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Movie Review: Alice in Zombieland

By Johnny M

September 13, 2010 at 7:04AM EDT

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What apocalyptic adventures await our plucky heroine this time? Just click on dreamy Wentworth Miller
to read Johnny M‘s review of Resident Evil: Afterlife!

Film: Resident Evil: Afterlife
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, Shawn Roberts, Boris Kodjoe
Written and Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Genre: Action, horror, “chicks kick ass”
Rating: 5 out of 10 / C
Reviewed by: Johnny M

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THIS FILM AND OTHERS IN THE SERIES!

We rejoin our zombie apocalypse, already in progress. Once again, the superhuman Alice (Milla Jovovich) is leading a fight to save the world (which at this point is mostly rubble and zombie hordes) from the effects of the Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus and from Umbrella’s leader Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). Hooking up with old ally Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and her brother Chris (Wentworth Miller), Alice and a ragtag (because there’s no other kind) team of survivors fight their way out of an undead-infested Los Angeles and to a place called Arcadia, believed to be free of infection. Do I have to say that this is based off the best-selling video game series by Capcom? Because really, if you’re on Fanboys of the Universe, you know that already.

Fourth films in a series can either be good or…well, actually, they’re mostly awful, bordering on mediocre…if you’re lucky. Batman and Robin. The Phantom Menace. Terminator: Salvation. By the time a series reaches a fourth film that isn’t a total re-boot, you’re starting to reach the end of your story ideas and are primarily coasting on name recognition. Resident Evil: Afterlife is a proud standard bearer in that category. Are there babes kicking monster butt? You bet there are! Is there a plot or a secondary character we could possibly care about? Of course not!

And you know what? That’s just okay sometimes.

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Someone left the script out in the rain.

RE:A starts off the film with very little exposition aside from the standard “My name is Alice” spiel that Milla Jovovich recites every time, but even that’s abbreviated (and Jovovich sounds bored saying it yet again). It’s assumed that you’ve seen the other films (especially Resident Evil: Extinction) and know the basic storyline. The film does very little to advance its own story, being mainly a delivery system for some very cool gun fu, kung fu and Milla fu with the occasional 3D weapon whipped at the screen. The film doesn’t need 3D to be visually appealing, however. It was filmed in 3D with the same type of cameras James Cameron used in Avatar, and if you hate 3D (like me) you’ll still get great visuals and well-designed frames in 2D. The action on screen is further enhanced by tomandandy‘s fantastic score, which sounds like William Orbit producing an industrial goth album that will never get released in the US.

What you won’t get is anything like a plot. Paul W. S. Anderson, who also directed the first film and has written all the films in the series, is great at staging kinetic, engaging fight scenes and keeping the mood of the film just creepy enough to qualify as horror over action. The man did do Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon after all. What he isn’t great at is logic, motivation and depth. While it seems pointless to knock a film that’s transparently all about the thrill of seeing macho women with guns blow the mother-lovin’ heads off of zombies for its lack of character development, it’s also tedious to devote so much camera time to characters who are just as transparently going to be monster food sooner rather than later.

That being said, Milla Jovovich is phenomenal. She’s a born action hero with a great physical presence and enough acting ability to make you root for her to win. The biggest part of the RE films (and the games as well) is the presence of very strong female characters, and if Alice were Alan instead, the films wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable. Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller (pretty, pretty Wentworth Miller) do a decent job as her back-up ass-kickers, and Larter especially gets a massively entertaining fight with a gigantic creature called the Axeman (known as the Executioner in Resident Evil 5). Of the rest of the cast, only Boris Kodjoe makes any decent impression as basketball star turned zombie killer Luther West. And to be completely honest, I was paying more attention to his biceps than his line delivery.

Despite the missteps in the film, one very admirable thing that Anderson does is effectively reset the Alice character. RE: Extinction ended with Alice having not only enhanced speed, strength and regeneration, but also with an army of Alice clones that Umbrella had produced. And also with Jean Grey-levels of telekinesis. The opening battle of RE:A takes all of that away from her, making her into Alice as she was at the start of the first film (but with all of her memories, skills and previous abilities intact). She’s still the biggest bad ass on the planet, but at least she’s a fully human bad ass. It’s almost as if Anderson is admitting how ridiculous Alice’s abilities became and is asking for forgiveness and a second chance. It’s also a very clear video game reference. Call it Yuna Syndrome. You may have just maxed out your powers and killed the biggest monster in the world, but once that sequel comes out, you’re right back at level one.

The film suffers in its third act with a final confrontation that’s a rip-off of both The Matrix and Jovovich’s Ultraviolet, and the whole movie is imminently predictable. However, sometimes that’s just what you need, and at this point, it’s foolish to think that anything revolutionary could be gleaned from the series. The ending is also anything but, clearly setting us up for Resident Evil: Kill It Before It Dies. But if you want a quick fix of chicks kicking ass, you could do a lot worse. It goes down easy, it doesn’t make you think,

and Milla Jovovich is still the queen of semi-automatic feminism. But you could tell that from the poster, couldn’t you?

P. S. Make sure you stay at least for the first minute or so of the credits. Trust me.

Reviewed by JOHNNY M image