It truly is the end of an era. In 2002 began an influx of high-end B-Movie conveyer belt films from the guiding hand of Paul W. S. Anderson that would become known as the Resident Evil franchise.
As things progressed, for lack of a better word, Resident Evil became less “survival horror” and more “monster-action” film, and everything after the first became a bloody-haze of traversing grand-scale VFX underground installations and discovering some nefarious plot was all spearheaded by the Umbrella Corporation and a mad dash to the exit in some time-sensitive effort to escape an exploding facility only to find out there is much more work to be done and Umbrella is too vast to kill (kinda like Disney) and thus segueing to another sequel or the other. Literally outlined the plot for the entire franchise there. Wow, that was a mouthful.
But with 2017 being the last of an era for certain franchises, like Wolverine, and the impending adult approach these films (like Logan) have been taking, we held out hope that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter would come back to form. You know, bring survival horror back to the forefront. Even a little bit.
So having that said, we flushed all pre-conceived notions and sat down expecting the type of horror that would have us uncomfortably twitching in our seats. And with the promo of Resident Evil: biohazard placed in the promos at the head of the feature, it reminded us at least in the gaming arena that the return to survival horror was still possible. So why not here?
The beginning has Alice’s voiceover giving us a rundown of the narrative thus far across the slew of otherwise similarly-strewn Resident Evil movies. You know, just incase you lost track of the nuances and intricacies of the narratives weaved over the many years. We then rise with Alice out of a bunker in the ground in a decimated Washington. Must be post-Trump. And from there everything gets unnecessarily loud, with jump scares, fantastical winged-beasts and vagina-faced zombies.
The Red Queen finds Alice to be alive and makes contact via a superbly loud dot-matrix printer in some room somewhere… how’d she get there? Honestly, I can’t remember. But you can forgive me that one blackout. Alice went ‘fade to black’ at least 4 times. Only Resident Evil would use a blackout as a plot device to move things along.
Any who, the Red Queen, the AI that runs the evil Umbrella Corporation makes contact with Alice with information. Information that could turn the tide for the remaining 4,000+ people left alive worldwide. There is a cure for the T-virus. Good right? The only catch is that it is in the main HQ located at the base of Raccoon City. Ground 0. I think we’re going underground again.
Alice has 2 days to get to it, and release the airborne anti-virus that will destroy the T-Virus and by extension it’s carriers on contact. Theoretically that is Alice too. But don’t worry, Alice survives. It only affects the T-Virus, not her human cells. The Red Queen lied to Alice to test her resolve to see the T-Virus done away with permanently. All unnecessary really.
I can honestly say from here it is ‘classic Resident Evil‘ film-wise. Alice takes out a few monstrosities, the double-cross from some trusted teammate and a reveal. A reveal that honestly was the more satisfying element of the film. That Alice was a clone all along. And in a sense the Red Queen too. The were both facsimiles of the daughter of the man that started Umbrella Corps. Well, just Jovovich acting old and wheelchair bound. Would have maybe kept that detail under wraps for a more effective reveal come screening.
Which leads us to…
The idea of creating a carbon copy of a living thing has always been a sci-fi staple. Can we – even managing to copy, blood, bone, flesh – duplicate the human spirit? How can one equate something that is unquantifiable? And if one’s spirit is unquantifiable does it truly exist? Do we say we have a soul to fool ourselves into believing we are more valuable than a mechanical pile of meat?
But the plight of existential paradoxes that we would experience watching Ghost In The Shell is not experienced in Resident Evil. Why? Maybe it has something to do with how easy the process of creating a clone is, or the suggested ease of the cloning process. Maybe the idea that RE clones are B-Movie / sci-fi versions of the twin in a mystery-murder narrative. Or the pulling off of mask after mask in that John Woo Mission Impossible movie. It was cool the first two times. But then it was like, “What, another one”. “Oh, you were a clone all this time.” Hm.
Resident Evil‘s clones just seem like the kind of plot device that one would encase in glass and have “break in case of emergency” writ across it. Except on closer inspection you realise the glass is a projected hologram and the you can just pick up the plot-device-clone and use whenever for whatever you goddamn feel like.
And can we discuss how hollow Alice’s reaction is to realising she is a clone? If her whole thing was to find out the missing pieces of her life, and have Isaacs crush that yearning for a past by telling Alice that she is virtually 10 years old created in a science experiment. I’m sorry, but that’d fuck with my brain in a major way.
Hell, the evil Dr. Isaacs, the co-president of the Umbrella – no, his clone – acted more traumatised; clone Isaacs ended up killing the real Dr. Isaacs in a Christian-fuelled rage. But it was all just a weird amalgamation of carelessly-placed circumstances and unnatural reactions from characters.
At the end of the movie, we come to realise the T-Virus was purposely released to infect the world in a controlled extinction-level apocalypse. That’s so Umbrella Corp. And whilst this was made into a reveal, it was hardly shocking. A touching moment however was when the original Alice downloaded her memories for clone Alice to take as her own and patch her now-explained missing past. Can’t remember if she took the memory plant. I’d like to think she found herself better off creating her own memories.
Is it me or has the Resident Evil movie franchise ever been survival horror? What is it about game movies that attracts this vitriol of lacklustre performance across the grid- cast and crew?
As if the jump scares littered across the screen weren’t bad enough, it seems Alice’s final hurrah was no different than every Resident Evil film before it. Every single one. And that was purely disappointing. We could do a mash-up of the trailers and test you to guess which clip was from which film and you’d be at a loss.
Oh and can we talk about the edit. Action sequences are fun and all, but dear editor, we know you spent long hours slice and dicing that feature together, but I’d suggest laying off the Redbull, amphetamines, and any other designer drugs you’re taking intravenously, orally, nasally and/or anally. Your edit was way to sporadic to be called editing. Those fast cuts looked like you forgot to clear the timeline of unused clips you cut previously but somehow they made it to the final edit. Damn near strobed me into an epileptic fit. Like an 80’s montage that was condensed to the size of pin needle and shoved in my eyes repeated.
The first Resident Evil film however did keep some of the games elements intact, and a part of me hoped we’d see a bit of that spark in the last of Alice’s story. But who’d have thought The Final Chapter would be a footnote in the scheme of things telling us to revisit previously churned out chapters. Like those Goosebumps book series that had you flip back and forth based on your decisions. That was the old school Telltale Games back in our days, kids.
Okay, so my reckoning is at some point someone decided making Resident Evil into an action movie would generate more revenue than an all-out horror film. Because people love to binge action than wade like a scared bitch through a horror. That’s just the theory anyway.
So, instead of living up to the Resident Evil games and the elements that made them resonate so strongly with fans, the movies were chocked full of guns, B-grade acting and monsters. And that was when I realised… Paul W. S. Anderson is Uwe Boll with a budget. There, I broke your innocence and I can’t put it back together again. You can’t unlearn this universal truth. Hope you’re happy.
Acting in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was no different. Of course, Milla Jovovich delivered – just about – as Alice (easy when all you have to do is make one-liner quips like “Is that all you got?”). But all around there wasn’t a standout among them. Except the Red Queen. But that’s just my soft spot for creepy kids and highly ruthless and pristine AI who’s parameters to protect human life paradoxically leads them to kill so many. And all of that married with an obnoxious British Accent? Heaven. What’s more evil than a British Accent, I say? Nothing. That’s why movies about Nazis use English actors with British accents. Facts. Look it up.
There was also a moment where Alice, after a standard plot-device-blackout, is rescued by the band of merry-men held up in Raccoon City. And Raccoon City was not only ground zero for the T-Virus. It also created a culture filled with the viscosity and viral effects of bad acting and forced dialog. Ali Larter’s Claire croaking her dismay that Alice could die if she released the airborne anti-virus. William Levy’s Christian who was just all force and no cadence. A hot mess. And that was even before he told Alice to “blow me”. Ugh.
In the end, we were maybe asking for too much. Maybe seeing the Logan trailers got us hyped for movies powered by execs wanting a return to what makes an IP a classic. Maybe it was Sony looking to try new things with Marvel’s Miles Morales-led Spider-Man animation. A ray of hope that would make us hang out for a reboot in the future. Video game movies have suffered even in recent times. The technology is there, which should be the last piece of the puzzle. But narrative and actors to push the boundaries are forever lacking.What is most unnerving however is how monotonously similar the RE movies have been. So much so everyone’s timeline of the franchise surely resembles this:
Choppy like Alice’s memory.
But let’s hope with the likes of Lara Croft will bring a bit of hope to the video game film genre. Until then, Resident Evil is good popcorn-viewing cheese of a movie that is best saved for Saturday night viewing when you don’t have anywhere to go and there is nothing on on TV and you don’t want to re-watch that season of Archer.