Rodriguez was spoutin' off one liners with a bulldog veil kinda turned me off. So I had seen the trailers and was interested for Milla, but heard that this film had nothing at all to do with the game, so I passed. Fast forward to now and after seeing the last film, the first film, watching the director's interviews and Documentaries in the extras, I've come to the conclusion that Anderson has done a worthwhile job. The games are great on their own for their own reasons. I don't need to see a shot by shot remake of Resident Evil 4 with Leon and Ashley. Would I like to see a film made from RE4? That would make me f'n cream cargo shorts, but it's not going to happen. The films are their own universe and that's splat. Though that's not to say that I don't have problems with the first RE film, sure I do.

I'm a BF of the story Alice In Wonderland. Big Fan to those wondering. Apparently so is the director of this film, Paul W.S. Anderson. (By the way were you aware that there are two directors named Paul Anderson and only "one of them is good"? - Well that's complete bullshit, this movie and RE: Afterlife prove that he's got some madskillz.) While I'm aware that the numerous references to Alice In Wonderland may serve as a mask, it totally works and there is no denying that. While these references are easily identified and obvious, they have no trouble blending in with the story that he wrote - A story which was written with enthusiasm and love for the series. People to this day, fuckin' hate on PWSA, saying he RUINED EVERYTHING! Alice may as well just walk onto the 1986 Transformers Movie, push Megatron out of the way and kill Optimus Prime herself! PWSA did something brave, something reckless, and made a franchise of movies out of video games involving something we all love, zombies. All this talk about him not "Staying Trv" should be completely disregarded once you watch the film for what it truly is: A secondary story-based vehicle, preceded by a visually stimulating, faithfully shot, and influenced film.

There had to be sacrifices I guess, and adding extra expendable black-clad gunners played by the various was the deal to be dealt. I would have preferred less characters, and so would many out there considering the extras here aren't even big game names. Counterpoint: At least the big name characters aren't being raped. Counter-Counterpoint: The big name characters will be raped further down the line! No matter, most sequels are going to suck anwyays, though it's rare that they'll get a fourth and fifth chance to redeem themselves. Bad CGI has certainly come a long way since 2002, and with the help of a bigger budget it certainly doesn't stick out so much in Afterlife. The first didn't rely too heavily on CG, but rather an array of practical effects with CG mixed in, and occasionally some horrid CG thrown in your face. The zombie with half his face missing for instance, while out loud laughable, is kind of charming in its own way. Also, when the Licker finally escapes from the sleep chamber it's a bit cartoony. I don't really mind the bad CG all that much, and it didn't distract me from the flow of the film in any way. 

A lot of this was helped out by PWSA's beautifully framed shots and vision, set directly to Marilyn Manson's and Marco Beltrami's unsettling and remarkable score. Slow panning and zoom shots set to these robotic hardcore alien electronic pulses were merged together brilliantly and really creep through your system. When the film takes its time and slows down, and these sounds have their chance to slowly emerge, is when everything achieves near perfection. Props also go to the stunt team with Milla, and the SFX team for their killer rendition of the Zombie Dogs and mutated final Licker boss. That was a lot of hard work that payed off and gave the film some of its more exciting moments. Paul W.S. Anderson really payed attention to the minor themes of the game, such as overhead shots and going through doorways. Sure, those little extra touches may not be enough to make up for the fact that he RUINED THE RESIDENT EVIL FRANCHISE FOREVER(!), but it was after all, a nice gesture to the fans. Not to mention that this series rocketed Milla Jovovich to superstardom, and for that, we should all be grateful.


Despite their obvious surface flaws, Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Afterlife are more than welcome additions to the RE franchise. The non-video game character of Alice give fans of the games something new to work with and be entertained by. There is a lot to be asked when it comes to fanboy mentality, demands are made and verdicts are for the most part unforgiving. What started off as a downhill slope of a series has been lifted with this latest film. There is a lot of room for improvement, but things certainly seem to be headed in the right directions. It was nice for the powers that be to let two relatively unknown and not so spectacular directors tackle the second and third films, but it just wasn't right (I'll be posting on Parts 2 and 3 next). If this next RE film is handled properly, it could possibly be the best one yet.

My words are my own and as of posted from their creation forward I hereby claim originality to them. Pictures may prove to be promotional items and are the sole possessions of their respectful owners and/or companies. I do not sell, nor do I buy. I only rent, so therefore, nothing I own is truly mine.