Resident Evil Extinction vs Afterlife: It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Blurst of Times…
So, much, much delayed, here is the continuation of the Resident Evil Movie/Game comparison; after finishing this piece next week with ‘Retribution,’ I shall be back to more regular material! See you then? *He said hopefully, with tears in his eyes*
Resident Evil Extinction and Resident Evil Afterlife are strange beasts, by comparison to their predecessors, mostly because after declaring global extinction in Extinction, they violently shift the plot away from anything resembling the games’ timeline (where outbreaks are frequent, but never global in scale). As a result, I’m going to give each one a truncated look before moving on to the latest to see just how our little experiment in video game movie adventuring has turned out.
FILM: Resident Evil: Extinction
GAMES: Resident Evil 1, 2
I actually was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed this one. After Apocalypse I was pretty much ready to give up on this whole affair, but lo and behold, here’s a film that operates on its own and is better for it. The three plots follow Alice-in-exile learning to lift rocks with her unpredictable Jedi powers and fighting random evil redneck racists (as seems to happen to every good apocalypse survivor), Carlos and our pimp friend from the previous film have teamed up with a convoy of survivors in Mad Max style vehicles, and Dr. Jorah Mormont who is working hard to impress Resident Evil mainstay Albert Wesker (the perennial villain of the series, portrayed by the guy from Terra Nova in this one) by developing a new Alice and domesticating zombies so the evil corporate retreat underground doesn’t become a permanent home. All these elements work well together and for the first time in a while, Umbrella’s motives start to make sense again: they accidentally wiped out most of the human race, but they want to rebuild, to ‘return to the surface’ as it were.
There’s some fun business about recreating Alice by putting clones through a simulation of the first film that is all kinds of neat, as it allows set pieces (laser Cube room!) to get more play, as well as allowing for a great climax in the laser room. It evokes the best film of the franchise and reminds us why these movies matter at all as a distinct entity.
In game terms, the convoy is run by Claire Redfield, hero of the second game and Resident Evil: Code Veronica
What’s neat about this is that the film Claire is entirely her own film character. She shares the ‘strong, inventive, leader’ qualities of the game character, but the similarities end there. Unlike Jill, they just wrote a character, slapped a familiar name on her and then actually wrote a character. A welcome change.
The story plays out like a mix of The Walking Dead (ragtag band of survivors on-the-move) and serves almost as a sequel to Romero’s Land of the Dead (with highly organized people dealing with a complete wasteland). Alice finds a random book that implies safety in Alaska…
So that’s where the convoy endeavors to go. Along the way we get classic zombie tropes (our friendly neighborhood pimp gets bitten and-in a kind of awesome and rare choice for an established zombie universe-just doesn’t tell anyone. This leads to Carlos getting bitten by his friend, which is a nice little moment.) as well as a couple neat last-stand type of events, first against crows (see below) and then a good ol’ fashioned zombie throw-down in sand-sunk Las Vegas. It’s a fun film with really good action sequences; Alice is likable again, there’s no jerky cam…all is as right with the world as this franchise can make it!
The two major game inclusions in this one come in the form of the Tyrant (the original boss of the first game and a nice inclusion as what Jorah evolves into)
And crows. The central villains of this film are crows, weirdly enough; but if you’ve played one of the original Resident Evil games, you know just how awful these beaked motherfuckers are.
They were, in a lot of ways, the original Nemesis monster, breaking through windows randomly and hard to hit because they were constantly in motion. Given how limited your ammo (and ability to aim) was, this proved to be legitimately difficult to contend with. For the film, they make the biggest damn murder of crows you can think of and have the bastards swarm the convoy. It’s a neat scene, much different than what’s been done previously and leads to a truly stunning visual moment where Alice uses her newfound Jedi powers to set the sky on fire. Badass.
As always, the film can’t just end, so we get a denouement of Alice unplugging her army of clones and declaring war on Umbrella. Nifty.
The film does, of course, have its share of problems: remember that little girl they spent all that time saving in the second film? Neither do they. (Although according to Wikipedia, the novelization details how Umbrella mind controlled Alice into killing her. Neat! Now THAT’S how you open a film! …also, they made an novelization. Tee hee.) Jill is also mysteriously absent (though she does come back in Afterlife) And then there’s Ashanti (yep, that Ashanti) who is inexplicably present as the badass medic. Then she dies. Yep.
But all-in-all, a much better film and a step in the right direction.
So naturally, the only way to follow that up is to take a massive leap backwards into crappytown.
Which brings us to Afterlife.
FILM: Resident Evil: Afterlife
GAMES: Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 5
This film just straight up sucks. It’s a mess of boring ideas, awkward slow motion sequences, odd video game inclusions, unlikable/meaningless characters, and useless 3D moments (look! I’m throwing shit at the camera! Be impressed! SO IMPRESSED!)
WOW! A DAGGER CAME RIGHT OUT OF THE SCREEN AT ME! I hope the wonders of 1952 impress just as much!
The film’s plot is tweetable and empty. Allow me:
“Alice goes Matrix, clones die, can’t find friends, then finds one, then goes to a prison, then fights super Wesker on a ship IN 3D #boourns”
So, yeah. All those clones? Dead in one big Matrix shoot-out. Kinda neat, but suffers from the usual clone problems (like Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) where when clones watch other clones die…they just don’t care. No big deal. Despite the fact that they are all independent and individual…they understand we don’t need to care about them, so they don’t care about themselves. Jolly decent of them.
Then big bad Wesker de-powers Alice with a Bag of Spilling maneuver, because, whoops…now she’s too powerful. Awful. She’s still a super ninja, but no more super powers. Ummm…what?
We’ve been told for three movies how she’s super special and magical, but turns out, one good injection…not so much anymore! Bet Dr. Mormont wishes he’d known that.
The prison is the bulk of the film and is filled with cardboard characters that might as well be wearing red shirts on Star Trek. They all have exactly one detail about them and die almost as quickly as you can forget said detail. The main joy of the ‘prison’ is a) No Lori and Carl *winks knowingly at Walking Dead fans* and b) that it is Robarts Library at the University of Toronto, both inside and out. (And if you’ve spent any time in there, you know it’s damn near a prison. I think they actually had to make the interior MORE cheery for the film…)
From the games, we get a bunch of random shit, none of which fits what is actually going on…
For example: in Resident Evil 4 (and later 5), the standard zombie enemy is replaced by a parasite based creature that means when the enemies get up close, the parasite comes out of the mouth and eats your face. Awful. In Afterlife (which came out around RE5), the zombies now arbitrarily do this to tie the film and current game together…but this makes no sense in context of the universe they’ve created. Nothing has happened to change the zombies, they are just able to do this now, magically. Even the zombie dogs can do this now. Just because.
They also included the executioner character who already makes little sense in the game and even less in-film. Why is there a seven foot tall executioner wandering the streets of LA with his death metal axe? Who is he? Why is he here?
The simple answer: he was in the game. As one of the most visually identifiable enemies of the new game, can understand the inclusion, but as is the case with the parasites it doesn’t fit the reality of the film (overblown zombie-tastic reality that it is…)
Then there are the ‘mind control scarabs,’ used in Resident Evil 5 to provide a shootable target for the player to hit while fighting mind-controlled Jill Valentine (as seen at the end of this film). In a game, having something that looks so silly is fine because we understand it has to be hit-able from a gameplay perspective…but in a film it looks horrendously out of place. It’s like when Bubastus shows up in the last few minutes of the Watchmen film. There was a collective “Wtf?” from the audience, who were suddenly faced a creature that one guy yelled out “looks like Snagglepuss.” Comics readers recognized it, but in the world of the film, it came out of nowhere. Same with the weird mind control scarab.
And finally we have Wesker and Chris, long standing characters from the games, who are plunked down into this film because they featured heavily in Resident Evil 5. They even include all Wesker’s Matrix style moves from the game (recreated perfectly) and a weird moment where Wesker throws his sunglasses and Chris catches them.
The attempt to make Wesker the central villain whose goal is using Umbrella to capture survivors to experiment on them is all kinds of ridiculous. In the previous film, Umbrella was just trying to return to the surface. Fine, that all makes sense. Now they’re capturing survivors to…do more tests? What the hell? The world ended and they’re still carrying out pointless, evil experiments? Ugh. Awful. Wesker tries to claim he needs new DNA, but they were already capturing people before he took the T-Virus…soooo….?
The film ends with an army of helicopters attacking our heroes, because apparently Umbrella still has nothing better to do than be the most evil all the time forever.
It’s a complete fumble, incredibly incoherent and generally boring. I don’t really know if the series can redeem itself; but I suppose I’ll find out with Retribution…
Gamers who love consistent storytelling and continuity: we are a dangerous breed.