The Resident Evil movies have consistently offered a ton of ludicrous fun, so when I say that this one simply offers more of the same, you should know that is not in any way a problem. And since this one opened at number one, 21 million ahead of number two, the best opening of the series so far, I suppose we can start gearing up for a fifth installment. To which I say: Bring it on.
We open with a quick recap: this virus turned everyone to zombies and spread all over the world. Ya know what? We get it by now. You'll notice an amusing little touch as raindrops appear to bounce off the credits. Then there's this massive underground lair of the Umbrella Corporation, the ones who made the virus--please don't ask how or why they're still in business if 99% of the population are zombies--and it's invaded by Alice, played by the ever-wonderful Milla Jovovich. She comes in--and gets killed! Then another Alice comes in, and another. There are a bunch of them. Then we see she has psychic powers and can level waste with just her eyes! And then you have that moment of "Oh, right, I guess she was turned superhuman and cloned at the end of the last one? Right? Or something?" She's also after this supervillain who looks like Val Kilmer that I didn't really remember either. But the key to enjoying these movies is not musing on them too deeply. Simply stare straight forward and accept what you see.
The opening sequence delivers the big fun you came here for [in fact, it's kind of the best part of the film], then we quickly identify the original Alice, and bad guy injects her with something that takes away all her superhuman powers. Makes sense they did that right at the beginning, since this movie wouldn't be very fun if Alice were invincible--we need to reduce her powers, and fast, if anyone's going to be able to get involved in this. Then her helicopter crashes dead into a mountainside and explodes. And Alice literally walks away. Helicopter crashes, explosions--just like so much navel lint.
Next thing we know, Alice is in a red fighter plane [you just pick those up along the way, ya know] and flying to Alaska, where she sent the extra-faboo Ali Larter as Claire at the end of the last movie [I guess?] because they were getting a message that there was a sanctuary for living people there. Claire's the only one there, and she's got some mind-control spider-thing on her chest that conveniently wipes any memory not narratively important at that moment. They high-tail it back to L.A. For some reason?
There a new cast of supporting characters await. Alice lands the plane on the roof of this prison where this movie's ragtag group of survivors is holed up, surrounded by zombies [oh yeah, there are ZOMBIES in these movies!]. They are led by Boris Kodjoe as Luther. This is the same actor who has a TV series where he and his girlfriend are spies coming on soon--although I can't recall the name of the show, despite seeing it advertised on every available square inch. He supplies the man-hunk, although with all the narrative slipper-slides we've had, I think they could have found some way to bring the hunk of two and three, Oded Fehr, back to life. And I think it would have been entirely plausible if he couldn't find enough postapocalyptic clothing to fit him. Anyway, group united, now the movie settles down for a bit and, frankly, flirts with becoming a bit boring.
Eventually the film remembers that it should have at least one big zombie attack, and these are led by this gigantic figure who weilds a gigantic axe. No explanation for his existence is ever given [I guess he was in one incarnation of the video game], but you know, who needs an explanation? It looks for a while like they’re going to let Claire take care of this one on her own—which they totally should have, Larter doesn’t have enough to do here—but no, this is always all about Milla. It goes on, ending with a confrontation on a big tanker with the bad guy from the beginning [that helicopter crash didn’t bother him, either!] and includes a great laugh line, “I wanted you to see that,” which I can give you without spoilers since it’s the context around it that makes it funny.
Overall, it gave me what I wanted and kept a smile on my face. There is something about these movies that is just so amusingly silly and endlessly fun… I can’t really define it. This one seems almost to be an apotheosis for the series, as things here start ridiculously over-the-top and just go from there. I’ve always admired Milla Jovovich and the straightforward conviction she brings to even the most ludicrous roles. But here there are so many Matrix-esque freeze-frames and super slo-mo sequences—for example Milla falling toward the camera in slo-mo while and expanding pattern of zombies in the background spread out behind her—at times it becomes this kind of pop iconography collection of images and tableaus that form more of an abstract idea of female awesomeness rather than tell a coherent story. At these times it starts it make sense that it would star a supermodel-actress, as there’s so much of just LOOKING at her in this pose or that. It also, in this way, begins to approximate a comic book experience much more than any comic book movie I’ve ever seen.
Building on that, and acknowledging that all of us are here for the fun awesomeness and none of us are here for the characters or story, I think they should have gone even further with the girls-with-guns lesbo* appeal of Milla and Ali fighting side by side. The trailer makes it look a bit like they’re going to go in this vein—with shots of them both with hair slicked back, makeup perfectly in place, standing posed with a gun outstretched, firing in slow-motion—and I think they should have just GONE FOR IT. The truth is that Claire is presented as Alice’s little sister, warrior-in-training, and personally I was looking forward to her having a lot more to do and for her and Alice to really become a team, but as noted, this is Milla’s show. Well, at least she’s alive to make it to the sequel, which is strongly set up at the end, and now, in just the time it took to write this review, is already approved. As I said at the beginning: Bring it on.
*By this I mean lesbian as in straight porn movie lesbians, not real lesbians.
If you liked one through three, you’ll like four.