Resident Evil

newbies may find the fourth installment of the film series lacking in backstory. Zombie fighter Alice (Milla Jovovich) confines explanations to brief expositions via a clumsy conceit of a video diary she’s recording for the sake of posterity.

The short version: An evil corporation (Umbrella) created a bioweapon (the T-virus), which got loose from the lab, turned the human race into the walking undead and decimated the planet. Alice is the only human immune to the virus. Rather than turn her into a zombie, the T-virus made her superhuman.

Of course,


isn’t geared at new fans. Who but diehards sees the third sequel of anything? For those left hanging,


picks up where


left off: Alice has replicated herself many times over and all the Alices stage a


-like assault on Umbrella’s underground Tokyo headquarters. The collateral damage is significant. But the revenge is to no end; Umbrella’s ostensibly creepy leader Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) lives on. He injects Alice with yet another Umbrella concoction that purportedly undoes the T-virus and renders Alice human again. No worries. She somehow retains all of her superhuman tendencies—including the ability to walk away from a plane crash with her hair and makeup intact.


has a plot, but recounting it would be approximately as interesting as recounting the intermediate level of a video game. Indeed, what is most striking about


is its lack of attention to the qualities that made the first three films engaging. The zombies are around, but they lack real menace. There are victims, but they appear and disappear too quickly to capture the sense of evil transformation that has been the bulwark of the franchise. The plot continues, but the sense of journey is gone. Also missing: any sense of mission, heroism and potential redemption. The battle to remain human in the face of omnipotent corporate evil will never be won—that’s the nature of the game. But the message is delivered with such heavy-handedness—in between 3-D effects that seem 10 years old—that the overall effect is less evil and more Resident Yada Yada Yada. There is no resolution in the offing, only sequels.

Which is not to say


lacks its enjoyable qualities. Chief among them is Jovovich, who, even when she seems bored, looks good kicking ass.

In one of her early video diaries, Alice wonders if she’s the last human on earth, and whether she’s being punished for her role in creating the entire situation at hand. Jovovich, whose husband Paul WS Anderson has written and produced all the movies, and returns to direct this one, might ask herself the same question.