If you’ve seen the trailers for Resident Evil: Afterlife the answer to the question “how much of this movie was computer generated?” may surprise you. Since it was filmed entirely 3D and computer generated images are easier and cheaper to make work in the format, and since let’s face it, Hollywood rarely seems interested in putting the effort into practical effects anymore, you’ve probably already assumed the entire thing was filmed with Milla Jovovich sitting on a pair of green egg crates while stunt men in green unitards threw green tennis balls at her. If so, you would be spectacularly wrong.
In fact it would seem that they actually went through a great deal of trouble to build as many real sets and do as many real makeup effects for Resident Evil: Afterlife as possible. The proof is in ten minutes of completely uncut video taken from the set, embedded in the two videos below. Click play and you’ll get a unique and candid look at how some of the movie’s biggest scenes were filmed. Watch:
The airplane sequence? They actually built an airplane, stuck Milla Jovovich in it, and sent it rocketing down a runway set. Zombie dogs? They got real Dobermans and hired real, talented makeup effects artists to paint them up like they’d just been spat out of hell. Another movie, a lazier movie, some of them starring Milla Jovovich, would have CGI’d all of that. Resident Evil: Afterlife opted to build it, to paint it, to make something tangible in the hopes that it’ll give the audience something to latch on to. Say what you want about the RE franchise, but they at least deserve praise for that.
For comparison, these are completed versions of four scenes. Here’s how the finished product came out:
For one final proof that, maybe, Resident Evil: Afterlife might actually know what it’s doing, I offer the following featurette. Watch:
In the above vid, when Milla Jovovich talks about how good the script is, you probably rolled your eyes. Rightfully so. But when she talks about what it’s like when they’re on set “immersed in the world”, that was worth paying attention to. You don’t get that with endless walls of green screen. Or later in the video, when Ali Larter talks about how important the physicality of the film is to her performance, to me that seems like a big bullet point. It's something which directors like George Lucas, who don’t bother building sets when CGI will do, who don’t bother with live dogs when a CGI one can be dragged out of some photoshop library, never seem to get. Apparently Paul W.S. Anderson, of all people, does.
He still uses plenty of green screen and you just heard them talking about that too… but it’s in conjunction with physical sets and props and makeup, as much as they can build or slather on, to give the actors and the audience something real to latch on to. And that’s cool.