Let’s be honest. “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is little more than a zombie action flick that doesn’t try to present meaningful messages to its audience.
The film doesn’t present much in terms of creativity either, liberally stealing special effects, characters and scenes whole cloth from “The Matrix,” “I Am Legend” and “2012.” The movie simply adds the strong, female uberfighter Alice, mixes things up a bit and voila! You get the recipe for this 3-D blood fest.
That’s not to say, however, that the movie isn’t any fun.
Based on video game of the same name, this installment of “Resident Evil” is an apocalyptic, heavily stylized action movie with lots of bullets and behind kickin’, and, if fans of such franchises can forgive the painfully obvious “Matrix” rip-offs and suspend believability for a bit (such as a propeller plane that flies 10,000 miles on a single tank of gas or other, even more obvious groaners), it’s reasonably entertaining for a Friday night adrenaline rush.
I confess, I enjoyed the film more than I expected, especially the gorgeous 3-D shots of the Alaskan wilderness.
Obviously, moviegoers that don’t want to see wanton bloodshed, violence and gore, however, aren’t going to want to see “Afterlife.”
Furthermore, by digging just a little deeper, the film merits another word of caution: “Resident Evil,” in the end, is aptly named, for beneath the video game violence and comic book storyline, the film pushes forward an evil that has quietly taken up residence in Western Civilization and rotted it from within, an evil idea sometimes called “social Darwinism.”
Prior to the late 1800s, when the West abandoned the beginning of wisdom to embrace every form of foolishness (Psalms 111:10), its prevailing philosophy still embraced biblical values. Humans were considered made in the image of God, stamped therefore with an inherent value as the handiwork of a magnificent Creator. The highest value driving these Imago Deis was the expression of the essence of that Creator through relationship, the expression of love (1 John 4:8).
But when Charles Darwin’s devotees eliminated the Creator from the equation, the eventual result was the elimination of the innate, God-given value of individuals.
Furthermore, the value of reflecting the Creator’s love was replaced with a new set of universal laws, among them natural selection and “survival of the fittest.” When applied to humanity in what was derided as “social Darwinism,” individuals were replaced by valueless hordes striving to gain supremacy over others – the opposite of love – in a battle for limited resources. Only the strong nations, the strong companies, the strong people survive. The weak are left behind. And somehow, this was deemed not only the law of the universe, but in some cases, a better way to organize humanity.
Here we are now, several decades removed from the heyday of such thought, when social Darwinism fueled the abuses of the Industrial Revolution and spawned the concept of eugenics and Adolf Hitler’s “superior race.” After witnessing the brutality of the Nazis’ “final solution,” the emerging postmodern world began to rethink social Darwinism.
But that doesn’t mean we’re free of it.
Case in point, the underlying themes in “Resident Evil: Afterlife.”
The zombie film presents humanity as reduced by plague to a faceless mob of undead animals groaning after a limited food supply. They have no value, except as blood-stained splatters for the remaining survivors of the plague.
As for those that escaped the plague, only a few have managed to climb out of this struggle for survival: an elite corporation, genetically enhanced warriors and a lucky band that has outsmarted the horde around them. Just as social Darwinism favored cutthroat businesses and the most “evolved” species, “Afterlife” gives us one, lone business running the world and duking it out with heroes of superior genes and wits.
Voila! Social Darwinism’s ultimate end, a showdown on who is the fittest to survive.
Now, I’ll admit, if that’s where the analogy ended, it would be a somewhat weak parallel to social Darwinism.
But that’s not where it ends.
The movie’s only reference to faith – “We have to help ourselves to the promised land” – echoes the values of the progressive age of social Darwinism, which esteemed mankind as marching ever forward, evolving, progressing toward utopia under its own strength.
That evolution and natural selection is further illustrated in “Afterlife,” as the survivors are picked off, one by one. In the end, the weak, the dumb, the pervert, the weasel – they all die, leaving only the mightiest of the warriors, the survival of the fittest.
Furthermore, when the weak are picked off, the strong show no concern. Lost is the value of individual life. Lost is notion that our highest virtue is love.
“There’s nothing you can do,” the warriors state when the weak among them are dragged away by the zombies and the strong show no efforts toward rescue. “You can’t go back.”
Indeed, Western Civilization can’t be allowed to go back to social Darwinism. We’ve seen its consequences, its “final solution.”
But return to it we do, in part because the West’s prevailing philosophy still denies the truths of God and demands that Darwin holds the keys to the universe. Until we repent and seek real wisdom, we’ll likely return to social Darwinism again and again, even as a dog returns to its vomit (2 Peter 2:20-22).
- “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” as mentioned above, is splattered in blood, decapitations, gunfights, fistfights, knife fights, decaying bodies and a whole host of violent and gruesome imagery. It resembles a contest to see which character can come up with the most brutal way to kill. Not enough to induce vomit, but not for the weak of stomach either.
- Foul language and blasphemy in the film, however, is somewhat limited, probably a couple dozen utterances, usually at expected moments and not a distraction to the script in a film of this genre.
- Sexuality is even more limited. One character is seen reading a picture magazine that may or may not be pornographic; one character attempts to play peeping tom but is caught while all parties are still clothed; and one fight scene takes place in a virtual rainstorm, leaving the female protagonists well moistened in low-cut shirts, but nothing graphic is seen. That’s about it.
- There is almost no religious content, save for an off-handed comment about “the promised land.” The presence of the undead walking around could be viewed as occult, but even in this case, it is described as a biological process brought on by a rogue virus.