With Resident Evil: The Final Chapter in theaters this weekend, let’s take a look at an earlier entry in the series. Re-released in 4K Ultra HD, Resident Evil: Afterlife tells the fourth part of Alice’s mission to bring down the corrupted Umbrella Corporation. Afterlife is loosely based on Capcom’s Resident Evil 5 video game and was the first movie of the series filmed for a 3D release. (Fair warning: This review will not spoil the events of the fourth movie but will refer to events taking place in the three prior films. If you are new to the series, I do not recommend beginning with Resident Evil: Afterlife.)
“After a one-woman assault on the Umbrella Corporation’s fortress, Alice’s (Milla 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.”
Writing and directing the fourth entry in a sci-fi-based action series is no easy challenge. The movie must be bigger than all three of its predecessors, feature more action, raise the stakes, and introduce new larger-than-life villains – all four of which writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson attempts to do in this movie. Resident Evil is contained in an underground facility, Resident Evil: Apocalypse exists entirely within Raccoon City, and Resident Evil: Extinction, though we are told the T-virus is spreading around the world, takes place primarily in Nevada. Afterlife takes a more global approach; many scenes were shot on-location in Tokyo, Alaska, Los Angeles, etc. The action scenes and stunts, though fewer in total number, are bigger and more involved. After Alice loses her enhanced powers and abilities, we discover that the T-virus has again mutated and evolved. Some of the Undead now live underground and have tentacles (for lack of a better term) that extend from their mouths. The film’s primarily antagonist, Albert Wesker, was introduced in Extinction, but Afterlife also features the lethal Axeman – more about both of these villains later.
While Anderson is tasked with finding new ideas and bringing new life to the series, he must also maintain the feel and tradition of a typical Resident Evil movie. True to form, we see intense action sequences, swarms of the Undead, Devil Dogs, video-game references, and lots of wide shots. (Director of Photography Glen MacPherson refers to him as Paul “Wide-Shot” Anderson in one of the special features.) We have the standard cheesy one-liners, unrealistic stunts, and coincidental and convenient timing that require viewers to suspend their disbelief. And because this is a Resident Evil movie – it works!
The movie’s menu is interactive and designed to look like a sterile white laboratory run by the Umbrella Corporation, complete with glass chambers rising from the floor. We see brief clips of the movie in each chamber. The menu has a video-game feel to it. Across the bottom of the screen, viewers are given five choices. In addition to “Play Movie,” they can select from “Languages,” “Scene Selection,” “Special Features,” and “Get movie on BD-Live.” Special features are discussed near the end of this review. The movie can be played in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. When viewers click “Play Movie,” they are asked if they want to watch the movie with the addition of movieIQ – an interactive feature from Sony that allows viewers to get trivia and information about the movie and cast while watching the film. This feature requires an Internet connection.
Unlike its predecessors, this movie does not immediately open with a narration from Alice. We also don’t see the usual extreme close-up of Alice’s eye anywhere in the film. Instead, we open on a crowded Tokyo street that clearly hasn’t been affected by the T-virus. This is surprising, given that we are told the virus has spread globally in the previous film. A young woman stands still as people with brightly colored umbrellas walk past her. She goes unnoticed until one man makes eye-contact with her. We then realize that this scene is a flashback to the outbreak of the T-virus in Japan. In one of director Paul W.S. Anderson’s signature moves, the camera begins on the girl and zooms out until we see a shot of the entire world.
The movie moves forward four years. Alice begins her standard narration to recap the previous films (though it doesn’t begin with her almost signature line, “My name is Alice”). As she promised the remaining Umbrella Corporation leaders at the end of Resident Evil: Extinction, she is coming to their headquarters to eliminate them. Alice and her clones (yeah . . . you really need to see the previous movie for this sentence to make any sense) arrive in Tokyo at the Umbrella Corporation Headquarters. We are treated to the standard Resident Evil shot that takes us from an above ground building to one below by looking at a computer-generated drawing of the building – a technique that very much feels like watching part of a video game. Below ground, Umbrella Corporation Chairman Albert Wesker orders more guards to attack. The character was introduced in Extinction and was originally played by Jason O’Mara. Shawn Roberts takes over the role in this movie.
The ensuing battle between the Alice clones and Wesker’s henchmen is the first real evidence that Afterlife was shot with 3D technology and effects in mind. Bullets and blades fly at the screen, and everything looks focused and sharp. As is a series trademark, we get another slow-motion shot where the camera zooms in on a speeding bullet and follows it to its target. The clones work in sync, and the effects used to pull this off look good. The entire fight looks excellent, and the time spent on the new effects really seems to pay off well.
As Wesker attempts to escape on a small plane, the original Alice ambushes him. He was expecting this and injects her with a serum that removes her extraordinary abilities. Wesker reveals that he has taken the latest version of the T-virus and is the new version of her. He detonates the Umbrella Corporation’s building via remote-control, and the explosion leaves a sinkhole. The effects of the building being destroyed look excellent with the re-release’s enhancements. We are led to believe that Wesker dies when his plane crashes, but given his revelation about the new T-virus less than two minutes ago, it seems unlikely.
The movie takes another leap forward in time – six months have passed since the Tokyo showdown. Alice, now without her powers or her clones, searches for Claire (Larter) and the rest of the survivors she met in Extinction. The group was heading to Alaska to look for a town called Arcadia. Alice, who has found a small plane, flies over different parts of Alaska, leading to some of the movie’s most beautiful shots. Her tiny, off-red plane stands out against wide shots of solid-white glaciers, green forests, and blue skies and oceans. Even when Alice is searching on foot, we can see the detail of the ocean as the waters move in the far background. Absolutely beautiful on-location shots! There is a gorgeous shot of her sitting on a beach with the sun reflecting off the water.
While she continues to search, she finds an abandoned plane full of crows – a nice callback to possibly the most iconic scene from Extinction. We discover that Claire has been separated from her group. Claire and Alice are eventually reunited, and they decide to keep searching for their friends. As they head south, they discover that Los Angeles has burned down (and the detail on the smoke in the sky is very sharp and clear). They find a group of survivors including Claire’s brother, Chris (Miller). The only problem is that this new group is stranded in a prison surrounded by the Undead.
With Arcadia still a possibility and their plane no longer an option for escape, Alice, Claire, and Chris must work with their new group to find a way out of the prison. In addition to the Undead, they are constantly followed by the formidable Axeman and the ever-present threat of the Umbrella Corporation.
One of the movies’ strengths is its incorporation of characters from the original video games. Of particular note, is Wentworth Miller’s character, Chris Redfield. The role is very similar to the one he played for four years on Prison Break, but it’s a role he does well. His character here is first seen in a prison cell, and we don’t know if he is as innocent as he claims to be. Miller plays it mysteriously, making viewers unsure if his character is to be trusted or not; however, Alice trusts him, and that is all that matters to get him out of the cell.
Also popular from the video games is the character of the Axeman (portrayed by the very tall Raymond Olubawale). Looking like a combination of Pinhead, Leatherface, and the Scarecrow from Batman, we first see him walking down a deserted street dragging his axe behind him. Not only similar in size and build to the Nemesis character from Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the Axeman also serves a similar purpose to Nemesis as the movie’s secondary villain. Viewers not familiar with the games may be confused by his character’s sudden appearance and role in the film – his name and origin are never mentioned. Game players will recognize him as a version of the Executioner Majini, who first appears in the fifth game.
Despite the lack of information provided about his character, the Axeman is in what is arguably the movie’s best scene. Alice and Claire must fight him in the prison’s shower room. It sounds corny, because when you think about it, it really is. The scene is shot beautifully though and is one of the very few times when another character is allowed to share Alice’s spotlight. With Alice initially knocked to the side, Claire must first face the Axeman alone. He swings his axe several times, but only succeeds in destroying several pipes. The rest of the battle is played out while water rains down on them. This scene was clearly shot for 3D, and the use of slow-motion coupled with the remixed audio and enhanced video quality really set this scene apart. Overtop of the scene’s soundtrack, we hear the sounds of the axe, Claire and Alice struggling to catch their breath, coins shooting out of Alice’s guns, and the constant sound of water hitting the floor. The attention to detail is evident in each water drop. This entire sequence is easily one of the movie’s strongest moments, if not its best.
Unlike the three previous movies, Afterlife does not feature as many action sequences. Whereas fans are used to seeing almost non-stop action, Afterlife waits almost half an hour after its opening battle against Wesker to feature another large-scale battle. The pacing of this film is slowed down, and the movie offers more dialogue and exposition. Though it makes the whole movie feel slower, it makes the action scenes more prominent and intense.
When the movie does feature a large action scene, it is shot differently than viewers have seen in this series before. A common critique of the films is that the editing is too quick and choppy for viewers to process what is going on during a fight scene. The battle between Alice and Nemesis is a common example of this. Afterlife takes an almost opposite approach. Every action sequence features at least some shots in slow-motion, which allows the 3D effects to clearly stand out. The fights are also less edited. In one of the films climactic fights, the camera slowly spins around the action twice in one continuous take. This style makes the fights and action sequences much easier to follow and ultimately more enjoyable.
This is also the first film in the series to use black-and-white for its flashbacks. The effect works well and looks especially good with the HDR of the re-release.
True to the Resident Evil film series, the movie ends with a camera shot that starts on Alice and pulls out to an extremely wide shot. Anderson wanted to end this movie with an optimistic feel absent from the endings of the other films, but he ultimately rethought the decision. Without giving anything away, Afterlife ends on a cliffhanger that sets up the next movie well.
***Be sure to stay tuned for a mid-credits scene that addresses the longtime absence of fan-favorite Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory). This is the first “credits” scene for the series.
4K Ultra HD (2160p) quality only plays on compatible devices. To view this movie in its full remastered form, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR, an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and a high-speed HDMI 2.0A cable. The aspect ratio is 2.35:1, and the High Dynamic Range (HDR) makes the darker colors darker and brings out the brighter and lighter colors. The re-release intensifies the colors of the original film.
Overall, the additional quality looks excellent. Fine details are enhanced and individual colors stand out apart from each other. This is noticeable from the opening scene in which we see a variety of colored umbrellas covering people during a downpour. The color of each umbrella is bold and eye-catching, and the rain is detailed and clear. We see close-ups of the rain hitting and bouncing off the umbrellas in sharp detail that looks great.
The only problem with the enhanced imagery is that some of the original CGI and special effects look a little less realistic. In a few rare shots, Alice appears to be a different color tone and filter than her surroundings. Most the movie, though, benefits from the enhancements.
The audio is remixed and remastered with Dolby Atmos Audio. While all the audio is enhanced, it is most clearly heard in the movie’s sound effects. We hear each bullet, each click of the gun, and all the coins shot out of Alice’s guns. Though the dialogue and soundtrack are also enhanced, they aren’t as noticeable as the detail and attention given to each sound effect.
The special features are the same ones from the original Blu-ray release and do not come in 4K Ultra HD quality.
1. Audio Commentary – Writer/Director Paul W.S. Anderson, Producer Jeremy Bolt, and Producer Robert Kulzer discuss the making of the movie and the development of the plot. This feature comes with optional subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
2. Undead Vision: Picture-in-Picture – Like the audio commentary, this feature plays over the entire movie. We not only hear from a wide range of cast and crew, we also get to see them in the bottom right-hand side of the screen. This feature also shows how scenes were developed from blueprints and animated models. I preferred this version over the audio commentary because of the visuals included and the wider range of people who get to discuss the movie, though some of the interview clips are also seen in the “Featurettes” section of the special features.
3. Deleted and Extended Scenes
– “Intruders” (:37) – Wesker watches as people break into the Umbrella Corporation Headquarters
– “Alice Rolls Quarters” (1:11) – Alice rolls quarters to make ammunition
– “To Arcadia” (1:37) – Alice, Claire, and Chris sail to Arcadia; the extension includes a conversation between Alice and Claire not seen in the film
– “Alice and Claire in the Plane” (:42) – Claire tries to remember who she was before her memories were lost
– “Getting Dirty” (:29) – Bennett, Angel, and Kim prepare to blow open the jammed garage door
– “Crystal Volunteers” (1:14) – Crystal volunteers to help Alice and Chris reach the armory; this is actually an extended version of a scene in the movie
– “Claire and Luther at the Prison Gate” (:34) – Additional footage of Claire and Luther trying to secure the gate before the Undead break it down
– “On the L.A. River” (1:08) – A long river shot followed by a brief conversation between Chris and Claire
– “Back Under the Umbrella: Directing Afterlife” (6:43) – Writer/Director Paul W.S. Anderson discusses his love of the Resident Evil games and why this was his favorite movie-making experience
– “Band of Survivors: Casting Afterlife” (6:39) – The cast discuss the importance of Milla Jovovich to the series, as well as how many of the newcomers got involved
– “Undead Dimension: Resident Evil in 3D” (7:27) – The cast and crew talk about the technical challenges of filming in 3D
– “Fighting Back: The Action of Afterlife” (5:31) – The cast talks about training and practicing to bring the action scenes to life.
– “Vision of the Apocalypse: The Design of Afterlife” (7:28) – The setting, filming locations, and overall look of the movie are featured
– “New Blood: The Undead of Afterlife” (7:31) – We see how makeup and wardrobes are used to create the Undead and the Axeman
– “Pwning the Undead: Gamers of the Afterlife” (6:11) – The movie series’ similarities and references to the original games are highlighted
5. Outtakes (4:29) – Watch the cast as they fall, dance, laugh, and drop props while trying to make a serious movie. Given the amount of turmoil Alice faces in the movies, it’s nice to get to see actress Milla Jovovich smile and laugh.
6. Previews – This re-released edition contains the same previews seen in the movie’s original 2010 release, including Piranha 3D and Salt.
7. Sneak Peak of Resident Evil: Damnation (1:10) – Catch a quick preview of this animated movie that follows U.S. soldier Leon S. Kennedy as he attempts to investigate bio-organic weapons being used in Europe but finds much more than he expected
For the most part, Resident Evil: Afterlife does exactly what it needs to do to continue the series, while managing to be quite enjoyable at the same time. It is not the best film in the series and certainly has a few plot holes, but it is still entertaining, introduces important characters, and establishes new threats and challenges for our protagonists to face in future movies. Afterlife is definitely worth at least one viewing, and if possible, should be seen in 4K Ultra HD.