The panel for Resident Evil: Afterlife was so painful that the guy who got stabbed in the eye immediately afterward was probably feeling relief more than anything else (although the unimaginable agony coming from the new hole in his face was probably a close second. also, the guy really should have kept his 3-D glasses on. I mean, the knife lunging at him would have looked so cool). Okay, and now that I've fulfilled my requisite duty of sarcastically mentioning the Great Comic-Con Stabbing of 2010, I must apologize (and express my sympathies) to everyone involved, and clumsily segue to the the Resident Evil panel itself, which indelibly reaffirmed my belief that no one involved in the making of these films has any understanding as to what makes the videogames so effective.
Methinks I'm particularly bummed by this because the videogames - especially the first two installments - provide such rich source material for a mysterious and deeply terrifying series of cold and calculated horror films. But the chance for the likes of Ti West to steer this franchise has come and gone, and though I must accept that Paul W.S. Anderson's films have found a rather large audience, I can't help but be baffled as to why. Having said that - and with all due respect to those who enjoy these flicks - here are my pure, unadulterated thoughts from the panel that broke Comic-con.
4:05 Paul W.S. Anderson comes out to... applause? I guess you have to clap for a guy who managed to marry Milla Jovovich despite directing Soldier. Dude sure is charming.
4:07 Wentworth Miller, Ali Larter (who's all sorts of pregnant), and Milla Jovovich take the stage, and the trailer plays out in full 3-D.
4:09 The trailer suggests (and Anderson later confirmed) that this film was shot on location all over the world (apparently the zombie apocalypse begins in Tokyo's Shibuya Crossing). But Anderson continues to insist upon blanketing all of his films in a blanket of sterile gray hues, and the brunt of the flick still looks as if it was shot on a soundstage. And while I respect that the films are not beholden to the games, the notion of Claire and Alice running amok together truly discards any notion of survival horror, the essence of which was predicated upon a character being ... alone.
4:13 Anderson is asked "Why 3-D?" And besides the obvious fact that it provides a perfect excuse for Screen Gems to go back to the well, Anderson tells a nifty story about how Cameron showed them a chunk of Avatar around this time last year, and they decided the technology was ready and to use the very same cameras. Anderson designed the set with 3-D in mind, but didn't write the script with audiences in mind (oh SNAP).
4:15 Milla Jovovich calls making Resident Evil films "A grueling Disneyland."
4:16 Milla is asked how Alice developed for her over the course of four films, and answers "Alice keeps evolving. I get to come back all these times over and over and tweak things... In this film Alice is a bit more human and loving and trying to get her friends together to take Umbrella down." No snark here - that sounds good to me.
4:18 We're treated to a scene in which the enormous executioner from Resident Evil 5 (the game) cleaves his way through a man's torso and into the shower room, and then fights with Alice and Claire in a scene that uses so much slow motion it makes Zack Snyder's use of the technique seem judicious. The executioner is appropriately clumsy, but with every action so glacially extended the whole thing just feels silly, and makes the hulking, axe-wielding monster seem totally harmless. It doesn't help that neither Larter nor Jovovich pretend for even a moment that they're in any danger.
4:22 The clip ends with the executioner being deceptively dead before launching his axe at the screen. Weak. Why doesn't his head sprout teethy, vile, organic tentacles like in the games before launching those at the screen? An axe is so industrial, so nu-metal, this whole franchise looks like it was inspired by the music of Staind.. we all remember Staind, right?
4:26 Anderson just mentioned the head guys from Resident Evil 4 (even though he attributed their introduction to the uninspired Resident Evil 5)! He's aware of the great things the videogames offer him to work with, but totally disregards them! Love this guy.
4:33 An older gentleman introduces his question with "Resident Evil is my favorite movie franchise of all time!" Expecting Rod Serling to pop out any minute. He doesn't. Because he's dead.
4:38 Leon is not in the film - Jill Valentine is. There ya have it.
4:40 A dude in a sling dressed as a Star Trek Red Shirt asks Jovovich to say "Multi-pass." She complies. I am alarmed at how delighted this makes me. The panel has been saved.
I hate to be so dismissive, but it seems to me as if the Resident Evil franchise continues to squander a golden opportunity. And when Anderson opines about how great it is to have the same faces both in front of and behind the camera for the duration, I can't help but think that this franchise can only be rescued by a reboot, and it's a franchise that absolutely deserves to be rescued. Because even with 3-D and Wesker, the one thing the panel made abundantly clear is that the fourth installment is just bringing us more of the same.