In the Home Theater: Resident Evil - the Final Chapter
Out this month in the Google Play Store is Resident Evil: the Final Chapter. It dropped on May 2nd and I decided that I needed to view it and cover a review of it. And so, it is with a mildly heavy heart that I write this post Partially because one of the more intriguing movie franchises that I have ever watched in its entirety, has come to a close. And partially because I have to write this review very carefully in order to convey how I really feel about it.
A bit of history. Over the holiday break of 2015, I took up a mission to watch all of the Resident Evil movies. I had seen the first one in the theater when it released, but had not seen one since. I crammed all five movies in over about three days. If you would have asked me about five minutes ago, I would have said that I liked the first and second movies the best and the rest maybe shouldn't have been made. But looking back at my actual write-ups at that time, my rankings and scorings were as follows:
1. Extinction (3rd film, release year: 2007) – Score: 8.0
2. Evil (1st film, release year: 2002) – Score 7.5
3. Afterlife (4th film, release year: 2010) – Score: 7.0
4. Retribution (5th film, release year: 2012) – Score: 6.5
5. Apocalypse (2nd film, release year: 2004) – Score: 4.5
I still do not know that all of these movies needed to be made. I cannot say that they add much value to the lexicon of film-making in the 21st century. And I thought much the same thing as the Final Chapter, the…well, final chapter, of the franchise, opens up. Jovovich's character makes much ado about the back-story to-date, and states that this is her story. The final story. And I'm thinking, "Did we really need a final story? Is this a story that really needs to be completed?" In a lot of ways, I'd argue no; it's not. There are some nice things that the film does, though.
It does wrap the story up. And does not really leave a ton of wriggle room to continue it. I mean, sure, it is clear at the end that Alice's adventure is not over, but it is pretty clearly a "happily ever after" ending, in a dystopian post-apocalyptic world kind of way. Meaning that there is clearly stuff that happens after, but none of it is as relevant as what unfolded in the last 6 movies, so it does not need to be covered in detail. The main problem was solved.
And so in that manner, the movie is good in that it brings you back to the things I like about the franchise. There are some scenes that bring back memories of the first movie, which in my mind is still my favorite, despite my circa 2016 views quoted above. It features plenty of Alice + Claire Redfield time, and it is clear to me that Jovovich and Larter actually really enjoy doing these films together. It seems like they have a decent friendship off-camera, but even without that speculation, it is redeeming to think of them enjoying working together like we see in the friendship between Chris Evans and Oliver Pratt. And you get to go back to the hive, where it all started. It is a refreshing and nostalgic feeling to see and think about how things were in the beginnings of this franchise, the promise, the wonder, and the more corporeal linkages to the original lore. We've come a long way (off) since then.
Things I didn't like? The series continues to be full-on camp, without the more serious story-telling that took center-stage in Extinction and the first film. The first film was a nice little Spec Ops vs Zombie kind of affair and so it hit on a lot of thematic notes popular with some movie audiences at the time. Extinction is a bit Road Warrior-ish. But this latest film is the same kind of anime-like, schizophrenic story-telling that is all over the place. There are several jumps in the story where you are like "Wait. How'd we get here?". In that aspect it feels more like an Eastern film than a Western film, and that has been going on since Afterlife.
There are some things in here that are just plain silly. Iain Glen as a credible hand-to-hand combatant is just not there. And I have never liked what they have done with the Wesker character. I hate just seeing that guy even show up on screen. There are a few continuity holes, like Alice cannot drive the Umbrella motorcycles because they are coded to a specific handprint, which is that of Dr Isaacs. But then later in the film, I think twice, when there is no way she could have that handprint, she is shown driving the bikes.
Verdict: 5.5 / 10.0
Overall, Resident Evil: the Final Chapter is a bit of a ham-fisted affair, seemingly only driven by Paul Anderson and Jovovich's need to finish this thing off deliberately rather than just leaving the hanging end of Retribution (although that would have been just fine). As is the case with the other movies, each chapter is further and further removed from the Resident Evil lore, and this one is as far as you get. I did like the wrapping it back around to some tethers in the original movie and, by derivation, hooks into the original video game lore. But really, I would have been ok without visiting this world again. I have felt that way since Extinction, and Final Chapter does not do anything to change that perspective. If you are a completionist, Final Chapter will not make you hate the franchise any more than you already might. But it also does not do more than a skosh to endear viewers to any notion of whatever legacy it might leave behind. And you get to see Milla and Ali together again. Jovovich has some nice one-liners in the movie's climax, I guess is another positive. But at least they put a bow on it. Now if we could get Michael Bay to just do the same…