It’s fair to say that the Resident Evil movie franchise is one that hasn’t been acclaimed on a critical level, and pretty much epitomises the disappointing video-game movie reputation that has lingered over such franchises. As a life-long Resident Evil fan who has spent his entire childhood playing the games I’ve been far more lenient towards the movies than I perhaps should be, and whilst I have fun with these films, I can also respect and accept the staggering amount of criticism Paul W.S. Anderson’s adaptations have had. Nevertheless, is it possible that the sixth film in the franchise will break the mould and be known as the Resident Evil film that fans have always wanted?
The sixth film, and supposedly the final instalment, brings Alice (Milla Jovovich) back to Raccoon City, where she is reunited with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) in the attempt to save the world from the Umbrella Corporation’s evil plans, helmed once more by the return of Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) and Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts).
Lore and story-wise, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is by far the strongest in the franchise. Whilst the other films gloss over Alice as a character and primarily showcase her as a bad-ass who can do flips ‘n’ shit, this time around we are treated to some well-needed characterisation about Jovovich’s lead. The film interestingly explores into her past and even throws in a few twists and turns about her identity, which ultimately should have come much sooner.
With the appraisals aside, it’s time to delve into the film’s fundamental problems. The Resident Evil films have all consistently faced the same issue, with the franchise being unsure of what it really wants to be. This time around it’s no different. Anderson’s reliance on lousy jump scares is synergised with these grand, explosive action sequences that attempts to juggle horror and action tropes simultaneously. The first film in the franchise, Resident Evil, was undeniably a solid horror film, one that actually succeeded in bringing some effective scares to the viewer. But as the franchise has progressed the films have forgotten what makes Resident Evil what it is and has tended to go for a more action-based approach in its presentation, something that the gaming franchise has also fallen into the trap of doing. This, of course, wouldn’t be an issue if the action was even remotely tolerable. Whilst the explosions are visually appealing and somewhat enjoyable at times, they are mostly composed of a series of fast paced cuts and edits collaged together like a painting a parent sticks on the fridge to make their child feel better about the travesty they’ve just created.
The franchise also struggles with a continuity issue amongst its films, failing to establish any sense of causality from where one film ends and the next begins. Although the previous instalment Resident Evil: Retribution was terrible, and I mean TERRIBLE, at least its finale made fans excited for the next film, encouraging viewers to come back the next time around. Much to everybody’s disappointment, however, The Final Chapter washes over the climatic finale of the previous film and begins in a totally different scenario. The cause of this failed continuity undeniably falls into the laps of Anderson who cannot handle the array of characters in his grasp. Whilst Retribution’s finale tee’s up an epic showdown between humanity and the undead, including beloved characters from the games such as Ada Wong, Leon Kennedy and Jill Valentine, these characters are absent from the roster this time around, making the events of the previous film inexcusably redundant. Even if viewers choose to overlook such absentees, the characters that are included in The Final Chapter are reprehensibly awful and cannot maintain the interest that they require. Their line deliverance and all-round performance is nothing short of cringe-worthy, which is a detriment to the unconvincing script that is on offer.
But if the films are anything like the gaming franchise, especially in light of the newly-released Resident Evil 7, then hopefully the movie series will return to its horror roots. It’s time to scrap it all, and remake it into something that fans want: a faithful adaptation of a gaming franchise that terrified millions.
For a more insightful and updated review, check out the one I wrote for Film Inquiry here.