Review in a Hurry: Like a grease-laden fast-food meal, the fourth and highest-budgeted installment in the videogame-based tale of bio warfare gone amuck is slick, tasty, gimmick-laden and literally in-your-face thanks to glorious James Cameron-style 3-D. Only afterward do you realize it was an empty feast, but you gotta have one of those every once in a while.
The Bigger Picture: Resident Evil: Afterlife picks up right where part three left off, with genetically enhanced ultrababe Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her army of clones in Tokyo, taking out the underground headquarters of Umbrella, the evil corporation that unleashed zombies and mutants upon the world. Though she comes out victorious, she also emerges stripped of her superabilities, but this doesn't actually mean much in the big picture. She may not have the strength to beat down 10-foot-tall mutants anymore, but she still has the heightened talents of a Hollywood action hero, so split the difference.
After a brief jaunt to Alaska, Alice is off again, down the West Coast (one imagines Alaska brought back painful memories of The Fourth Kind) alongside reunited pal Claire (Ali Larter). Once they arrive In Los Angeles, they find more survivors, as well as a possible safe haven...but they'll have to get through hordes of the undead—and some new monstrosities—to get there.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson, who retreated to a producer position after helming the first feature and marrying its star, returns to the franchise with much more money than before, which has enabled all kinds of new and ridiculously cool visual effects—Milla rappelling off a skyscraper in 3-D as the zombie masses run after her like doomed lemmings is a standout moment. But Anderson has never cared much for coherent scripts, and he still doesn't.
Why, for example, is there a giant, nigh-invincible executioner wielding an ax seemingly made from cinderblocks and saw blades? Aside from being an Easter egg for gamers, what's the point of having two major characters coincidentally turn out to be siblings? And perhaps more significantly, if all the world has been wiped out, why is the Umbrella corporation still experimenting with biological weapons when there's nobody left to sell them too? The answer to all these questions is either "It doesn't matter" or "Because it's cool!" Maybe both.
And does the movie end on an annoying cliffhanger to lead into the next sequel? As another famous Alaskan refugee might say: You betcha!
The 180—a Second Opinion: Yes, there are Matrix rip-offs galore. Also Dawn of the Dead. And Children of Men. And Blade II. You weren't actually looking for originality in the fourth film of this franchise, were you?
Photos: Totally New Releases!