Belated Reviews: Evidently Feeble
It’s been a while since the Hammy pen has jotted a movie review. Come to think of it, the Hammy pen has not been jotting much of anything these days. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching movies of late; just that I’ve been busier than Santa Claus on Christmas eve. But I’m scraping some time off from work just to pitch in with this review. And right now, there is no movie I want to review more than the recent (well, not recent recent) 3D installment of Resident Evil.
The original 2002 movie, Resident Evil, was a pretty good watch. As far as zombie movies go, the movie had a fairly coherent plot, and let’s face it – ‘Resident Evil’ is an absolutely kick-ass title. But since then, the franchise stumbled upon the poorly hidden secret – If you have a good title and enough budget for slow motion explosions with Milla Jovovich in the foreground brandishing a gun, a plot is simply an overkill.
Every installment of the franchise makes an attempt to tell the audience – “Hey, you better watch this quick. It’s the last Resident Evil movie”. At least this was the message I got when I heard of “Resident Evil – Apocalypse” – Oh, no. It’s the finale. It’s all over. It’s an apocalypse. And then they launched “Resident Evil – Extinction”, which was a movie with a strong and powerful message, which was – “Psych! Apocalypse wasn’t the end. This one is. We promise… I mean, hey, we’re talking about extinction here. Ex-tin-ction… Oooo…” And of course, now we have “Resident Evil – Afterlife”, and this time around, they don’t even pretend anymore. Even the dullest tool in the shed can see quite plainly that the Resident Evil series will continue hitting the screens as long as technology is able to work around Milla Jovovich’s resident wrinkles. And by the rate technology seems to be advancing, this may go on for quite some time, possibly long after Milla has moved on from life itself, at which point a movie about her fighting zombies might have a new element of irony.
Reading back on what I’ve written, my keen sense of retrospect tells me that I may have given the impression that I hated the movie. Quite the contrary. I loved it. So far, I’ve seen it twice on the big screen (once on the regular big screen, and another on the weally weally big screen… a.k.a. an IMAX screening). I went in expecting zero plot and lots of 3D effects. I wasn’t disappointed.
If you know me, you’d know that normally, I would never give spoilers to a movie. As a rule, I consciously make an effort to avoid just that. But in this case, I’m going to make an exception. Because if you’re the kind of person who would get irritated about spoiler revelations for a movie like THIS… then by God, you deserve to be irritated.
The Resident Evil series is about Alice, a survivor in a world infested by zombies… zombies created by the evil Umbrella corporation who was, and apparently still is, trying to experiment with weapons of war. In the first three movies, she was hunted down by the corporation, experimented on, given superpowers, and cloned several times until she became an all-powerful nature-controlling rapid-healing super-freak Rick James would have been proud of.
Resident Evil: Afterlife starts with the Alice clones storming an Umbrella facility in Japan. In a brief, but spectacular action sequence, the clones manage to destroy the facility, and that too, in slow motion 3D. By the end of this sequence, the clones are all killed and Alice’s superpowers are taken away, making her ‘human again’. The super-villain of the piece, Albert Wesker, somehow refrains from the classic villainous laugh at this point, and just as you’re about to award him with a token applause for this monumental achievement, he proceeds to deliver the obligatory explanation for this turn of events to the backdrop of ominous music. Naturally, this is immediately followed by a plane crash.
Now there are established rules on how a Hollywood action movie can show a plane crash where the central characters are directly involved. Any good director worth his prop missile knows that this is the point where the ‘good triumphs over evil’ philosophy needs to be highlighted; this is where the hero heroically tries in vain to rescue the villain despite their oh-so-many differences out of the goodness of his heart, and the maniacal villain – usually due to his own folly – succumbs to the crash with a look of hopeless despair while the hero jumps out in the nick of time, maybe having to suffer through some nicks and cuts on his right arm and left cheek.
The rules are rigid. The hero may be replaced by a heroine provided such a substitution is absolutely unavoidable, and occasionally, the villain may sport a maniacal sneer or a bloodcurdling cry instead of a look of hopeless despair, but with this the flexibility ends. Resident Evil: Afterlife, however, proves to be a maverick in the field of action scripts in this singular use of the plane crash. As a plot device, it served the same purpose as an eraser… After the crash, the newly humanized Alice shows up in the desert armed with nothing but a sneer, two silver revolvers, and a bagful of makeup…. and yes, a mini-plane as well.
During her travels she stumbles upon Claire Redfield, who was last seen flying off in a helicopter to parts unknown in the last installment of the franchise. Claire is now suffering from temporary amnesia, and running around wild, with dirt encrusting significant portions of her face, clothes and savagely unkempt hair. She attacks Alice for a brief but violent minute before she gets knocked down cold. In the next scene, we are shown that Alice has tied her up as a prisoner in the backseat of her two seater plane. What got ME interested, however, were the implied events between these scenes. Because the Claire who was tied in the backseat had gotten a complete makeover. She had her hair done, face washed, clothes cleaned, and had apparently gone through an entire beauty treatment package. So apparently, Alice is a stickler for appearance. After she punched Claire’s lights out, she washed her and her clothes, did her hair, and spent a fortune in L’Oreal products, even stopping to apply lipstick. So the good news is that even though we can expect the future to be a grim host for undead zombies, prisoners are probably going to be treated quite well. Maybe the Geneva convention gets stricter.
But while she looks gorgeous and fulfills the horror-movie-hot-girls quota, Claire is still plagued by her memory loss throughout the movie. The only thing she seems to remember from the previous movies is that during slow motion shots, she needs to heave her chest up and down in as exaggerated a fashion as possible, without looking downright asthmatic.
The movie then proceeds to invent excuses for other action sequences… a rooftop plane crash, a survivor’s fortress, an invincible axe-weilding monster, a brief underwater chase, and an impromptu bungee jump, all enhanced by the VFX team. The zombies themselves were well trained, clearly well versed with the Hollywood zombie rules… They walk with their arms outstretched, they never nip at each other, move as slowly as possible while they’re just hovering around the background, trying to peck at new victims, but move VERY fast if a chase scene is in the horizon. They never nip at each other, and for the heroine, they either graciously move aside for her to pass by running, or place their faces directly in front of her flying bullets. If that’s not well trained, I don’t know what is.
Pretty soon, Alice and her gang of survivors get to a ship called Arcadia… supposedly a sanctuary for renegade survivors, but soon uncovered to be a front for the Umbrella corporation who were just abducting and experimenting on people… At this point, a sane mind might wonder what the Umbrella corporation might be hoping to accomplish… rule over the zombie infested world until human extinction? At the rate they were going, if they won the battle, it would have been an extremely short rule. But sane minds are exactly what needs to be avoided/ given a short vacation if you plan on enjoying the movie.
Alice walks in to Umbrella’s top secret floating facility and stares at the pristine, well maintained all-white laboratory-like space in the ship, markedly different from its gruff exterior, and moves on to see the villain… smiling, seated, and waiting for her entry. Once again, what got ME interested, were the implied events before this scene. Apparently, the super-villain, Albert Wesker’s concern for personal appearance is no less rigid than Alice’s own. To be at the perfect seated location as Alice walks in, he must have practiced his poise and adjusted the lighting to get the perfect effect. It wasn’t like he was seated behind a desk making notes/ drawing diabolical schematics for Acme products. He was seated… waiting. That’s dedication. Also, consider the pristine condition of the facility, and the fact that the impeccable white walls and floors hadn’t so much as gathered dust. Add to it the fact that Albert was the lone mobile person in the craft. It tickles me pink to think that before Alice comes in for the climactic showdown, the megalomaniac super-villain must probably have spent his time dusting and scrubbing the floors.
I like to think that he still had his apron on and brooms in hand as he saw Alice board the ship on some video monitor. Presumably, he then hurriedly hid the cleaning tools, changed to his super-villain clothes, and staged his sitting position in the nick of time. If Alice had hurried up a bit, she might have caught him changing from his apron. That, of course, would have made him the laughing stock of the villains’ den. But then again, I shake my head to focus – “No, Hamish. This is not a comedy. Let it go.”
So with her humorlessly timed entrance, Alice engages the villain in hand to hand to bullet to dog combat. She apparently kills Albert in the end, but if you remember what I said earlier, these Resident Evil chaps have mastered the knack of resurrection, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pops in for the next installment – maybe jumps out of a cake yelling ‘Surprise!’. I’ve written in a request for an apron scene, but Hollywood seldom takes my requests seriously, so I wouldn’t hold my breath for that. All in all, I will put in a solid 4 zombie thumbs up for the movie, as long as you leave your brain behind. Not in an undead kind of way, though.