I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you love something, and it gives you moments of joy in an otherwise difficult existance, it’s long been my belief that you shouldn’t have to defend it against those self-appointed, self-important culture cops who would prefer you to watch, read, listen or play something more enriching and ‘worthwhile’.
You love “The X Factor”? That’s fine – I don’t. In fact, I’ve barely watched a full episode of it, but I would never try and diminish somebody’s enjoyment of it by disparaging the singers and bands entering the competition, or the people who enjoy it (Full disclosure: thanks to my wife’s love of the show, I’m more a “Project Runway” man).
Equally, when it comes to films, I’m quite happy to defend the next movie that I’ll be venturing out to see (and let’s be absolutely clear, here – it’s a movie, not a film).
“Resident Evil: Afterlife” is the fourth in the series of avowedly unpretentious B-movies adapted from the long-running Capcom series of “Resident Evil” survival horror video games and the latest iteration arrives with that most modish (and divisive) of technical additions – 3-D presentation (indeed, the first teaser trailer proudly boasts of using the same James Cameron /Vince Pace camera system used to shoot “Avatar”).
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, who returns to the helm after producing the second and third films, “Afterlife” apparently continues to appeal to nobody. Critics have consistently deplored the series’ video game aesthetics and ‘level-boss-level-boss’ construction of the screenplays and are united in their condemnation with gamers who would only be happy once the series has gone back to the drawing board, rebooted and the foul stench of the Anderson years has been once and forever expunged.
This, as you may or may not be unsurprised to learn, is where I take my leave of fanboys and hacks and publicly proclaim my unironic, whole-hearted love of this film series (isn’t the word ‘series’ nicer than ‘franchise’? I do get the assertion that this is a movie sequence which has more in common with Fast Food that Fellini, but I do feel that the ‘F’ word, in connection with films, has reached a point of some over-use).
I’ve enjoyed every film in the series to date – and this is possibly due to my misgivings about the Capcom games and their hackneyed insistance on prioritising ancient notions of game design over player logic – if Visceral Games/EA’s Sci-Fi horror mash-up, “Dead Space” can achieve the insurmountable task of balancing simultaneous player movement and looser, intuitive combat against your mutant foes on their first go-round, why can’t Capcom eschew the antiquated, player-hobbling mechanics ingrained in the series and move forward?
That I’m not a fan of the games perhaps affords me the opportunity to enjoy the films for what they are – wilfully absurd, B-grade pictures with no ambition higher than cranking up the sound mix and scaring the crap out a weekend theatrical audience.
I don’t have the problem that many fans have with the films’ insistance on recontextualising characters from different games into a mix-and-match continuity all of their own – that Alice doesn’t appear in the games, or Chris Redfield doesn’t look like a steroid-crazed, 90’s boy band escapee is not my primary concern.
I anticipate only solid, B-movie thrills from “Afterlife” – series mainstay Milla Jovovich glowering and dispatching Zombies with the dispassionate economy one would extend to removing stray lint from a sweater cuff, crunching electro-metallic scoring from neo-industrial noise mongers Tomandandy, the steely metallic set design and clinical look indicative of director Anderson’s involvement and which was perhaps missing from 2007’s entry in the series, “Resident Evil: Extinction” and – drum roll, please – the proper and overdue arrival of game series Big Bad, Albert Wesker.
The film has enjoyed the biggest debut of any entry in the series yet – due, perhaps, to the hilariously overpriced premium being charged by cinemas for 3-D presentation – and shows no sign of slowing down (indeed, initial reviews indicate that Anderson goes for the bold, post-credits gambit of referencing the next installment before the movie that you’re watching has actually finished).
The 3-D aspect is something of an issue to me, as I have suggested in the title of this post. Simply, I’ve yet to see a film which has been honestly and truly enhanced by the 3-D process currently so fashionable with studios and spectacle-minded producers (the less said of the cack-handed, post-processing model beloved of tight-fisted Hollywood power-brokers, the better).
Even “Avatar” couldn’t convince me – I saw it first in 2-D presentation and couldn’t truly tell you that stereoscopic presentation gave me anything more or enhanced my enjoyment over the ‘flat’ viewing I initially took in. The best part of $2 billion at the box office isn’t to be sniffed at, but the technique seems at best to be an enhanced value proposition for the studios – at worst, and in my view, 3-D is a case of the Emperor’s New Pseudo-Raybans.
I hope to report back with good news – I do feel that we need fewer ponderous blockbusters and more unpretentious B-movies filling cinemas, if only to preserve the idea of (comparitively) economic, genre-aware film making – and will do my best to convince you that this latest return to Alice, Raccoon City and Global Saturation is worth your hard-won moolah.