The notion of a fourth Resident Evil flick will almost certainly induce heart-scratching, especially considering that the preceding films in the series were panned by viewers and critics alike, and the franchise has been spluttering on life support for years. However, the first three Resident Evil flicks were successful from a commercial standpoint, which is all that matters in Hollywood. Thus, 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife was produced in an attempt to recharge the franchise, with Paul W.S. Anderson returning to direct and with the movie being captured in 3-D to bring the blood-soaked zombie mayhem into your lap. It’s a polished, slick effort for sure, but it’s deathly dull and joyless. Worse, writer-director Anderson was so concerned with handling the technically advanced cameras (the same cameras used for Avatar, in fact) and servicing the 3-D format that he gave absolutely no thought to such essentials as story, character and suspense.In the first Resident Evil movie, the Umbrella Corporation unleashed a rampaging virus that decimated the planet by turning most of the population into flesh-eating zombies. At the end of the third movie, Alice (Jovovich) created an army consisting of clones of herself. Thus, Afterlife opens with Alice and her army attacking the Umbrella Corporation Headquarters in Tokyo, which ends with the clones going up in flames along with the building and the employees. Afterwards, Umbrella boss Albert Wesker (Roberts) injects the real Alice with a serum that revokes her super powers and makes her human again. After a subsequent plane crash from which Alice magically walks away unscathed, she heads to Alaska in the hope of finding the promised safe haven from the world’s zombie takeover. Alas, no such haven exists. And it’s here when Alice reteams with Claire Redfield (Larter) who’s mysteriously stricken with amnesia. In searching for more signs of life, Alice and Claire end up in Los Angeles where they encounter a group of survivors – including Claire’s brother Chris (Miller) – who are holed up in a prison facility and are seeking rescue.The only true upside of Afterlife is the 3-D visuals, which are crisp and clear; emphasising the fact that all of the action was in fact captured in 3-D rather than shoddily converted in post-production. Clearly, Anderson embraced the dimensional possibilities while staging a plethora of Matrix-style action sequences, with the mayhem being frequently slowed down to allow for a viewer to study every last flip and weapon discharge in glorious detail. Additionally, to the writer-director’s credit, Anderson hired the excellent “Tomandandy” to score the zombie mayhem, and the music adds an energetic backdrop for all the action. Yet, while the visuals are striking, the film seems like more of a special effects demo reel than anything more substantive. Alas, Anderson clearly had no clue about how to build tension, create an atmosphere of menace, or generate thrills. No interest in the horror genre is displayed here, as Anderson instead favoured decade-old action movie conventions to see the film through. Unfortunately, too, slow motion effects were overused to the point of nausea. Indeed, if the slow motion techniques were excised, it’s doubtful that the film would’ve been longer than an hour.Striking visuals are pretty much all there is to the Resident Evil: Afterlife experience, which suffers from some of Anderson’s most inane scripting to date. In addition to the often woeful dialogue, Anderson opted to forgo atmosphere-building or any intriguing exploration of the zombie-crawling city in favour of dreary expositional scenes set indoors, with the forgettable ensemble of characters going through the dull paces on dull soundstages. The narrative momentum of Afterlife is akin to a car that’s spluttering on petrol fumes. The pacing is even sluggish during the action scenes, and narrative surprises are non-existent. And, on top of the fact that nothing of note actually occurs in the film, the material is rather incoherent. Take, for instance, a battle between Claire and a hulking, hooded monster wielding a massive hammer. Who or what is this unstoppable beast? Does it work for the Umbrella Corporation? If it’s a zombie, then why, unlike other zombies, is it able to use weapons? None of this stuff is addressed, since the giant was only introduced to show off more special effects and 3-D showmanship.Added to this, it doesn’t help that Milla Jovovich (Anderson’s wife) is hopelessly bland in the central role of Alice. Jovovich seems unaware that it’s possible to be badass and have a personality at the same time, and thus her delivery of various quips ring hollow. She’s capable of handling the physical demands of the role, but everything else is lacking. (As a side note, since Jovovich is scrumptious eye-candy and is married to Paul W.S. Anderson, the Resident Evil flicks should simply be subtitled Check Out My Ridiculously Hot Wife.) Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller are serviceable as the Redfield siblings, but they were denied the chance to spend much screen-time together or do much bonding – as a matter of fact, it’s the film’s biggest missed opportunity. The weakest link of the cast is Shawn Roberts as Wesker, whose line delivery is both appalling and perpetually contrived.Perhaps all of these criticisms should not come as much of a shock to anyone who’s familiar with the Resident Evil films so far. Ever since the second instalment, the films have been concerned with providing constant action sequences in locations reminiscent of the video game landscapes. While Afterlife provides a few worthwhile moments and is impressive from a visual standpoint, it’s nonetheless a groaning bore that only rarely comes to life. This film is a mess. It’s action for the sake of action, but there’s hardly any fun in it.