Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and all the images you see in this review are owned by Screen Gems
Directed by Paul WS Anderson
It has been quite a ride, hasn’t it? I’ve always been a fan of Paul WS Anderson and his work, especially considering that he’s the only director other than Uwe Bowl who’s attempted to make more than one video game movie and is the one who ACTUALLY made it work. People STILL say that we don’t have any good video game movies, but what they really mean is that there hasn’t been one that’s been critically acclaimed, and even THAT criterion is rather nebulous. So what if Resident Evil or Mortal Kombat didn’t win Oscars? Neither did Taxi Driver or Dr Strangelove! It truly is the end of an era though considering how few franchises from the early years of the new millennium are still around, recent revivals like xXx non-withstanding, and there really isn’t anything like it to take its place now that it’s over. Hell, this series DARED to be different from the source material which I can’t imagine ANY film getting away with now considering everything is about franchise management nowadays! It’s kind of a sad day to see this series go, though it will be doubly so if this final chapter turns out to be a poor note to end things on. Does Mr. Anderson manage to give us one hell of a sendoff to this beloved series, or has this franchise finally run out of steam right as it was about to reach the finish line? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the world having ended for at least the second time and Alice (Milla Jovovich) is all alone in the wastelands of what the world once was. Of course, being the savior of all humanity that she is, someone eventually comes a-knocking for her to be the big hero once again. This time, it’s… THE RED QUEEN!? Yes! The AI from the other films (played this time by Ever Gabo Anderson) that has been trying to kill her apparently wants to help her because Wesker (oh, spoiler alert: Wesker’s a bad guy again and is still played by Shawn Roberts) is just forty eight hours away from wiping out ALL of humanity and Alice has to stop him before then! How? Well apparently Umbrella developed an antidote for the T-Virus that no one bothered to mention up to this point and if she can release it into the world in time, all the zombies will die and humanity will be saved! Of course, the antidote (along with Wesker) is all the way back in Raccoon City so she has to travel back there, go back to the secret underground Umbrella base, and punch as many zombies as possible in the process! Can Alice save the world one last time before it’s too late, by which I mean the Resident Evil film rights expire? What exactly brought upon this change of heart from the Red Queen, and could this all be one giant trap to finally destroy her one true enemy? So wait, did she get her powers back or is she still human Alice?
This movie is a FANTASTIC B movie that is very reminiscent of what Roger Corman was doing in his heyday; namely taking the premise, concept, and even the kinds of effects used by big name movies, and putting his own spin on that material. Paul WS Anderson truly gets that and has made one of the best B films I’ve seen in some time, including the recent Underworld movie which I’d say is probably about as good as this film but for totally different reasons. However, what this movie certainly is NOT is a Resident Evil movie which is a HUGE problem considering this one has the gall to call itself THE FINAL CHAPTER when it feels so disconnected from everything we’ve seen up to this point. Well, I guess not ENTIRELY. This movie is a whole lot of things, but one of the biggest is a direct sequel to the first film which was before the series really started going into the game lore, so in a sense this IS the Final Chapter for the movie stuff specifically even though it’s absolutely made clear that this is supposed to follow the events of the last film. If you wanted to think of this just as a movie on its own, it’s actually a really fun and well put together shlocky horror-actioner that took more than its fair share of inspiration from Fury Road (and even Cube), but considering how much it relies on the fact that this is a sequel to the previous films in terms of story AND marketing, I’m not about to ignore how poorly it manages to tie everything together the way a last movie should. Metal Gear Solid managed to pull it off with Guns of the Patriots, and that shit was WAY more complicated than these films!
So for those of you who actually bothered to SEE the last five movies, this is how much they distance themselves from those. The ending of the last movie is more or less skipped over as the BIG WAR we were told was going to happen… well I guess it DID happen, but it did so off screen and it left Alice all by herself. No Ada, Leon, or Jill Valentine who were there at the end of the last movie. No mention of Chris Redfield who admittedly wasn’t in Retribution (apparently Wentworth Miller is too big for this series now that he’s CAPTAIN COLD), but it seems like an odd omission here considering Clare returns who ALSO wasn’t in Retribution either. Alice hasn’t been this alone for so long in a movie since… wait a minute. She hasn’t gone alone for so long in a movie since Extinction! That’s what ELSE this feels like! On top of this being a Fury Road knock off and decidedly NOT a Resident Evil movie, it feels like Paul WS Anderson is still pissed that everyone liked Extinction which wasn’t directed by him and wanted to prove that he could outdo Russell Mulcahy. The thing for me though is that while the consensus is that THAT is the best of the series, I was never a particularly big fan of it; mostly because its premise relies on the world COMPLETELY DRYING UP BECAUSE ZOMBIES which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and thankfully they pretty much took ALL of that back for the next two movies. It feels a bit more appropriate here since this is THE LAST ONE and the whole premise of the movie circles around this being the final chance for humanity to be saved, but it’s lost so much of what made the last two movies (more so the fifth one than the fourth one) so uniquely their own, that the trade off for another Extinction doesn’t feel worth it, at least when thinking of this as a Resident Evil movie.
Other than that REALLY obnoxious change in tone, continuity, setting, and the overall lack of satisfaction for how they decided to end this series, it’s a solid B film. Not a PERFECT one, but it has enough impressive elements to make it one of the better examples of the genre we’ve gotten in recent years. Milla Jovovich is still perfect for these kinds of roles and she brings a lot of gravitas to a performance that could easily be as one dimensional as… well okay MOST of the characters in these movies, but she’s always been there to anchor everything so that the more exaggerated parts can do their thing without derailing the story. I mean how many other women can say they led a film franchise that’s just about to cross a BILLION dollars at the box office? A not insignificant part of that can be attributed to Milla Jovovich’s innate and powerful charm and she continues to show it here which once again keeps things moving along and focused in a world full of oddballs. Disney? Seriously, get her ass in a Marvel film and ALSO a Star Wars sequel!
The movie also manages to have some rather impressive set pieces and concepts that keep the action going, but they don’t mesh well with the rest of the aesthetic we’ve seen in the series up to this point. Why is the head of Umbrella now a religious nut dragging prisoners in a battle car? Well we KNOW the reason which is that this wants to be Fury Road REALLY badly, and to the film’s credit stuff like this DOES work for establishing the world the film takes place in and the tone it wishes to establish. Not so much for a Resident Evil movie, but that particular point has been made and I’d rather not beat a dead horse for the entire review. One aspect of this that has gotten a lot of negative attention is the editing which incorporates the CLOSE UPS! QUICK CUTS! SHAKY CAM! style into the action scenes. I will say that this is one of the BEST examples of that style that I’ve seen, but it does detract from a few of the action scenes where something less chaotic would have worked. There’s a certain level of skill here that I don’t really see from other movies that attempt to do this as the action stays coherent throughout even though we’ve cut like forty times in the last twenty seconds, and maybe there’s something to be said for using this kind of editing for the purposes of horror. Think about how many rubber suits or CG monsters that look REALLY bad when the camera lingers on them for too long. This manages to avoid over exposing some of the creatures in here (letting your imagination fill in the gaps) and doing so without depriving you of some great action. Honestly, aside from a few scenes decidedly NOT working with this style (the fight on top of a car and running from the dogs being the two worst examples), is that once again this is yet another disconnect with the other films as Paul WS Anderson’s triumphant return to the franchise with four and five was marked by the use of slow motion that lingered on certain shots to maximize the effect they had. This is basically the opposite of that, and while it’s not BAD per se, I kind of liked where the cinematography and aesthetic ended up being in the last film a lot better.
There is still ONE more flaw that this movie has that I can actually talk about without tying it directly to how it’s different from the other movies. The ticking clock in this movie is not only pointless, but poorly implemented to the point of being a huge distraction. We have forty eight hours to find the anti-virus and release it into the world before all of humanity is dead from… I guess zombie attacks. Not only is this incredibly vague and invites a whole lot of plot holes (how can you have a number THAT exact for when the last of humanity will be dead? HOW IS A SINGLE VIAL RELEASED IN RACCOON CITY GONNA SAVE THE LAST REMAINING SETTLEMENTS WHICH COULD BE THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY!?), but it also never feels consistent in the movie which is something that could have been easily fixed. Time jumps ahead several hours in one scene, but then half an hour of the movie goes by and we’ve actually only went ahead ten minutes in the story. The only time we get an update on the amount of time left is whenever Milla checks her watch, so it’s not like they couldn’t have WATCHED the damn movie, realized how poorly they’ve drawn this tension curve, and made some SUPER quick changes that makes time go at a reasonable pace! NOPE! Let’s just leave that in the movie like no one is going to freaking notice that it would take more than fifteen minutes to get to the bottom of this giant ass facility; much less to go back up it once they find the antidote.
I could go on about the minor flaws here and there or the annoying way that it jettisons most of the advancement’s that were made in the last two films for a back to basics approach despite this being the finale, but for a lot of people that’s not going to matter very much. If you’ve been in this for the long haul, you’ll definitely find something to like in this movie even if some of the omissions are frustrating and some of the changes are less than ideal. Whether or not this will appeal to those who HAVEN’T been keeping up with this franchise is still something I’m not certain of as the audience for shlocky films and the audience for the Paul WS Anderson Resident Evil Films has a whole lot of overlap already, but if you need something to distract you while George Miller tries to figure out if he even wants to do another Mad Max movie, this will be the perfect answer to that. It’s the kind of movie I wish we would see more of and thankfully we managed to get twice in the same month, though at least Underworld Blood Wars managed to stay faithful to its own series. I was hoping for a good Resident Evil movie to close out the franchise, but I guess Retribution already gave me everything I really would have wanted from this film (WE FINALLY GOT LEON IN A MOVIE!), so I guess I can look at that as the last of THAT kind of Resident Evil movie (films four, five, and I’ll probably count two as well) while this is for the other kind of Resident Evil movie (one and three for the most part). Now that it’s over though, what franchise can we give these two to keep them occupied for the NEXT fifteen years? Hm… have they announced a director for that Five Nights at Freddy movie yet?
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