It’s easy by now for film critics to identify with Alice (Milla Jovovich), the badass heroine of the extremely lucrative Resident Evil film franchise. She’s constantly being besieged by a seemingly never-ending series of monsters, and we — at least every couple of years or so — are forced to sit through yet another installment of the mind-numbing series.
The film opened without press screenings, which seems an entirely reasonable tactic since only the most video-game obsessed viewers will appreciate the endless battle sequences that do an admittedly terrific job of replicating the games’ artificial visuals with live humans and a prodigious amount of CGI effects.
For those keeping track, this installment ends precisely where the previous one ended, with a titanic battle sequence aboard a ship where Alice is fighting the multitudinous forces of the evil Umbrella Corporation which is intent on transforming the earth’s population into flesh-eating zombies.
The action then inexplicably shifts to a placid suburban neighborhood, where Alice is now a blonde housewife who wakes up to a loving husband (Oded Fehr) and an adorable hearing-impaired young daughter (Aryana Engineer). But it isn’t long before reality rushes back, in the form of legions of undead who swarm their home.
It all naturally turns out to be a dream sequence, with Alice then reawakening in the corporation’s confines clad in — much to the delight of the teenage boy fan base — some barely concealing towels. But it doesn’t take long for her to don her trademark skintight black latex suit and automatic weaponry to once again take battle against a variety of monsters. These include a pair of menacing giants waving what look like meat tenderizers and numerous creatures with enough tentacles bursting out of their mouths to spur hungry theatergoers into craving fried calamari.
That’s pretty much it for the plot in this particularly action-heavy fifth edition that helpfully includes an introductory narration by Jovovich to bring viewers up to speed. Other story elements are provided by explanatory computer graphics that help clue us in to who exactly is fighting who.
Featuring brief appearances by enough veterans of previous installments to please rabid fans if confuse the uninitiated, the film features man sequences in simulated versions of such cities as Moscow, Tokyo and New York, all of which, not surprisingly, emerge the worse for wear.
It’s all pretty much an excuse for the lithe Jovovich to engage in a constant series of gravity-defying fight scenes in a futuristic universe apparently devoid of carbohydrates and most laws of physics. She’s accompanied for much of these violent exercises by a new sidekick, Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), whose dress cut up to the waist makes it convenient for her to access the firepower strapped to her upper thigh.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson stages these sequences with his usual flair, using a variety of elaborate effects that include x-ray visuals in which we get to see the bloody effects of the carnage on bones and organs from an inner as well as outer perspective.
The blasé reactions to the violent mayhem from an opening day crowd demonstrated that even the series’ longtime fans may be reaching their saturation point, although a climactic scene in which one of the characters declares that “this is the beginning of the end” indicates that at least one more apocalyptic installment will be hitting multiplexes before too long.
Opened Sept. 14 (Screen Gems).
Production: Constantin Films, Davis Films/Impact Pictures.
CAST: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Kevin Durand, Sienna Guillory, Shwan Roberts, Aryana Engineer, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing.
Director/screenwriter: Paul W.S. Anderson.
Producers: Jeremy Bolt, Paul W.S. Anderson, Samuel Hadida, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer.
Executive producer: Martin Moszkowicz.
Director of photography: Glen MacPherson.
Editor: Niven Howie.
Production designer: Kevin Phipps.
Costume designer: Wendy Partidge.
Rated R, 95 min.