When a franchise reaches its sixth film and titles it The Final Chapter, my first question is, “Was it a fitting end?”
If you’ve been a gamer through the years and made sure to watch films adapted from video games, you already know that the vast majority of those movies are pure garbage. Resident Evil, while loosely based on a game series, is less of an adaptation and more of an apocalyptic zombie fest good enough for 90 minutes of your time and some movie-style popcorn. Number six fits that bill… for the most part.
RE: The Final Chapter picks up at some point after RE:Retribution. We see Milla Jovovich’s Alice climb from an underground bunker – or a sewer, I’m not sure – on the hunt for someone offering her information. It doesn’t take long for monsters and mayhem to ensue as the journey back to Raccoon City begins. Along the way there’s the obligatory exposition catching you up on the current state of the world as well as the reintroduction of characters that are oddly different from the last time you saw them. Things gradually take shape as you climb ever closer to the eventual boss fight.
Throughout you’ll see zombie people, zombie dogs, zombie monsters, characters you thought were dead, mediocre CG and terrible dialogue. So, it’s exactly the same as the others? Kind of. Fans of the franchise – which I am one – will likely agree that the strongest element to any and all of the RE films is Milla. She makes a great action star and clearly loves Alice and wants to get her right. But surrounding that single casting win is an ever-changing mixed bag of good and horrible. While the series revitalized our love for gory, B horror flicks, recent installments have overreached a bit.
Understanding the Product
Before you can judge a movie, you have to know what it’s supposed to be. Resident Evil, in my opinion, is supposed to be loud, fun and bloody. The cotton candy of the cinema. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a good story and at least passable acting, directing and editing. Where The Final Chapter falls the flattest is in the latter. It didn’t take more than the first action sequence to see that it was cut either in a hurry or in the dark. Super choppy camera jumps coupled with what often feels like an odd camera angle for the shot creates a disorienting scene during much of the early action.
But the editing wasn’t the only incongruous mess. Five films in, we’re used to characters mysteriously not appearing in sequels – or even being referenced, for that matter – but what they do in number six is inexcusable. Paul W.S. Anderson, writer and directer, felt they needed to completely rewrite the history of a core character to the series. What you learned about the Red Queen in Apocalypse is completely disregarded and done over. But they must have had a good reason, right? It made the final story better, I’m sure. Nope. Done for no reason. They could have easily cut in scenes from the second film as the flashbacks instead of filming new ones with a totally new story and have actually made things feel tighter and more inclusive.
Other story elements and “twists” are so lazy and misconceived it’s actually hard to do a script critique without this review turning into a troll-ish rant. But! I could say the same about almost any of the films and yet I still enjoyed them. Why? Because it’s what I expected. I came for zombies, explosions and Alice and I got zombies, explosions and Alice. Money well spent.
Another element I have an issue with – I feel like I’m only complaining – is writer, director and producer Paul W.S. Anderson. On one hand, I really really appreciate that he truly loves the franchise. Loves it enough to have been a part of all six of them in at least one of those three capacities. But on the other hand, he might be too close to the whole thing. With his guiding hand at its back, the RE series has had inconsistent scripting, directing and editing from day one. For the type of movies they are, you can overlook a lot of their shortcomings, but the fact that most of those issues have gotten worse over the series’ second half is squarely on his shoulders.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is a by-product of all the things good and bad that have come througout the franchise. Alice is still as amazing and engaging as ever, the booms are big, the undead are ravenous and the bad guys are way over the top. Anderson gets a nod for the good as well, I just wish he polished things a little more as he went.
There are so many factors that go into a film working or not, and while I have some really strong gripes, there are loads of good that splash across the screen. While most of the characters outside the main handful are forgettable, casting is solid and we get to see Ruby Rose in one of her four big-screen appearances this year. She should definitely have gotten more screen time in this one. The cinematography, though undercut by the editing, is fitting of a horror-action flick. And the biggest and most surprising positive: the original score. Paul Haslinger does a wonderful job composing a tense, dramatic backdrop fit for high-end horror. Like maybe the Walking Dead? Oh wait, he did the music for that too.
“Was it a fitting end?”
Back to our original question. This is actually hard to answer. The ending itself was interesting and adequate once you get past the continuity do-over, but does it do a six film franchise justice? Yes and no. If you’re a Resident Evil fan, GO SEE IT! There is enough of what you loved from the others to make this worth your time and a fitting chapter in the RE story. Is it perfect? No. Is it messy like the last two? Yes. But it works and is a fun 90 minutes.
If you’re not a fan, WAIT TILL IT HITS CABLE. The SyFy channel will eventually get it. If it’s action horror you’re after but aren’t all caught up on the series, the convoluted story and underdeveloped characters will only disappoint. Watch the original and if you like it, keep going. No need to jump in at the end.
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