In Regards To Your Movie, ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’

By  · Published on September 10th, 2010

Sometimes a movie is so special that it cannot be contained by the standard review. When that happens, we’re more than happy to write an open letter to the production in the hopes of making everyone’s day a little brighter.

In the case of Resident Evil: Afterlife, it’s about as special a movie as I’ve seen in a while.

To Whom it May Concern:

As per my mother’s teachings, I’d like to open up this message with the good. A spoonful of sugar will help the whole mess go down. First of all, and you won’t catch me saying this very often, the 3D looked fantastic. There were some hiccups (more on that later), but overall you created some interesting shots and some that were truly breathtaking. Also, you saw fit to cast Boris Kodjoe as the former basketball star Luther West. Without him, there would have been zero interesting actors to listen to – so thank you sincerely for that minor reprieve.

As for the bad, there was a lot of it, so let’s avoid recreating your movie’s pace and attempt not to get too bogged down.

Correct me if I get this wrong: in the continuing story of the Umbrella Corporation and the Tyrant Virus turning everyone into monsters, Alice (Milla Jovovich) survives an assault on their Japanese facility only to head for a safe haven in Alaska that doesn’t exist. She and Claire (Ali Larter) head down the coast in a prop plane and find a handful of survivors stranded in an old prison.

First of all, I fully realize that you’re not making Macbeth or shooting for an Oscar (or even a Kid’s Choice Award), but this whole movie is like getting punched in the face by a jar of molasses. The violence is there, but it’s been slowed down until it’s meaningless. Kudos for being brave enough to do pan and scan on completely still images (especially with CGI that wasn’t the best), but I’m afraid the gamble only paid off in proving Paul W.S. Anderson as the anti-Neveldine/Taylor. That’s a feat in and of itself, but swinging the pendulum so far that the clock stops doesn’t make for good filmmaking. That’s what Ken Burns does with documentaries about the Civil War, not what should be done when an awesome explosion is ripping through the screen. It’s like you went to the Zack Snyder School of Slo-mo and failed out somehow. Pressing the “Slow Down” button and letting the scene play out is not the same as editing a real-life action sequence.

I apologize for harping that much on the action, but if there was one thing to get right in this disaster it should have been that. Some moronic dialog and horrendous acting can be forgiven if the battles and blow-ups are big and bold. Your action is the cinematic equivalent of a lover that brings you right to the edge of orgasm after trying too hard only to stop just before climax in order to go make a documentary about the Civil War.

Removing the slo-mo would have also cut down the movie by half, meaning a lot less of the actors on screen. You should look into this idea next time. Milla Jovovich is somehow worse than she’s ever been in the franchise. It might be an editing problem, but she pauses for three seconds before responding to any line of dialog. It’s incredible. You could set a watch by it. In fact, setting a watch by it would give something entertaining for the audience to do while the film is playing. You should suggest that on your posters or something.

Wentworth Miller whisper-yells his way through every cardboard line stolen from the Ghost of Action Films Past as if he was trained by Christian Bale’s voice coach. Ali Larter seems not to know where she is half the time. Granted, her character has some memory loss, but she manages to remember Kung Fu, so I would imagine she could recall how to speak without sounding like someone is making her mouth move by shoving their hand up her ass.

Also, thanks for the annoying stereotype of a Hollywood producer character. There’s a reason they killed the annoying asshole early in Jurassic Park.

Speaking of knowing Kung Fu, congratulations on discovering Bullet Time. You should copyright it.

Getting back to the action, I would suggest not cheating your audience. Besides the slo-mo boredom of most of the scenes, you bait and switch whenever possible. A great example is when the massive horde of zombies that covers 30 city blocks storms the roof of the prison. You can’t have a scene of the crew in dire straights as a wall of zombies attacks followed by one where someone has clearly called Time Out in order to get those damned undead cannibals to stop charging in time for a handy (frankly, slow) get away out a side door. Also, you can’t tie a rope to something, blow that something up, and still expect the rope to hold tension. Instead of going through the litany of ridiculous physics, I’ll refer you to a high school physics course instead.

Make no mistake. Internal consistency matters, because without it, there’s nothing at stake. I half-expected Alice to don a cape and fly at any moment while creating a double rainbow with her mind and turning the Hollywood sign into a big ball of yarn. Changing the danger rules as your movie goes along makes it bargain brand sugar cereal – cheap, all filler, stomach-ache inducing.

I know I promised not to get back into the action, so let’s move on.

It’s true that the 3D looks incredible. I also have to applaud the production for being gutsy enough to feature things that have no place being filmed in 3D. Cameras cutting to static. Blurring shots as people walk off into the distance. On top of being proof that there was no consistent style to the movie beyond covering it in a waterproof sealant and slowing it down, those shots also help wake up the audience at crucially boring moment by blistering the eyeballs. It’s like when baroque composers would inject sudden loud notes into slower movements to keep people from falling asleep. Your production team is the Mozart of modern action.

Speaking of visuals, you may want to alert your CGI team that copy and pasting a still shot of Milla Jovovich’s head onto a body in motion just isn’t going to cut it.

Also, as even first graders might realize, the one part of filmmaking that only works if it’s absolutely, completely necessary is a voice over. You, oh you, you’ve gone over the top by making the voice over visual (3D voice over!) by having Alice talk into her personal camera in order to say exactly what the audience is seeing. It’s an innovation the same way inventing a new way to strike out on a first date might be. Or like inventing a new venereal disease. That’s then released, creating the catalyst for a once-promising film franchise.

As to that topic, for the next Resident Evil – which you so brazenly set up – you should try cutting some fat. A simple trick would be doing a quick document search for repeated lines. For example:

The plane soars over an abandoned Los Angeles, its streets devoid of any life – even the undead – and the buildings hollow and burnt out.

Alice: It’s Los Angeles, but where is everyone? It looks devoid of any life. Even the undead. Hey, is that a building that’s been burned? That sure is a lot of buffalo.

It works for repeated dialog, too:

Recording That We’ll Hear 20 Times During the Film: This is Arcadia. There is no outbreak. We offer food, safety, showers and exposition.

Alice: (to Claire who is within earshot of the recording) It’s Arcadia. There’s no outbreak there. They’re offering food, safety, showers, and exposition.

It’s simple. Just press Control+F and go to town a few minutes before shooting.

On a final note, it’s refreshing to see a film production model a villain’s look after Dieter Von Cunth in MacGruber, in the same year as the film was released, as if it weren’t a parody. Also, the action was terrible, and you should be ashamed of yourselves for it.

Enjoy reading this incredibly slowly.

Respectfully yours,

Cole Abaius

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.