Some critic once said of the Resident Evil series, “Who are these movies made for?” I’m not sure if they were looking for specific names or just a vague description, but I think the Resident Evil movies are made for people that want to kill two hours with big action, gruesome visuals and a loose thread of a mythology that vaguely represents the video games they’re based on. In the case of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, it was made for movie fans that need closure. It appeals to those that assume the previous five movies were building towards something, but I doubt that this is where they thought it was going.
Interestingly, we’re getting this Resident Evil just a few weeks after the most recent Underworld movie. It’s interesting because in both cases we’re dealing with movies that open with exposition dumps and recaps of events from the previous films while seemingly caring less about continuity. For instance, remember how at the end of Resident Evil: Afterlife, Alice (Milla Jovovich) and a group of friends collected from all previous chapters arrived at the White House where they agreed to assist Wesker (Shawn Roberts) in a last stand against the undead? Well forget it! Everyone but Alice died in a battle between movies. I guess Sienna Guillory wanted too much money.
From a creative standpoint, why? Why clear the field of so many characters that you’ve gone to tremendous trouble to build up, when you’re just going to send Alice to another location, have her team-up with another group of cannon fodder, and fight the Umbrella Corporation for the fate of humanity? The answer is reasons, and that’s all there is to it! Alice is tasked by the Red Queen (Ever Anderson, Milla’s daughter) to return to the Umbrella Hive under the remains of Racoon City to find the cure to the T-virus and save what’s left of the planet. Oh, and she’s got only 48 hours to do it before the last of the human race falls under the jackboots of Umbrella, or the desiccated foot of the undead.
Now it isn’t a complete clean slate. Along with Jovovich and Roberts, Ali Larter and Iain Glen return as Claire Renfield and Dr. Isaacs respectively. But didn’t Dr. Isaacs die in Resident Evil: Extinction, you ask? Why yes he did, which means more fun with clones. But seriously, if your name’s Alice, Wesker or Isaacs in this movie, then death doesn’t matter. That may be the most video game aspect of any video game movie ever made, that no matter how many times the hero or villain is killed, there’s always a one-up that brings them back for one more round. Even in this so-called “Final Chapter” in which the finality is almost as artificial as the CG monsters.
I will give writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson credit for giving the film a propulsive push that takes the audience breezily from one over-the-top action sequence to another, it’s just too bad that he didn’t have a film editor with an attention span. Don’t worry if you think you’re having a seizure while watching Resident Evil, it only feels like it. Rather than showing off the monster effects, or the fight choreography, or how Jovovich remains one of the big screen’s biggest female bad asses, the film jumps, scan, and zooms around in order to create a false sense of urgency, which is unnecessary really because Alice is constantly looking at a ticking clock.
Resident Evil works best (I almost wrote “excels” there, but that would be giving it too much credit) when its focused on the action and the monsters. If it can push you through the story without stopping too many times to think about the plot, the motivations, or the allegiances of the characters, then you’re golden. The same is true for The Final Chapter, but being the “final chapter” Anderson is of the impression that there’s some grand unifying point to this series aside from filming his wife shoot, stab, punch, kick, skewer, and behead zombified stunt people and computerized beasties. Stick to what you know, in other words.
Instead, Anderson decided to pursue some other things, like the resurrected Dr. Isaacs posing as some kind of fundamentalist preacher with a dungeon full of lost souls in his tank. Look, you’ve got to figure that the zombie apocalypse is going to create some zealotry, but at least commit to it as some sort of commentary and don’t just use it to make a creepy character creepier. And let’s logically examine the film’s reveal that the release of the T-virus was some sort of controlled apocalypse on the part of the Umbrella Corp. to clean the world and make it new. Has anything that’s happened in these six movies seemed controlled to you?
NO! Of course not! Control implies planning, and there’s been no part of this that’s ever been planned. In fact, and the people that have been following this series are closely are free to correct me, but some of the revelations here completely contradict things discovered in previous films, the origin and significance of the Red Queen for instance. I’m not saying you have to plan out every detail in advanced before you shoot a single reel of film, but some consistency would be nice. Also, if you’re going to have twists, make sure they’re actual twists because every so-called “reveal” was easy to see coming from a mile away, at least if you’ve every seen a movie before.
And let’s talk about finality, because even though this is supposed to be the final chapter the door’s actually left fairly wide open for a seventh Resident Evil film if the powers that be see fit to make one. This isn’t the venue for spoilers, but it’s safe to say in watching the end of The Final Chapter, there’s enough left unresolved to invite another visit to the world of Resident Evil. But what would the point be? Would a seventh Resident Evil movie be markedly different from the sixth one? Or the fifth one? Absolutely not. Is that the point of these stories though? To never tie anything off enough to make it matter? Probably.
So who is Resident Evil: The Final Chapter made for? The same people that have enjoyed the previous ones, or just otherwise indulged in them because two hours spent watching Resident Evil is better than two-hours spent cleaning the bathroom. Or writing an essay. Whatever tedious task you have to do in a day, sparing some time to watch pretty people fight zombies and monsters isn’t a bad alternative. That’s not exactly what you want to see written as an endorsement on a movie poster, but at this point, you’ve probably made up your mind about whether or not you’ll be seeing Resident Evil: The Final Chapter anyway.