“Final”…yeah, I heard that before
The Resident Evil films have curious qualities about them: they have almost nothing to do with the plotline of the games they were based on, they were all directed by one sub-par director constantly casting his hot wife, and they have poor production values. And yet the biggest surprise about this film series is that its odd choices has assisted it in the long run. The Resident Evil games got increasingly dumb with their respective plots, people idolize Milla Jovovich because they still remember her from The Fifth Element, and the shitty special effects endeared the series an audience that adores the films for midnight screenings. And deciding to conclude this bizarre 15 year odyssey on “The Final Chapter,” I have to say…kind of let down.
Alright, so the last film concluded with the film series’ hero, Alice (Milla Jovovich) meeting the series baddie for the past two films, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), for some super team-up in Washington, DC…that goes nowhere in the beginning of this new movie. Yeah, if you remember all those video game characters that appeared in Retribution? They’re all dead, they went offscreen…or at least I think they did because Alice starts the movie crawling out of a bombed out hole, struggling to survive. Rather than try to get our bearings straight, the film just throws two big monster fights before the villain from the first movie, The Red Queen – an artificial intelligence in the form of a little girl, tells Alice that there’s been a cure to the zombie plague sweeping the world…the whole freaking time. It’s back in the very location where the whole series began (coincidentally) and the Red Queen would like Alice very much to save humanity. Oh yeah and some random allies and enemies from the previous films make an appearance to drop more revelations that we should have known eons ago.
Look, I’m okay with a plot being stupid, I mean love the Fast & Furious movies for God’s sake. But those films have very self-contained storylines that only vaguely reference an event or two from the previous movies. They do not randomly pick allies and enemies you met two or three movies ago and make them the focal point of the film through the magic of contrivance. But that’s the only reason Ali Larter is back as Claire Redfield despite her skipping an appearance in the last movie and freaking Ser Friendzone himself, Ian Glen, coming back as Dr. Isaac despite his character being very, VERY dead. Then of course the movie goes “lol, clone” and we proceed forward with a hitherto unknown character motivation that Dr. Isaac was motivated by a desire to kickstart his very own Christian apocalypse to wipe the slate of humanity clean. I hate to harping on these character appearances, but they’re the only reason you have continuity in a series to begin with. But apparently Paul W.S. Anderson disagrees, and insists on capturing his wife do the same jump kick she’s been doing since the first freaking movie ad nauseum.
While I’m ragging on the story a lot, I mean it is called “The Final Chapter,” I was hoping for some freaking closure to this utter mess of a series; this movie is by no means bad. Actually, it’s a good thing Underworld: Blood Wars came out only two weeks ago, because that film demonstrates how Resident Evil could have gone astray. The last Underworld series was just lifeless with muted colors, unimpressive computer-generated fights, and a main character sleepwalking through her role. And credit to Milla Jovovich for showing Kate Beckinsale just how much energy an actress can add to a role when they clearly give a shit. While Jovovich’s Alice isn’t particularly deep, she’s at least got enough of a personality for people to love the character even as she has never been a part of the games at all. And I must begrudgingly admit that Anderson still knows how to be creative with his set pieces…even if he can’t film them well.
There’s an ass ton of shaky cam fighting a la-Jason Bourne, even when there’s freaking car chases going on. It’s a distracting visual because you can’t enjoy the spectacle of watching stuff blow up or seeing someone get their shit ruined by Alice. Hell, even the zombie killing action feels old hat compared to the clone army from Afterlife taking out random dudes but hey, at least the film series remembered it was a zombie action movie, not a techno-action MTV movie from the late 90s which the director had specialized in. Actually, that’s why I’m so frustrated with this film, Paul W.S. Anderson just simply refuses to advance his craft in any meaningful way and this dude’s been doing the same shit since 1995’s Mortal Kombat.
Look, the realm of action films have changed dramatically since the mid-90s when young directors were experimenting with computer generated images for the first time. But we have had since the rise of the superhero genre, the adaptations of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, the fall and rise of Star Wars, and Avatar giving birth to the 3D craze that Hollywood has now managed to make a permanent fixture in our collective conscious. Given the wealth of films for Anderson to rely on…why the hell is he still making sub-part action films? This is the kind of shit that belongs on the SyFy channel these days in their bad film productions because apparently they put good money into their television shows. It just makes The Final Chapter feel dated compared to its contemporaries, like a relic from a bygone age and not a particularly nostalgic one.
See, The Final Chapter ultimately fails on doing the one thing each previous Resident Evil film succeeded in doing: upping the ante in absurdity and delivering the fan service. Retribution wasn’t even a particularly good film, but it at least featured plenty of iconography and characters from the video games to provide some sort of fun connection. The Final Chapter has zero references to the games, even supposedly killing off fan favorites like Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong, Jill Valentine and Barry Burton off-freaking-screen at the beginning of the movie. And this movie can’t even give us something new to at least remember it by, save for a winged monster chase that provides one of the few decent thrills in the piece.
I still don’t hate this movie because ultimately, it’s just mediocre. It’s paint by the numbers. The bad guys want to kill Alice, Alice kills them all back, and Anderson finds some excuse to put his wife into a deathtrap-filled hallway again and again. I really wish there was something more positive or negative for me to say, but frankly I’m just bored with this series and a little disappointed. The last one was righteously zany and I was hoping for a big, final blow out only to be met by a meek, limp firecracker spark. The spark surprised me in a few ways, but not enough for me to recommend it to everyone. Skip the theaters and wait for this to hit HBO Go, because this is just a…