TL;DR – Somewhere in here is a good movie, unfortunately, it is smothered in poor action, the need to jump cut eight times every second, and an entirely predictable story.
So Hollywood has been on a bit of a bender recently bringing back franchises from the 2000s to give them another try. First, it was Underworld, then XXX, and now the granddaddy of them all (by a couple of months) Resident Evil. Now, of course, Resident Evil does have a bit more stability in its releases compared to the other two, but when in Rome, lump a bunch of stuff together to make it easier to analysis, so who am I to disagree. Honestly, I do have to say I did quite like the first two films in the series, the first Resident Evil had some iconic scenes, and the second really made the most out of its unfolding zombie apocalypse setting, you know before we got sick of that particular setting, thanks, Hollywood. However, since then the Resident Evil films have felt more like rehashes of each other, different movie, same themes, so I was actually quite excited when they named this next film ‘The Final Chapter’. I wanted to see them really go for it, take that final chapter mantra to heart, and knock it out of the park, but alas once again my optimistic nature has been dealt a blow.
So if you have never seen a Resident Evil film before, don’t worry as The Final Chapter does a good job of setting up the main characters and their motivations, or just hand waving away things with a ‘just go with it’ vibe. So if you have seen the other Resident Evil films then you should have no problems with the plots, and if you have played any of the Resident Evil games then you were already rightly prepared to be disappointed before the movie started. But for everyone else, if you want a refresher, in the Resident Evil universe the T-virus, which can turn people into zombies, was released after a containment breach at a facility in Raccoon City. Since then there has been a lot of back and forth, however now after many battles, it looks like the Evil Umbrella Corporation has won with the last human settlements across the world about to fall and only Alice (Milla Jovovich) can save us all from extinction, oh wait no that was three movies ago.
Look, from my tone, it should come as no surprise that I had issues with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, however, my disappointment comes from the notion that there actually a really good film in here. It has some interesting set pieces, some good action setups, and a lot of narrative potential. You can see this in some of the small moments that transcend everything that I am about to say, like the street signs entering Raccoon City, the creepy way the Red Queen (Ever Gabo Anderson) talks, the set design, a couple of really good one-liners, and more. Unfortunately, there are some serious problems at the heart of the film that just undo all the good work they are trying to pull off here. When it comes to films, especially actions films, I don’t mind if the story is a bit off, if the action is top notch, or indeed I don’t mind if the action is a bit dodgy, if the story is interesting. For example XXX: Return of Xander Cage (See Review) has a lot of the same issues that will be talking about here, but they at least let Donnie Yen do his thing, and because of this and the less serious tone means you can enjoy it much more. However, because Resident Evil plays it so seriously all those issues that you may have just ignored unfortunately stand out.
So there are a lot of issues to break down, but since this is an action film I think it would be best to first talk about is the action and how it was filmed/edited. Look I know jump cutting a lot during action sequences is popular at the moment when editing action films, and I also know it often used to hide the fact that the actors don’t really know how to fight, but it is still a bad way to edit a film. But Resident Evil decided that Taken 3’s infamous over cutting was for beginners, there are times when it cuts 6-8 times a second. This means that most of the action sequences are just a whirl of edits and then Alice is standing around some bodies. Now not only is this a problem because you can’t follow what is going one, it is a problem because it removes the power and impact from these sequences. Not only is this just frustrating for a viewer, the more annoying thing is that some of the brief moments in between frantic cuts actually shows some really interesting action scenes, and if the director/editor hadn’t been so overzealous with their use those fights could have been really impressive. This issue gets compounded from about a third of the way through the film (till almost the end) because it is all set at night, or in places that have lost power. So not only do you have action that is cutting every quarter of a second, it is action in a dark room where you can’t really see what is going on. There were times when I thought they had killed one character only to have them pop up again and thus realising oh wait it was that other character. All of this has a flow on effect of limiting the character development of anyone who is not one of the three leads, which means you don’t have any basis to care when characters die. I’m sure this won’t be a problem to quite a few people, but when you have seen this kind of action done so well in movies like John Wick, or seen films which had a lot of jumps but used techniques, like keeping all the action in the centre frame like Mad Max Fury Road to help you follow what is going on, then it just feels lacking.
Now of course for an action film, having poor action is a problem but another issue is the story, or at least how it is presented. Now because we are going to be talking about the plot for this paragraph including a bit about the ending SPOILERS are now in effect until the end of this paragraph. So with Resident Evil’s story … well look it does get to an interesting place, but there is so much to slog through before we get there. There are a lot of issues with characterisation, first, we have Alice falling for two pretty obvious traps, and on several occasions not paying attention to the road that leads to problems, these things really undercut Alice’s persona as a bad ass. This is also reinforced by the movie constantly putting Alice in danger, when we all know she is going to make it to the climax of the film, removing any tensions from that scene. Just in general Resident Evil is full of lazy coincidences, like one of the last human settlements in the entire world is in the same city has the evil guy’s headquarters, or how the person that give the bad guy the finger just so happens to be the next one to die, or how the people that captured Alice just so happened to be going to the same location, or that everyone seems to be from the Stormtrooper School of Marksmanship until the plot needs it, and so on. This continues into other parts of the film, for example from the moment they leave the building it is painfully apparent that every person that is not one of the two leads is there to die on the way to and in The Hive, that is the only reason they are here, their only purpose in the film other than to provide some forced unnecessary conflict. As I said, this means that there being no emotional impact with their deaths, compare this to say Rogue One and you can clearly see the difference. Now all of this leads to the climax of the film and this at least has some interesting moments, even if they were cribbing notes off Orphan Black a little bit, so much so that I was starting to finally be a little more engaged and then, sigh, and then a film called Resident Evil: The Final Chapter left an opening for there to be another sequel, to use the parlance of today’s youth, I just can’t even.
You know I really wanted Resident Evil: The Final Chapter to go well, I wanted it to rise to the challenge of being an ending to a six movie franchise, which was bold enough to tell you this was the end in the title of the film. There are some really interesting moments in this film that do make it at least novel to watch at times, but in the end, can I recommend Resident Evil: The Final Chapter? No sorry, I can’t. If you want to see a blast from the 2000s then XXX: Return of Xander Cage is the better film out at the moment, but if you really want your Resident Evil fix, well first you are probably playing Resident Evil:7 that just came out, but if not, you will probably find some interesting things here … maybe.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Paul W. S. Anderson
Written by – Paul W. S. Anderson
Based on – Resident Evil created by Capcom
Music by – Paul Haslinger
Cinematography by – Glen MacPherson
Starring – Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Lee Joon-gi, Eoin Macken, Ever Gabo Anderson, Rola & Iain Glen
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: na; NZ: R16; UK: 15; USA: R