When we last left the “Resident Evil” universe, the intrepid, superhuman Alice (Milla Jovovich) threatened to band together an army of her own clones and come after the board of the insidious Umbrella Corporation. And so she does at the beginning of “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” raiding the vast superstructure that is Umbrella’s headquarters buried deep beneath the streets of Tokyo. That such a structure could ever exist under Tokyo – or any city, for that matter – seriously stretches the limits of suspension of disbelief, but never mind. During this raid, we see lots of things flying around the screen in slow motion, including guns, bodies, debris, and fireballs; this, we eventually discover, is a visual technique used all throughout the film. Believe me when I say that this gets old very, very quickly.
This fourth installment of the hugely popular “Resident Evil” franchise, based on the video game of the same name, marks Paul W.S. Anderson’s debut into the unstoppable world of 3D cinema, a distinction made possible through his friendship with James Cameron and the Fusion Camera System he developed for “Avatar.” We’re talking about some amazing 3D, here. Was there no way to put it to better use? “Afterlife” plays less like a thrilling adventure and more like instant replay on steroids, each action scene (and there are a lot of them) slowed to an agonizing pace. Every kick, stab, blow to the head, and airborne weapon seems caught in an inescapable time warp, as if Anderson was literally trying to analyze the smallest details of every shot. On the basis of this film, he would be a good candidate for the host of an after-game sports highlight show.
The plot: Eighteen months after the events of “Resident Evil: Extinction,” Alice flies up to Alaska, where a transmission promising a safe haven for the uninfected had been emanating. Already there, she assumes, are a small band of survivors that flew away via helicopter. Upon arriving, she finds absolutely nothing ... except for a now feral Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who has a strange metal spider-like mechanism affixed to her chest. Claire, you may or may not recall, led the survivors at the end of the previous film. Alice removes the mechanism, only to learn that Claire doesn’t remember her, nor does she remember anything else, including her own name. The specifics of this are left a little obscure, although Alice freely speculates that the mechanism had been pumping Claire’s body full of an amnesia-inducing drug. I guess she was right; little by little, Claire’s memory returns.