Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Zombie tsunami

The most successful video game turned movie franchise has to be Resident Evil. 'Afterlife' represents its fourth instalment, opening with Alice taking revenge on the Umbrella Corporation for unleashing the un-deadly T-virus on the world.

Being the only successful host of the T-virus, Alice has superhuman powers... and she remembers everything. By this time, she has evolved into an unstoppable force who has brought "friends" with her into Umbrella's Tokyo headquarters. Poor Umbrella security, it's a massacre.

The demolition of Tokyo could not have taken more than 20 minutes of screen time. There's a problem when the protagonist wipes away her antagonists so easily -- the conflict gets too easily resolved. It's all well and good to feature chicks with guns and katana and throwing stars mowing down the opposition, but there has to be an element of danger, or at least a chance of being defeated to maintain the audience's interest. Alice in her mutated state is not interesting at all. Not for long, anyway.

Fortunately, events transpire to revert Alice back to her human self for the remainder of the movie. Now she has to rely on her courage, wit and survival skills alone to stay alive. And now things get interesting. Hooking up with a handful of survivors in LA, she has to devise a plan to get them to safety -- a dubious-looking container ship off the coast offering infection-free refuge -- but they have to get through the entire undead population of LA to get there.

With the undead pounding on the gates of their fortress seeking the only fresh meat in the city, for Alice, Claire, Chris and company it's run and gun a la Left 4 Dead. The situation is completely hopeless, undead pouring through the survivors' last defences in a literal zombie tsunami. It takes great teamwork, ingenuity and impeccable timing to pull off some dramatic escapes. The weak and indecisive, however, are punished for their hesitation or unwariness with a swift and gory demise.

What I like about 'Afterlife' is that there is no hope of victory. No celebrations, no medals at the end, just a sense of breathless relief before the next insurmountable wave strikes again. This is one enemy that cannot be taken head-on, hence there is no dishonour in a fighting retreat. Escape and skin-of-the-teeth survival is the game, no illusions about that. Resting on one's laurels is fatal.

This idea resonates with us because this is how we experience life. Challenge after challenge, daunting odds, threats at every turn; it's all so overwhelming. We may wish for superpowers to help us cope, but there's no such thing. Instead, the more realistic option is to find the right friends who share the same goals. Watch each other's backs, move in the same direction and develop a near-telepathic teamwork that will accomplish what one cannot alone.

Such a struggle, life is. When do we ever get to rest? The answer is, as long as we want to stay alive, never. There's plenty of time to rest when we're dead.

1 comment:

elim said...

I loved Resident Evil: Afterlife, as illogical as it was ;) And...agree! To the sense of breathless relief before the next problem hits in 2 minutes!