Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Quick Fix: God is Dead?

If you listen to rock music on the radio, there's a good chance you've heard Black Sabbath's lead single off their new album, 13, "God is Dead?". On my local rock station, you can be pretty much guaranteed to hear it a few times per day as the DJ gleefully declares "I'm loving this new song, it's 'GOD IS DEAD'!" When I first heard the song, I thought that it was just another song decrying the complete evils of religion and how God can't exist. This actually surprised me because I was under the impression that Ozzy Osbourne is actually Christian (or at the very, very least agnostic), so if he was suddenly preaching that God is dead then he must have undergone a drastic, life-changing event of some sort. Basically, I took the song at face value, something which I imagine many more casual listeners would do - both religious ("Bah, the Prince of Darkness praises Satan once again...") and atheist ("Woo you tell those religious sheeple Ozzy!"). However, there's a major component of the song which doesn't carry over to the radio listener and that's the question mark at the end of the title. That punctuation mark makes all the difference to the meaning of the song. After hearing the song a couple times and actually listening to the lyrics, I began to detect the ambiguity contained within the interplay between declaration ("God is dead") and questioning ("Is God really dead?"). Ultimately, I think that the song is leaving the decision up to the interpreter to decide.

Despite the doom-and-gloom tone of the song, it's actually pretty inoffensive... well, unless you consider any attack on religious fanatics indefensible I suppose. In fact, "God is Dead?" is arguably commendable for a theist since it's a major mainstream song which tackles one of the greatest philosophical religious questions - if God exists, then why do bad things happen? And why do God's own followers commit atrocities in His name? In any case, I'm glad to see that "God is Dead?" isn't the aggressively atheistic song that it appears to be at first glance... and as for Ozzy's stance on this interpretation, it sounds pretty clear to me.


Thinking about "God is Dead?" also makes me think about religious music in general. I'm sure that there are still many religious people who would write off "God is Dead?" even with this interpretation, despite the sense of hope at its core. What defines "Christian" music? If "God is Dead?" was released by, say, Demon Hunter instead of Black Sabbath, would it be accepted? I'm inclined to think that it would. Why do Christian review sites, like the Childcare Action Project, condemn a very pro-faith movie like Signs for "blasphemy" when said blasphemy was part of the hero's journey to redemption?* Similarly, there's the issue of Christian musicians in general, which I think is best demonstrated by, of all bands, Korn. Yes, the Korn that's famous for such songs as "A.D.I.D.A.S." (aka, "All Day I Dream About Sex"). In 2005, Korn's lead guitarist, Brian "Head" Welch left the band because he had converted to Christianity and broke his addition to methamphetamines. He then turned to a Christian music career. Meanwhile Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu, Korn's bassist, also converted to Christianity but decided that he could reach out to more people if he stayed with the band. This is a very interesting conundrum for Christians in the music industry: Christian music is largely a niche with a very limited reach, mostly concentrated on an already-Christian audience. However, if the artist stays in the mainstream then they risk having their message diluted. It's a very difficult balancing act and I don't think there's a correct approach... but it's interesting to note that Head's back with Korn once again (predictably, this has pissed off some uptight Christians who Head soundly trounces on his Facebook page). I've never given a shit about a Korn album, but I'm excited to see how The Paradigm Shift turns out and hear if more positive aspects find their way in...

*From their website, they state that "The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior." This is just unthinkably stupid. As I showed in my interpretation of "God is Dead?", context is absolutely everything. This is the sort of inflexibility that makes evangelicals look like total tools...

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Quick Fix: Multi-media News

Hello fine readers, thanks for coming back for the weekly update! I was going to write on something more... controversial to say the least, but it's just not coming to me. Maybe I'll find the words for it next week, but for now it's on the back-burner. Anyway, that means that we get to talk about the generally less-heavy news in pop culture instead! As most nerds will tell you, San Diego Comic-con just ended and brought with it some major entertainment news. Probably foremost amongst these is the announcement of a Superman vs. Batman movie. Clearly this is DC's attempt to kickstart a shared universe much like Marvel studios is enjoying now. Of course, this brings with it its own problems... like how Batman could possibly win against Superman... *SPOILER* especially now that he is willing to kill for the greater good. Again, I'm not entirely sure how this is going to get worked out, but it could be potentially monumental if it can all come together.

Next on the agenda are a couple of potential movies that I've been following for some time which are looking for support. The first of these is Dredd 2, the proposed sequel to a movie I've been gushing about since it came out. Seriously, if you haven't seen it yet, do so. It's amazing, and deserves a sequel. The official news is that DVD and Blu-ray sales of the film have been through the roof and fan support is overwhelmingly high. This means that the likelihood of a sequel being made have skyrocketed. Back around December when I saw the box office figures for Dredd I was aghast - I was certain a sequel would never get made, with a status as a cult classic in a decade or two being the film's best bet for success. However, it's now looking quite likely that we'll see a sequel, maybe 50/50. I just hope the same minds are behind it so we won't get let down!

The other potential film I've been following is a Warhammer 40,000 fan film, The Lord Inquisitor. It was announced shortly after the official 40k movie, Ultramarines was released (to tepid reception) and looks like it will blow it out of the water. The movie's being made by Erasmus Brosdau, one of the designers at Crytek (a video game studio famous for Crysis and originators of the Far Cry series). The only sad thing about The Lord Inquisitor was that it looked like we were going to be waiting a couple years for a 15 minute short... until now anyway. Brosdau is looking for financial backing to get The Lord Inquisitor turned into a full-length CGI animated movie. I first got into 40k 10 years ago and back then I thought the setting would make for an awesome movie. In fact, I can't believe it took until 2010 before we saw an official 40k movie... unfortunately that movie, Ultramarines, was a pretty bland representation of the universe. If The Lord Inquisitor receives its backing, it should be a faithful version of what makes the 40k universe so awesome. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this goes in the future.

Finally, the biggest piece of pop culture news all week for me is this picture:


YES. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is well underway and I have little doubt that it is going to be amazing. Matt Reeves directing? YES. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver are back writing? AWESOME. Andy Serkis is back as Caesar? HELL YES. Hell, even the supporting cast looks good with such big names as Gary Oldman and Kerri Russell. I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes - hopefully this one will be even better!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Quick Fix: Zimmerman Verdict

I'm sure by now everyone's heard the virdict in the Zimmerman trial - not guilty. To a lot of people, Zimmerman just got away scot-free with murder. Of course, "a lot of people" have only the most cursory knowledge of what transpired and how the trial actually went, so this is mostly based on their political leaning, race, emotional state, etc. To be fair to everyone, I'm in that category myself as I have only really read when the case first hit the news and then forgot about it til a few days ago when the verdict was handed down (and then a few responses to it as well). I myself think that Zimmerman deserves to be tried for murder... but that said, I don't know the whole story. My opinion (and the opinions of others) on the matter has been influenced by what we have been told, and that's where the biggest issues in this case lie in my opinion.

First off, I am infuriated by how this trial was politicized as soon as it hit the airwaves. Obviously I'm furious that some people might use it as a defense of moronic "stand your ground" laws, but I'm actually more angry that it was turned into a racial war by liberals. This is irresponsible on the part of the media and served to make the actual details of the case itself irrelevant - all that matters now is that Zimmerman represents white oppression and Martin represents the black margin. Of course, the other effect which probably left the media salivating with anticipation was that the verdict would be inflammatory either way, driving up viewership. People are in an absolute frenzy right now, but if Zimmerman had been charged then there still would have been protests from people whining about how whites are now marginalized by minorities, that minorities can play the "race card" to do whatever they want and people would be attempting to keep "stand your ground" laws in place. I quite liked Disturbed frontman David Draiman's take on this case's treatment by the media.

The second major issue with this case was that people are infuriated that Zimmerman was not found guilty by the jury. Of course, this is another side-effect of the politicizing of the trial, but what's important is the legal procedure itself. Verdicts aren't passed out by people's own sense of morality - considering how much moral variance there can be between people, the legal process would be impossible. Instead, they have to pass down a verdict based on the laws of the State and the rules of the court. Based on that criteria alone, Zimmerman was clearly in the right - in the legal sense, he was acting in self-defense and there was "reasonable doubt" that he committed murder. If you're going to be infuriated at the verdict, place the blame on the legal system, because I'm pretty sure that it's now obvious that the law isn't concerned with what you think is right. While it might be odd to cite The Onion in a post about a serious issue, I think that their article about how screwed up the laws are is quite a good take on the injustice of the justice system (in fact, I think satire is a fantastic way to "rage against the machine" so to speak). In fact, as far as the trial went, Zimmerman's lawyers actually acted more professionally and had a better case.

Bottom-line: while I don't have all the facts in the case, I think that Zimmerman should probably have been sentenced for 2nd or 3rd degree murder. That said, the first part of that sentence is the important part: I don't have all the facts. I have no real justifiable reason to be completely outraged by the outcome of this trial. I think what we can learn from it is that the law needs to be changed in order to not obstruct justice in the future though, because if Zimmerman was actually guilty then we can't have this sort of thing happening again.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Retrospective: Resident Evil - Retribution (2012)

Welcome back to part five of the Resident Evil retrospective! In this entry we're going to cover the fifth (and thus far final) movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Retribution! However, just before we get to that, I want to highlight a somewhat relevant article I read recently about how fanboys are ruining Hollywood. Considering that I've been criticizing Paul W.S. Anderson for deviating from the games, this might make me seem like a biased fanboy... but the truth is that I don't really give a crap about the Resident Evil games. I've played a little bit of most of them, but they're not really my cup of tea - gimme a Metal Gear, Battlefield or Splinter Cell game any day of the week. That said, I don't think the authour of the article defenders their position very well - they call on fanboys to piss off because they can't write off a movie for making deviations from the source material. In some ways I can actually agree with this, but the way they presented it is questionable. He seems to be writing this as a response to Man of Steel and World War Z, stating that (SPOILER) why should it matter if Superman kills Zod? In this respect, it is a betrayal of what the character stands for and also creates major scriptwriting issues in the future (if Superman is willing to kill, then why won't he kill his enemies when the going gets tough from here on out?). The changes in Man of Steel change fundamental aspects of the character themselves, not the way that they're presented. On a related note, World War Z has nothing to do with the novel beyond having some type of zombie in it - if you're going to change the source material that much then you might as well just give it an original name. The only reason I can see them not doing so is because it will allow them to market to an existing audience. However, I did agree with some elements of the article, such as when the authour defends Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. I may not care for Resident Evil, but I'm definitely a Tolkien fanboy... and I actually quite liked The Hobbit in spite of its excessive length. It is extremely faithful to Tolkien's book and appendices (with the only major exception being the stuff surrounding Azog), moreso than The Lord of the Rings was. On its own merits, The Hobbit was quite a good movie, and people who write it off due to it not sticking to the book solely or for being too long (I honestly found that it didn't feel like 2 1/2 hours) are really missing out. All-in-all, the authour makes some decent points, but I can't find myself in agreement with them for the most part.

Anyway, after Afterlife, the Resident Evil series was even more popular (and reviled) than ever. Inevitably, Retribution was greenlit and prepared to assault the intelligence of audiences worldwide for a fifth time. Thankfully, the series had somewhat gained its footing, as Extinction and Afterlife were both at least watchable... could Retribution carry on this streak and turn the franchise into a true guilty-pleasure? Read on to find out...

There were quite a few posters for this movie, but this one's my favourite. The skewed perspective and use of colour make it look very cool.

Afterlife raked in almost $300 million worldwide, making it by far the most successful entry in the franchise. While the series was basically a joke by now, it was still drawing in new audiences (especially internationally). This time around, Anderson seemed to want to draw back fans of the games, and so offered to introduce characters which had not been brought into the series yet. Based on a popularity poll, Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong and Barry Burton were written into Retribution. The marketing for the film also promised that the action was going to take place on a "global scale", whereas previous entries were confined to the United States (barring the opening sequence in Afterlife). Also, since it performed so successfully in the previous film, Retribution was again shot and released in 3D... only this time they (thankfully) toned down the gimmicky usage of the medium. Crap almost never gets thrown at us to artificially hammer home the effect, instead it is integrated organically throughout.


Retribution features one of the largest main casts in the series. As usual, Alice is back in the lead. This time around she's supposedly a regular human again, but you'd never know it - she displays impossible feats of athleticism and (sigh) dual wields so much that super-powered Alice would have said "Whoa, slow down girl!" Of course, at the end Alice does get all her super-powers back in the most convenient manner possible... bloody hell Anderson, make up your damn mind about how you want the character to "develop"! Actually, he and Milla did try to develop Alice in this entry somewhat by stealing a page from James Cameron. Alice finds a little girl who she becomes surrogate mother for, and then has to rescue her from the monsters near the end of the movie. It's not even close to a stretch to suggest that this whole plot strand completely ripped off Aliens - hell, the rescue scene even uses identical framing and lighting to that film (not to mention that the kid is inexplicably cocooned as well). This whole subplot was ill-conceived in my opinion. Ripley is certainly one of the great heroines in all of cinema, and Aliens really drove that home... but ripping that off doesn't suddenly make Alice a deep character. There's no real established precedent at this point for Alice to be a surrogate mother to anybody, nor is it set up well at all. By throwing it in it just seems like Anderson and Jovovich just wanted to indulge their own family. To make matters worse, the relationship just makes no sense. The little girl, Becky, only follows Alice around because she thinks she's her mother, but when she finds out that she isn't she screams "You're not my mommy are you?!?!" To that Alice simply quips "I am now!" As much as you'd like to be her mommy Alice, you really aren't. Becky's got a whole life that she can't just forget because you decided that you should take care of her. Of course, the movie doesn't address this because Alice has become a Mary Sue at this point, full-stop. She's supposed to be vulnerable now, but she's totally invincible in practice, and we're never convinced that she's in any sort of danger whatsoever.

If you're a Ukrainian supermodel, you can kidnap anybody.

Enough about Alice though, onto the other characters. Retribution actually got a fair bit of buzz by bringing back characters who had been killed off, namely Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and James "One" Shade (Colin Salmon). To that I say one thing: AWESOME. Carlos and James were easily the best parts of their respective movies, and a chance to bring them back to kick more ass is very welcome indeed... unfortunately they are given little more than overglorified cameos. Like, literally all that they do is show up every once in a while and look intimidating before they get killed off unceremoniously (and another clone of Carlos gets munched by a zombie at the start of the movie). Well how about Rain then? Since Resident Evil she had become one of the most recognizable action heroines in modern cinema, surely she got a good role this time around? Umm well no. There's two versions of Rain in the movie, a good one and a bad one. The good one runs around and is kind of funny for being fairly useless (and dies of course). Bad Rain on the other hand is such a poor tertiary villain that it's cringe-worthy. I thought Rodriguez's acting was bad in the first movie, but she's just awful in Retribution. This actually really saddens me because she's proven that she can be badass in movies such as Avatar, so wasting her like this is just frustrating. So there you have it, 3 favourites from the film franchise are brought back to much fanfare... and then squandered so badly that you'd swear that the filmmakers were intentionally screwing with us.

How about the other characters then? Boris Kodjoe returns as Luther West, and while he was pretty cool in both movies, he doesn't really get to do much before his own unceremonious death. Albert Wesker also inexplicably makes a return after getting blown to smithereens at the end of the last movie... like, literally no one questions how he could have possibly survived the explosion. They don't even offer a half-assed hand wave. On top of that, Shawn Roberts' acting is pretty bad this time around. For whatever reason, he emphasizes every damn word that Wesker says, making him seem a bit odd to say the least. Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) also returns in a full-fledged role once again, but her acting is still very bad. She certainly livens things up "physically", but doesn't do a great job convincing us whenever she has to open her mouth. Also, I'm kind of annoyed that they decided to emulate Resident Evil 5 for her appearance. Like in Apocalypse, her outfit is distractingly impractical:


Sure, it provides eye candy, but I can't really take that outfit seriously. As a defense to Paul W.S. Anderson though, the game series is mostly to blame for that outfit, but that said he also bears the responsibility for adapting it. I actually am kind of disappointed that Capcom reinforced the "single male loser in the basement" stereotype when they worked Jill into Resident Evil 5, especially since she's not generally a particularly sexualized character in the series. Sexism is a big issue in the gaming industry, and forcing one of the major strong, female characters to prance around with massive cleavage damages our ability to see them beyond that (on the flip side of the coin, Chris Redfield's muscles are RIDICULOUS as well - you see angry Internet commenters, sexism works both ways!).

Bloody hell I've almost written a thousand words on the characters and still haven't gotten through them all. Okay, picking up the pace slightly, the first new addition is Li Bingbing as Ada Wong. As she puts it, she's Wesker's top agent... and that's basically all we learn about her. She's given absolutely no development, and Li's acting is atrocious on top of that. Similarly, Johann Urb's Leon Kennedy isn't given any development either... but that doesn't really matter because he comes across as a massive, stupid douche. As I've said before, I haven't really played much of the games, but is Leon always this much of a dork? I know he's a fan favourite, but between this and Resident Evil: Damnation, my opinion of him is that he has the personality of a piece of plywood. The only bright spot among the characters is Kevin Durand as Barry Burton. Again, he isn't given much to work with, but he goes out with style. Sadly, Chris and Claire Redfield are both conspicuously absent this time around... although considering how many damn characters are in this movie, that's probably for the best.


As for the plot... well, you might want to sit down before you read about it. I did not think it was possible for the Resident Evil movie franchise to make a stupider, more plotless movie than Afterlife, but Retribution makes that movie look like a freaking masters thesis. The plot holes and contrivances are so bad that they retroactively make the plots of the previous movies worse. Yes, you read that right. Here's a list of the problems I jotted down while watching the movie: How does it make any sense for Umbrella to produce clones and put them in a perfectly simulated world to simulate zombie apocalypses? The movie claims that they do it to try to gain control of the T-virus, but I don't buy this (since they don't offer any "solutions", they just unleash the zombies and call it a day). Why does Umbrella bother to go to the detail of creating a whole world when they do this simulation? For example, Alice finds photographs of one of her clones' marriage to Carlos, family vacations, etc... did Umbrella stage these photographs to make things more "real"...? Why does the Red Queen need humans to do her work? Why not just release chemicals to purge any intruders (y'know, like she did in the first movie)? Why can't she lock the damn doors? Why are the Red Queen's mind control scarabs so stupidly easy to neutralize? For that matter, if the Red Queen is in control of the scarabs, then why did they have them on the Arcadia (since this was controlled by Wesker, not the Red Queen)? If the zombies and clones aren't all killed in a simulation, what happens to them (since Alice finds Becky hiding in suburbia)? How does Alice know sign language all of a sudden? How can Leon and Luther get the elevator moving if the Red Queen shut down the power? Why did Luthor come to infiltrate Umbrella HQ? He's a basket ball player, not a special forces operative! And finally, a retroactive issue - if Alice bonded with the T-virus at a cellular level, wouldn't getting bit by a zombie allow her to get her super powers back? I could go on and on, but I found the following image macros covered some of the problems pretty well:



If it sounds like they made the film too damn complicated, that's not the issue at all here. In fact, Retribution's plot is so straightforward that you'd swear a kindergartner wrote it (hmm, I wonder if Paul and Milla's kid has a writing credit on this movie...). The plot is as follows - Alice is captured by Umbrella, wakes up in their HQ, escapes and then has to fight her way out in under 2 hours or they'll all get blown up. I think Scott at FEARnet describes it best:

Alice is "being held captive in a massive facility beneath Russian ice, and she needs to get from the 'lab hologram' to the 'Japan hologram' and end up at the 'suburbia hologram' to meet a team of rescuers. Not only is this a painfully lazy and perfunctory way to cobble a plot together, but it removes any of the 'stakes' that may have survived from the previous Resident Evil movies. What was once a story about a zombie plague that was accidentally unleashed by a nefarious corporation has congealed into a series of progressively dumber action sequences featuring a hot, skinny redhead who simply cannot be killed."

That's really the jist of it. The movie has nothing at stake and we're never really left in suspense. We just watch action sequence after action sequence, but it doesn't have the level of enjoyment which punctuated previous entries in the series, particularly Extinction and Afterlife. This movie features a fight against two Axemen - if you remember my previous review, you'll remember that the Axeman fight was one of my favourite moments in Afterlife. While you'd think two Axemen equals two times the fun, you'd be sorely mistaken. The fight is actually boring, an adjective I could apply to most of the action sequences in the movie. The last 10 minutes are basically an extended fight sequence between Alice and Jill, and then Alice and Bad Rain... and it just feels like it goes on too long. Why do we care about Alice fighting Bad Rain? She hasn't really bothered Alice all that much until now, and Alice just kicked the crap out of Jill. Shouldn't that be enough for us? That's not to say that the fights aren't cool or are badly choreographed, they all just aren't interesting. How do you get that interest back? Most movies needed a coherent plot and good characters to make the action engaging, if you don't have that then the chances of failure skyrocket. In all honesty, I can't believe how highly it was received.


Of course, Retribution is not all bad. The opening credits are epic, delivering on the promise that the ending of Afterlife held. The movie also does some interesting things, like FINALLY HAVING CHAINSAW ZOMBIES! Why did they not do that before!? Finally, as much as I disliked the film, the ending is totally epic. If the next movie actually delivers on the promise of mankind's last stand that we were given at the end of this film then we're in for a treat (even though I'm 100% certain we'll get another shit-fest).


3/10

And that does it for the Resident Evil franchise at the moment. Of course, there's a sixth and (supposedly) final film on its way, but what about after that? Well apparently plans are to then reboot the series from the start again. Ugh, well at least we can hope that they stick closer to the games this time... and please, PLEASE go back to horror and put someone other than Paul W.S. Anderson in charge for the love of God! Also, for those interested, this is how I would rank the franchise from best to worst:

1. Extinction
2. Afterlife
3. Resident Evil
4. Apocalypse
5. Retribution

Also, as I promised at the start of the series, I'll cover the two animated Resident Evil movies briefly - Degeneration and Damnation. It's been a little while since I've seen them so this is from memory, but it should suffice. Degeneration is a pretty standard fare - in the first half, Leon and Claire are at an airport when there's a T-virus outbreak and the pair have to survive this. In the second half, they have to take down mad scientists responsible for all this. It's pretty straight-forward, but surprisingly well-done all things considered. Damnation was just plain crap though. It was nice to see Umbrella bio-weapons actually being used in a warzone for once, but the story and acting were terrible. It also is more of an action movie than horror, basically just existing as a tie-in for Resident Evil 6.

And there you have it. That wraps up my third retrospective series! If you liked it, be sure to comment or share it so we can build up a bigger audience here! I've already got my fourth retrospective series lined up, and it'll provide a bit of a change over the thus-far standard "bad action/horror" template I've been utilizing on the last three series. Continue to tune in and see you soon!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Retrospective: Resident Evil - Afterlife (2010)

Welcome back to part four of the Resident Evil retrospective! In this entry we're going to cover the fourth movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Afterlife! Once again, the latest Resident Evil movie (Extinction) made even more money than the previous one (Apocalypse) - obviously this meant that the series had to shamble on another day. Despite Extinction being billed as the last entry in the series, Resident Evil: Afterlife was soon announced... in 3D (y'know, back when people still got excited when a movie was released in 3D)! Afterlife and the game it draws inspiration from, Resident Evil 5, mark a clear tonal shift to intense action for the franchise... would it work out in the end? Read on to find out...

What is with Resident Evil and dual wielding!?!

After the surprisingly decent Extinction, the Resident Evil franchise finally seemed to be settling into a groove. After releasing his Death Race remake, Paul W.S. Anderson returned to the franchise once again, but this time he was taking the director's chair once again (in addition to screenwriting of course). Entering production shortly before Avatar was released, Anderson and company believed that 3D was going to be the next big thing in Hollywood blockbusters - as a result, they decided to shoot Afterlife in 3D. I'm actually kind of happy with the way his was handled - rather than going for the cheap 2D-to-3D conversion cash-in, Anderson decided to shoot the film with actual 3D cameras. In my opinion, 2D-to-3D conversions are one of the major reasons why 3D has become a hated gimmick in the last couple years, because it just looks awful (as I can attest having watched Voyage of the Dawn Treader, ThorCaptain America and Clash of the Titans). On the other hand, all of the most visually stunning 3D movies I have seen have been filmed in 3D (Dredd, Life of Pi, etc). Sure it costs more to do, but the result is worth it if handled skillfully. So yeah, kudos to Paul W.S. Anderson for doing the right thing.


While I'm glad they filmed the movie in real 3D, I have to admit that I haven't actually seen it in 3D. However, I can imagine how it would look because there are some sequences which are visually stunning even in 2D - Paul W.S. Anderson can really frame a good shot. On the negative side though, the 3D is often used as a gimmick. Crap is thrown at the audience throughout the whole movie: axes, coins, knives, bullets, hell even a pair of glasses at one point (as seen above). As I said in the restrospective for The Final Destination, this is just a cheap, gimmicky way to use 3D and just kills any sense of immersion. So... umm... kudos for filming in real 3D, but way to squander it in the end, Paul.


Moving onto the cast, the film stars most of the usual suspects - Milla Jovovich is back, obviously, and so is Ali Later as Claire Redfield (who thankfully gets to do more this time around). Sienna Guillory also makes a cameo appearance at the end, reprising her role as Jill Valentine. Spencer Locke also returns as K-Mart... but honestly, who cares? She didn't do anything in either movie whatsoever so she's hardly worth the mention. Anyway, the major new additions in Afterlife are Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield and Shawn Roberts, taking over as Albert Wesker. I actually quite like Wentworth Miller in this movie, he definitely has a suitably badass air about him. Shawn Roberts is decent as Albert Wesker, pulling off the smug and imposing look although it comes across like he attended the Dick Dastardly school of villainy at times. Aside from the main cast, the movie also features a group of survivors in a prison, all of whom are just transparent as plot devices - there's the useful black guy (thank God he doesn't do street slang), the douche bag, the T&A and then the obligatory redshirts.

As for the movie itself, it opens on an exceptionally high note: the opening credits are absolutely awesome. The music, the cinematography and the slow motion all combine to make for a very memorable opening to the movie... and then the movie launches into even higher gear. Remember how Alice got ahold of an army of clones at the end of Extinction? I thought they would cheap out on this or handwave it away, but they actually go ahead and have an army of Alices attack an Umbrella Hive. This attack sequence is quite good and really opens the film on a high note... even if it's only real excuse for existing is to conveniently get rid of Alice's army and her super-powers to make the rest of the movie work. Yup, plot conveniences strike again, but at least we got an awesome first 10 minutes out of it.


As for the plot... well it probably makes the least sense of all the Resident Evil movies up until this point, which is saying a lot. It's clearly just a thin pretense to support the action sequences. Put simply, Alice finds Claire (who has convenient amnesia) in Alaska - turns out Arcadia isn't a safe haven after all. They then fly 3000 miles in a Yak-52 to Los Angeles, where they decide to land on a maximum security prison and help out the survivors there. Cue an hour of zombie action, culminating with them landing on the Arcadia (turns out it's an Umbrella tanker) and battling Albert Wesker. In terms of plot, it's absolutely brain-dead and the list of plot holes/conveniences I noticed while watching is just staggering. Why does Wesker carry a syringe on himself which can take away Alice's powers (and his for that matter)... and how would that even work anyway? How the hell does a non-super powered Alice survive a plane crash unrestrained when it smashes head-first into a mountain? Why does Umbrella still want to experiment on people when they've already wiped out most of the world's population? Who is Alice leaving her video blog for (it seems like just a lazy way to shoehorn in exposition)? Why is there a maximum security prison in the middle of down-town Los Angeles? How can zombies dig through solid concrete? How the hell does the Axeman make any sense? Why are the zombies suddenly Plagas? What are the chances that Chris Redfield happens to be at the same prison that Claire ends up in (not to mention that he's apparently been locked up for about 5 years)?


While the plot is pretty much dead on arrival, that's practically expected with Resident Evil by this point. What's really important is that the action sequences are stunning. The latter half of the movie is littered with action and it is at these moments that the movie really kicks into high gear. The zombie attacks and gun battles are all pretty good, but the movie features three standout sequences. The first is the opening which I mentioned previously. The second is the cliffhanger ending, which is just epic and really heightens expectations for the sequel (even if you already know it's going to suck). The third is the shower fight against the Axeman. This scene is jaw dropping... and pretty damn sexy too. Ali Larter really kills it here, and the slow motion and drops of water make the scene a visual feast. Paul W.S. Anderson should direct music videos. Seriously, just watch it:


Sure, the slow motion is gratuitous, but it's done well (although the movie would probably be 15-20 minutes shorter if you cut out all the slow-mo in it). Resident Evil: Afterlife is a mindless guilty pleasure movie - the plot is pretty much non-existent, but the action scenes compensate for it for the most part.

5/10

Be sure to come back soon for the final entry in this retrospective, Resident Evil: Retribution!