Picking up right where the third flick left off, Resident Evil: Afterlife has all the eye-popping magic of anything to hit the screen in 3D this year (it was filmed with the same industry-leading Pace Fusion 3D camera that James Cameron used for Avatar), but like much of 2010’s 3D fare, it’s heavy on visuals and light on story.

Fortunately, Resident Evil: Afterlife can get away with it– let’s be honest, we’re not ponying up our hard-earned cash for a compelling story with intricately-drawn characters here. Chances are you’re just in it for (a) super-hot Milla Jovovich in all her butt-kicking glory or (b) whiz-bang, super-cool 3D effects (…or both). Either way, there’s more than enough eye candy to go around.

Jovovich reprises her role as Alice, a survivor of the world-killing virus ‘incident’ perpetrated by the ├╝ber-evil Umbrella Corporation. After hearing a radio broadcast repeating an announcement about a safe haven called Arcadia, she heads up to Alaska to investigate, hoping to find more survivors.

While there, she trips on Claire Redfield (Ali Larter, reprising her role from Resident Evil: Extinction). The two realize Alaska was a red herring and head south to Los Angeles, long since decimated and now peopled entirely by zombie hordes. There, the duo meets up with a handful of other survivors and join the fight to escape the zombies and find the true Arcadia.

Resident Evil: Afterlife makes the pseudo-triumphant return of Paul W.S. Anderson (Jovovich’s husband) to the director’s chair… and who can blame him, frankly? With the latest 3D technology now at his fingertips, he’s like a kid in a candy store.

The visuals literally pop off the screen, from bullet casings to shrapnel to blood splatter. It’s all there in crystal-clear 3D goodness. The action, for the most part, is fast-paced– though there are more dry patches than should be expected, and the dialogue is full of Schwarzenegger-like one-liners, most of which actually work.

Jovovich and Larter are great in their roles, and the supporting cast, which includes Wentworth Miller (Fox’s Prison Break) and Boris Kodjoe (NBC’s upcoming Undercovers), is also surprisingly fun. The one glaring exception is Shawn Roberts as Wesker, the lone Umbrella agent charged with hunting down Alice. Memo to the Screen Actors Guild: please revoke his membership immediately. And call Val Kilmer while you’re at it– he wants his look back.

In the end, Afterlife wraps up with a conclusion that’s wide-open enough to steer an oil tanker through, so we can be confident that Anderson and Jovovich will be back for more.

Leave Roberts out of it, and that’s fine by me.

3.5/5 stars