By Shane M. Dallmann
I gave up on the UNDERWORLD series after only one film because it gave me a headache and drove me crazy substituting “bang-bang” action for werewolf/vampire clashes. Nevertheless, the series is still going strong, and that’s fine by me–I have my own cinematic junk food in the RESIDENT EVIL series… and I guess that means that I’ll take Milla Jovovich over Kate Beckinsale. As long as she’s playing Alice, there you go.
I didn’t go back and obsessively rewatch all of the previous RESIDENT EVIL films to get myself up to speed with this one–I correctly assumed that Alice would deliver an opening speech that would let me know which characters I was supposed to remember and/or care about. I can’t say that I remember much about the previous entry–I recall being amused at how openly it ripped off… something or other… with some highly unoriginal characters and situations. Hell, I almost didn’t remember what it was CALLED, but it came back to me without my having to look it up. It was AFTERLIFE. I think.
What I DO remember is that it ended with quite a cliffhanger, as millions of warplanes swooped down on the survivors on a huge ship. Well, that’s disposed of in mere moments, and Alice wakes up in a facility deep under the ice in Russia. Said facility is filled with immense “simulation” chambers, so first you get a reprise of the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake’s opening in suburbia. Then Alice takes advantage of a security shutdown and experiences the Tokyo outbreak simulator. There’s also one for New York and one for Moscow, and they mention one for Berlin but we don’t get to see that one.
Anyhow, that Umbrella guy with the sunglasses who does an Agent Smith impersonation pops up on the telescreen to talk to Alice. That bit you saw in the trailer where she promises to kill him and he says “Good luck?” That’s not in the movie. See, this time he really NEEDS her for something and he’s going to help her get out of the facility (run by the little-girl “Red Queen” computer). He’s already sent Ada Wong in to neutralize the security, and he has a “strike team” coming to spring them, so long as they can rendezvous successfully and get out within two hours (because the place is gonna blow). And since everybody liked the giant whatsit with the war hammer in the last movie, this time we get two of them.
Umbrella has used an endless supply of clones with “trace memories” to populate the simulations. So between that and the fact that I no longer remembered which characters I was supposed to be surprised to see again and which ones I was supposed to take for granted, pretty much anybody could show up at any time with any sort of disposition. Ada was so robotic and lifeless throughout the whole thing that when the baddies put a gun to her head and threatened to blow her away (twice!), I wondered what difference that was supposed to make to anybody. Jill Valentine’s stalking Alice and she’s wearing her Umbrella control-device like a piece of jewelry on her chest–jewelry that screams “Why doesn’t somebody just rip me OFF?” There’s a nasty Michelle Rodriguez and there’s a pacifist Michelle Rodriguez who marched against the NRA. Oh, and there’s a little deaf girl that has every reason to think that Alice is her mommy. She’s there to supply an oh-so-blatant “Newt” to the proceedings. Of course she’s going to be snatched up alive by a nasty beastie. But COCOONED as WELL???!!!
So… bad movie? Nah. In the year that gave us THE RAVEN, LOCKOUT and THE APPARITION, calling this “bad” is a waste of good ammunition. It moves like lightning, the 3-D is very good, and, well, you’ve got Milla Jovovich as Alice. So there’s that to be said.
There were hints dropped that this was supposed to be the last entry in the movie series. So of course, THIS one, for a change, doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Right. But the next one won’t. Promise.