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The summer is winding down now, with the grills going back into storage and the air conditioners finally getting a much needed rest. I'm always sad to see the summer go for all kinds of reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the end of the Big Dumb Explod-y Movie Season. Bringing up the rear for Summer Cinema 2010 is "Resident Evil: Afterlife," the fourth in the videogame-based series starring Milla Jovovich as Alice, a woman given superhuman speed, strength and fighting abilities by an evil company called The Umbrella Corporation. In addition to creating Alice, Umbrella inadvertently released a zombie-spawning virus on the world, destroying civilization in the process. For four films now, Alice has been fighting her way through that Apocalypse, trying to stop the further machinations of Umbrella.
This go-round begins with Alice (and several unexplained clones) attacking Umbrella's underground base in Japan, laying waste to the joint. In the middle of the fighting, Alice is injected with a serum that takes away her super powers, though she narrowly escapes. Commandeering a vintage fighter plane, Alice flies on to Alaska in search of a mysterious colony of survivors called Arcadia. Once she gets to the coordinates, however, she finds only hundreds of deserted airplanes and an old friend, Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), another ass-kicking zombie fighter from "Resident Evil 3." Claire has a big metal spider attached to her chest, which has rendered her both very combative and unable to remember her past. With Claire in tow, Alice then flies to Los Angeles, where she lands on top of a massive maximum security prison where a handful of survivors have taken refuge against a seemingly endless sea of zombies that mill around outside. For the moment, Alice and her new comrades seem safe, but we soon find out that the zombies have learned a new talent: digging tunnels. Uh-oh.
I've left out a good bit of the plot there, just because to reveal it would be too spoilerific, but suffice it to say that there's mystery and zombie-killin' galore.
The biggest problem with "Resident Evil: Afterlife" — other than the fact that any series is going to get a bit stale after four installments — is the thing that has plagued other films spawned from games: a sometimes slavish devotion to shoehorning in elements of the video game series, whether those items make sense or not. For example, a major threat in "Resident Evil: Afterlife" is The Axeman, a giant zombie with an equally massive axe/warhammer who is more impervious to gunfire than the other zombies. His appearance here is kind of random and never explained, but if you're a fan of video games, he has End of Level Boss written all over him. Fanboys might have jeered had he not made an appearance, however, so in he goes, sense be damned.
Though Milla Jovovich has the Alice character down pat by now, even she seems to be phoning it in this go-round. That said, when I ask myself: Will Resident Evil 4 satisfy the people who would normally seek out a game-based action movie, the answer is yes. There are lots of explosions and shooty-shooty, not to mention lots of a still-smoking Jovovich doing her trademark, burn-holes-in-sheet-metal smolder while staring down a machine gun. Too, the 3-D looks absolutely smashing in an action flick like this; I had to fight the urge to duck more than once when blood, lead and iron came zooming out of the screen.
In short, if you enjoyed the previous Resident Evil movies, you'll find more to love here. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but if all you're expecting is keister-kicking ladies delivering shotgun blasts to zombie noggins, you'll probably have a good time.