Tag Archives: Claire Redfield

“Resident Evil” week – it’s a wonderful “Afterlife”…

Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.

Paul W.S. Anderson returned to the director’s chair for Resident Evil: Afterlife after being content to write and produce the previous two sequels and nudged the film further away from its video game roots towards what we now see in the on-release Resident Evil: Retribution – an increasingly, unashamed, utterly bonkers sci-fi/action/horror soap opera designed for nerds, with such a dizzying level of reinvention and revisionist, retrospective continuity that most casual viewers will be happy for the help of the ‘previously on Resident Evil’ info dump which opens “Retribution”.

Rain-soaked, 3D-enhanced, action heroine posing for the win!

But I’m getting ahead of myself – what can we say about “Afterlife”?

The film follows on directly from the end of “Resident Evil: Extinction”, with Alice and her army of Project Alice clones heading to Umbrella Corporation  HQ in Tokyo to remonstrate aggressively with evil corporate bad egg and series kingpin Albert Wesker via the medium of exploding, shooting and stabbing anything with a pulse and obliterating anybody left with a psionic shockwave that vaporizes Humvees and concrete superstructure alike.  It’s a zero tolerance of Umbrella Corporation thing – you’ve got to understand…

Given that this is the beginning of the film and Paul W.S. Anderson wouldn’t be so avant-garde as to end the film so abruptly, Alice’s best laid plan fails and Wesker manages to escape by helicopter, remotely purging the Tokyo Umbrella facility in a nuclear shock-wave via some handy Sony tablet jiggery-pokery (If you’re playing the “Resident Evil” movie drinking game, the blithe product placement should ensure that you must down a shot or two right about now).

After the kind of on-board fight that only happens in action flicks and that’s assisted greatly by autopilot, Alice is sent back to the beginning of the level outset of the classical heroine’s journey by having her previously overpowered abilities stolen by Wesker, neatly circumventing the criticism of the series and the character – that she was, by this point, so ludicrously overpowered that no bad guy or monster henchman could stand against her without being beaten down like (SPOILER!) dear old Loki in the Avengers movie.

My name is Alice – taste Katana death!  Image via Hundlund.org

Not that you’d notice that her powers have disappeared – by the time that the plot takes us to the ruined wasteland that was Los Angeles, Alice is doing quite nicely thank you very much without any extraneous super-powers, taking the smack-down to the undead and related monster cohorts in a fashion which suggests that either A) Alice is so bonded to the T-Virus that it can’t be removed from her or B) that an Alice who can’t leap up into the air and kick 12 foot tall super mutants in the face is not exactly what the fan base are crying out for and so that plot development was almost immediately forgotten about.

A brief sojourn flying around scenic British Columbia for survivors reunites Alice with Claire Redfield – last seen escaping zombie-strewn Las Vegas via helicopter – and sets her heading to California and into this instalment’s monster showdown when glorious, oblivious Andersonian plotting sees our heroines encountering a small band of archetypes who’ve holed up in the most secure building that they could find – a high security prison.

One of the incumbents?  Claire’s brother, Chris (a, shall we say, more prosperous-looking Wentworth Miller, late of TV’s “Prison Break”), who is assaying the role of mysterious inmate so dangerous that he’s locked up in a Hannibal Lecter-esque, super- max security cell.  Anybody with knowledge of the games knows that Chris is basically on the side of the angels, but this is the Anderson/Evil universe and so some temporary ambiguity is required.

Normal service is resumed when we establish that Chris is a good guy but has difficulty in convincing Claire that they’re related as she’s suffering the effects of temporary amnesia – an Umbrella mind-controlling device having robbed Redfield junior of much of her memory (see what I mean about the ‘Soap Opera for Nerds’ thing?) and making her slightly untrusting of the prison’s denizens – a motley assemblage which includes former NBA star Luther West (Boris Kodjoe) and a supremely evil Hollywood producer (the delightful, endlessly watchable Kim Coates, whose slicky, slimy villainy improves most flicks by around 10%).

It’s a poor murderous biohazard psychopath who blames his tools…

The tension inside the prison is soon thrown into relief by a zombie incursion, led by the aforementioned, hitherto (and subsequently) unmentioned Executioner – a proverbial brick-outhouse of a mutant of some ten feet in height and infinite bulk, who carries with him a battle axe-hammer the size of a compact car.  If he appears to be something of a non-sequitur amidst the ineffectual zombie shamblers which constitute the bulk of this film’s antagonists, he actually originates from the “Resident Evil 5” game, in which he takes on Chris Redfield and partner Sheva in Africa and won his big-screen appearance because Paul W.S. Anderson knows the elements comprising a showy set-piece when he sees them.

Cue the signature battle in the movie – Claire and Alice smacking down the Executioner in the Prison shower block, with broken water faucets dispensing cinematic rain and normal speed cranked down super low to make everything appear ludicrously cinematic and awesome.  Entertaining enough in 2D on Blu-Ray in hi-def, absolutely deliriously batty in 3D at the cinema, with water pouring around your head and Alice’s shotgun blasts of coin-shot (don’t ask) pinging you in the face.  Everything else in the film seems like an anti-climax after this orgy of ass-kicking, tech-worship and shamelessly iconic heroine posing.

Achievement Unlocked: Badass Super Pose Edition

Of course, things aren’t over yet.  The assembled survivors get out of the dodge when the prison is overrun by zombie hordes and make for the Arcadia – a trawler ship off the coast promising freedom from infection and shelter which has been broadcasting messages throughout the film.  With the inevitability of a zombie mode in a new “Call of Duty” game, the utopia offered by Arcadia is a sham and an Umbrella trap set by Wesker – looking surprisingly healthy despite apparently burning to death in the wreckage of the helicopter crash at the beginning of the film and now bonded with a strain of the T-Virus which makes him super-strong, possessed of mutant powers and apparently dressed by the costumers of the “Matrix” trilogy.

Cue an extended Alice/Wesker smack-down, which is really pretty goofy and honestly, just marking time until we get to the signature big reveal /final shot of the film – Alice, Claire, Chris and assorted survivors on top of the trawler looking out to sea as an endless wave of Umbrella shock troops arrive to set up the next movie.  And they’ve got a cyber-arachnid brooch-wearing, mind-controlled Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) in charge.

Who doesn’t wear tights and a purple leotard when they’re heading into battle with a bunch of faceless shock troopers?

Gulp.

The impressive commitment to providing delicious, absurd, thrilling insanity demonstrated by the previous entries in the “Resident Evil” sequence is more than upheld by Anderson’s directorial return to the films.  Fans of the games by now should now to stay away – this is not, if it ever was, the “R.E.” that they love – it’s a sci-fi/action mash-up which uses horror tropes as punctuation, rather than as the underpinning of the film and gets by on flinging set-pieces and minimal plot-stitching to move events along.

Milla Jovovich is impressively commanding in the lead, adding some colours to the action heroine template she’s developed over four movies – there’s a convincing moment early on in her video diary where she seems to voice the opinion of many a critic, expressing weariness at the road she’s on and wondering if there’s ever going to be respite from Umbrella’s attempts to enslave her or wipe her out entirely.

New addition Wentworth Miller is fine, but he’s so unlike the video game Chris that you have to raise an eyebrow as to his casting – steroid-munching, two-sizes-too-small-t-shirt wearing frequent bromance artist he most certainly isn’t.  If his casting was an attempt to inject wholly unnecessary realism into proceedings, I’m not entirely sure that it was necessary – I really enjoyed him on TV, but he doesn’t really get a lot to do except be eclipsed by the Alice and Claire team.  Even new character Luther West seems to get more screen time.

To sum up – lots of action, bonkers plotting, slow-motion fights so prevalent that they make the work of Zack Snyder seem like an exercise in uptight cinematic formalism, frequent action posing, a villain so camp that he makes Mike Myers’ Dr Evil look like the protagonist of a Christopher Nolan flick and bountiful, gleeful 3D shot composition which justifies the format and which really looks goofy in 2D.

“Resident Evil: Afterlife” is possibly my favourite entry in the series.  Or is it..?

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“Resident Evil” week – “Extinction” Level Event.

 

Hmm…moody.

When we join the protagonists of “Resident Evil: Extinction“, the 2007 iteration of the scifi/horror/action/video game adaptation franchise, things are not looking too good for the scattered inhabitants of this blue and green cosmic marble we call Earth.

The Umbrella Corporation‘s T-Virus has spread like wildfire across the globe, turning man and beast alike into undead shambling husks.  The few people who have managed to stay alive and T-free have banded together and wander the planet struggling to acquire what few resources are left, puttering about in a post-apocalyptic environment which in no way resembles Mad Max 2(or the “Road Warrior”, if you are so inclined).

When we first meet our heroine, Alice (the always luminous and awesome Milla Jovovich), she’s been transported back to where we first met her – in the Umbrella mansion, passed out in a shower tray, wholly disoriented yet still fashion forward enough to recognize a good red frock when she sees one.  She’s not the only one who’s confused – haven’t we been down this path before?  Has Sony royally messed up and pressed me a copy of the first “Resident Evil” by mistake?

All rapidly becomes sort-of understandable when Alice steps through a door and finds herself in the Red Queen’s laser corridor from the Umbrella Hive facility in the first movie – she’s in the evil corporation‘s own version of the X-Men’s Danger Room and those body-cubing lasers are about to dice up like she’s the main ingredient in Alice stew.  Evading that trap, and a few others, Alice is eventually caught out by another hidden obstacle and dies, very bloodied in front of us.

Yep, this will end well.

What the actual frak?  Alice dead at the outset of the film?  I call shenanigans!

As it turns out, our scepticism is wholly correct and the Alice whose gut-shot body is duly disposed of by Hazmat suit wearing Umbrella functionaries and tipped into a trench with other failed clones of Project Alice, in a striking image of scientific contempt for failed meat product which also recalls the similar, nightmarish discarded failed clones of Ripley in “Alien Resurrection“.  Coinky-dink?  With this franchise’s barely disguised worship of the Fox sci-fi series and Warrant Officer Ellen R., I suspect not.

“S’up?”
“Zombies”
“Word”

If this all sounds a bit light on revisiting our established characters, you’re not all wrong – it does seem like quite a while into the brief running time of this second sequel before Alice enters the main plot and interacts with old friends and new protagonists alike.  Alice, you see, is taking the lone hero route, possessed of the knowledge that Umbrella can track her movements and so choosing to stay clear of the path of their satellite tech so that she’s the only person who could be targeted when they inevitably catch up with her.

Of course, there’s the other compelling issue at hand – Alice’s abilities are developing apace and turning her into a lethal psionic killing machine, which rather precludes having people around you too much.

Fate will out, however, and after some preliminary life-and-death dust-ups with zombie dogs and redneck cannibal rapists (I’m assuming this is their intent – it isn’t particularly well-stated), Alice finds a book detailing radio transmissions received from Alaska which promise a Z-free haven where the infection hasn’t flourished yet, which sets her on a path intersecting with survivor Claire Redfield (the impressively tough Ali Larter) and old mate Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr – still fantastic) and their convoy of kids and bound for the chomp non-combatants.

If the “Resi” flicks wear their influences on their camo sleeves at all times, it should come as no surprise at all that this section of the movie manages to mash-up Hitchcock’s “The Birds” with the aforementioned George Miller sci-fi sequel.  What does grate, slightly, is that this set-piece also finds time to bump off the convoy’s red shirts  – debuting R&B star Ashanti and survivor of Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Mike Epps are dispatched with undue haste in a move which suggests that director Russell Mulcahy and the producers were unaware of  just how popular horror cinema is amongst African-American movie-goers and that it might be nice to subvert the irritating genre trope of killing black characters and letting the suburban white kids survive more or less unscathed.

Yeah, with these films – everyone’s a critic.

Observing all of these events from his underground lair is Iain Glen, turning in glorious moustache-twirling work as geneticist/suave madman Dr Isaacs, who wants Alice and her blood back so that he can engineer some kind of master race of ass-kicking supermodels (one assumes) to reclaim the earth from the biohazard horde he and his Umbrella colleagues have bequeathed to the planet.

Somewhat peripheral in the second film, Glen really gets to crank up the low-key, deranged villainy in earnest in this sequel, pitching his bad guy as lost between genuinely believing in the horrific science that he’s responsible for, trying to find a solution to the hell his work has wrought and dead-set on vengeance against Alice, the Umbrella I.P. loose in the wild, eluding the furthest grasp of the corporation’s technological eyes in the sky.   I really enjoyed his work – he’s a despicable heel of a man who only becomes uninteresting once he gets gnawed on by a z-head and turns into the Tyrant, a gloopy, grossly self-regenerating bio-weapon from the games series.

You’ve got the idea – Alice versus monstrous tendril beast in the climax.  You know who’s going to win that fight, so it becomes less than involving.

What is kind of fun is this series’ hallmark – closing on a big final image which drags you back to see the next movie, even if logic suggests that they can’t possibly live up to the promise of that last shot.  In this go-round, we see Alice and a newly awakened clone of herself, having bested Tyrant Isaacs, about to wake up a veritable sports league worth of cloned Project Alice subjects and making ready to take the fight to Umbrella’s home territory of Japan, promising once and for all to wipe out series villain overlord Albert Wesker.

That leads us neatly to the next film in the series, “Afterlife”, which returns Anderson to the director’s chair and brings the chairman of the Umbrella Corporation fully into the fight – but I’m getting ahead of myself, that’s for the next post.

This film was a mostly enjoyable exercise in scares (there were cheap ones, but they worked), action (the scene in sand-drowned Las Vegas, with Alice slicing-and-dicing undead forces like a human food processor, all whirling blades and bad-assery) and mythos continuation.  It gets a bad rap, which I can’t quite understand, as it’s nowhere near as ropey as the second one was when I viewed it for the previous post in this series.

Director Mulcahy stages action well, works brilliantly with long time series editor Niven Howie and uses locations to considerable effect – this is a horror movie set largely in the daylight and doesn’t get to rely on dark corridors and things lurking in the shadows to unceremoniously jolt the viewer until the end of the film.

Alright lads, who wants some?

I honestly don’t get where the antipathy comes from, other than from knee-jerk horror fan boys who can’t get over the fact that Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt aren’t making the films directly to their blog-post and forum comment specifications.  A fun genre pic and fine series entry – best viewed loudly, on the biggest screen available to you.

 

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