Monday, June 13, 2011
Movies: Nick Fury, Magica de Spell, Godzilla, the guy from Die Hard, Evel Knievel, and Dracula.
The subtitle of Resident Evil: Afterlife comes dangerously to being a frank admission on the part of Paul W. S. Anderson. It's as if he was too honest to not telegraph the fact that the series, which was creatively bankrupt after the first 20 minutes of the first flick nearly ten years ago, had entered into a zombie stage. Though without the terrible menace the Z word implies. There's absolutely nothing dangerous about this lazy jumble of stolen visual references and tired plot points. No, the RE franchise is a zombie the way a zombie bank is a zombie: It's a decaying institution whose prior profitability was mistaken for fitness, a delusion that keeps number crunching bureaucrats ordering code blues every couple of years.
A plot summary gives this film too much credit. It shows continuity insomuch as there are some reoccurring characters, notably our superpowered heroine Alice. It should be said, however, that it lacks continuity insomuch as the first 10 to 15 minutes of the flick work diligently to ensure that almost nothing of significance from the previous films comes into play in this one. The army of super Alices? They all go ka-boom. Alice Prime's superpowers? She loses them to some injection of pseudo-science. (Though, as far as I can tell, the superpowers were understood to be something built into her as she was an artificial being, and not some enhanced human. Whatever. The phrase "as far as I can tell" reveals I've already spent more time sweating the details of this flick than the screenwriter did.)
(Wait. Hold on.)
(Okay. I had to check. IMDB says, yes, despite all evidence to the contrary, this film did have a screenwriter. It was auteur, Mr. Anderson himself. He's truly the Orson Welles of utterly shitty video game adaptation zombie schlock crap franchises.)
Instead of a plot summary, the best way to understand this film is to think of it as a near film made out of clips from other flicks. Matrix, Blade 2, the Dawn of the Dead remake, the most recent I Am Legend, Aliens . . . the list goes on and on. And this isn't an homage, or a a confluence of subtexts, a genre-centric blazon, or any other fancy-pants term one might have picked up from that freshman intro to film studies course. Instead, it's like somebody signed of on a huge budget for Paulie A's big ass game of backyard war. For those unfamiliar with backyard war because you were never a young boy, the game's pretty simple. Everybody announces who they are. For example: "I'm Robocop" or "I'm King Arthur" or "I'm Wolverine." Then you fight. You might ask, "So, under what circumstances, exactly, would Nick Fury, Magica de Spell, Godzilla, the guy from Die Hard, Evel Knievel, and Dracula all be fighting?" To which Paulie A. would answer, "Don't queer the magic, dude. It's money. Let them fight."
(As an aside, John McClane, Evel Knievel, and Nick Fury surprisingly teamed-up with Drac and saved the day. I know, WTF? But it happened. I was there.)
Sadly, Anderson's willingness to just throw anything into the blender is matched by a palate that hasn't stretched past the most obvious selections of horror-nerd culture from the past decade or so. He's like a dude cutting lose in his own basement man-cave. Sure, he's breaking all kinds of feet-on-the-furniture rules, but what is it really getting us.
Honestly, of all the broken metaphors I've offered up tonight, that's the closest I'll get. This flick is the equivalent of watching Paul W. S. Anderson recline on his couch and tuck his hand snuggly, comfortably, Bundyishly, into his slacks. If that's your thing, right on, mang.
Though, be honest, you know you played far cooler games of backyard war, and it didn't cost ya' nothing.