With his return to the franchise, Paul W. S. Anderson sought for the first time in his career to create a distinct visual identity. Always a competent director, one who worked very much in the classical composition and beautiful photographed production design in the tradition of Ridley Scott, Anderson imposed a defiantly elegiac note to his film. Action sequences were continuous; they focussed less on verisimilitude and more on creating striking visual images. There is a moment where Alice swings through the air on a rope; its patently ridiculous, and honestly, a little bit naff to look at. But it is distinct, and captures a vision of heroism that the character embodies, and it is memorable. Few action directors are capable of one of these traits in a shot; to incorporate all three is a real achievement.
There is always a sense of delight when the hopeful ending of one instalment in a franchise is undermined by the despotic start to the next entry. Here, the series transforms itself into a base-under-siege narrative. Always good value for claustrophobic action sequences and panicked turn-of-events, the well-defined location almost perversely gives a sense of epic scale to proceedings. The regular use of CGI allows for an enormity (both senses of the word) to the action; there is a moment where our protagonists’ building is revealed to be surrounded by masses of zombies. They stagger around like ears of wheat waving in the wind. It is quite beautiful. Similarly, the zombie become enhanced; now their humanity is abandoned and they become a ravenous squid like monstrosity. As the series moves further into its exploration of cloning, it denies us any form of humanity.
With its striking imagery and intense narrative, Afterlife marks itself as a high point of the series, a series that is truly embracing its genre heritage. Watching the villain of the piece, I was struck by how much he looked like a white ‘Blade’. Why aren’t there scuzzy superhero movies? Why does every entry in that genre have to be prestigious? The Resident Evil franchise prides itself on its commitment to pleasure. There is no time wasted in needless character backstory; motives become defined by action. Even its central protagonist – a clone of a clone of a clone – becomes heroic solely through her willingness to protect the vulnerable and ability to defend them against evil. The purity of this, combined with the thrill of genuinely impacting action sequences, ensure that watching these films is an absolute pleasure. I once described watching The Avengers (2012 – Joss Whedon) as being like having McDonalds for dinner; it was tasty at the time, but you were hungry half-an-hour later. Well, Resident Evil: Afterlife isn’t a McDonalds… it’s more of a hotdog. You’re not quite comfortable with what went into the product, but it hit the spot.
Resident Evil rankings:
- Resident Evil: Afterlife
- Resident Evil: Extinction
- Resident Evil
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse