And Cue the Horrible and Stupid Action...
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
We're at the sixth and final film of the live-action Resident EvilFirst released a Biohazard, the Resident Evil games, and eventually movies (awkwardly and clumsily) tell the stories of a world ravaged by zombies and the greedy corporate, Umbrella, seeking to profit from the mess. series, and I feel like I should try and say something nice about this film. So, here we go: finally this series is over. Well, I guess that it's really nice, but it is a relief for me. After starting (resonably) strong with 2002's original Resident Evil, this series has slid further and further into mediocrity with each passing movie. It's never risen to the (middling) heights of the first film, and often the series has been barely coherent at all.
That's especially true for this film, the bloated and awful last movie in an increasingly bloated and awful series of films. This one is an absolutely and total mess, from the incoherent story that seeks to retcon the entire film franchise up to this point, to the lazily directed action and the poorly acted dialogue. It's a film that, in a better franchise, would hope to coast the end on good will from the fans, a rousing conclusion that only works if you care about everything that came before. But Resident Evil has struggled to build any good will up to this point in its live-action movies, so this so-called Final Chapter doesn't have anything left to coast on.
Like in previous films, this movie pretends the end of the previous film didn't happen the way we remember. The second after that film ended, with Wesker (Shawn Roberts) telling Alice (Milla Jovovich) that all of humanity would be lost if they didn't work together for the greater good, he apparently betrayed her, tried to kill her and everyone around her, leave Alice alone in the blasted-out remains of Washington D.C., without any weapons, still without her T-virus powers, and no clue what to do next. But a chance message from the Red Queen (Ever Gabo Anderson) sends Alice on a quest back to Raccoon City, where the whole outbreak started, to get the airborne cure for the T-virus so she can release it and save the last remnants of humanity.
Her quest, though, isn't without peril as she immediately runs into Umbrella goons, led by a surprisingly resurrected Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen) who we last saw (when Alice killed him) in Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Apparently that was a clone of Isaacs, while this real one is leading the armies of Umbrella (dragging a whole fleet of zombies behind them) to Raccoon City to wipe the last of humanity from the earth. This cleansing will leave Umbrella in charge of the remains, and when they release the cure, they'll also unfreeze all the Umbrella survivors they have buried in the "ark" beneath the city. Alice has to get there first, to save the only humans worth saving, lest Umbrella truly takes over the world.
I have so many issues with this film I feel like the innumerable. Surly the largest problem, though, is the story itself. If you've ever wondered what Umbrella was up to, what their plan was, well this movie doesn't really shed any light on it. First the T-virus release (in the first film) was an accident, but then in the second film they were okay with it. Then, in Resident Evil: Extinction, they were trying to build their own city to save themselves from the infection, but then they had a ship so they could harvest people and experiment on them so they could make better bio weapons. Then we learn that in the Resident Evil: Retribution they were profiting on the T-virus and its bio-weapon nature. Now, though, apparently it was all a plan to wipe out humanity and start again?
How does any of this make sense. It can't both be an accidental release and something Umbrella was planning all along. They can't both be interested in using the virus as a way to make money and then also want to wipe out all of humanity (because how would they spend all that money?). The film tries to ignore all the history of what came before, retconning out all of the details it has built up (and, at times, ignored) from movie to movie, but all this does is create a mess of a film with a story that makes no logical sense if you've seen any of the other films.
And yet, at the same time, the film also tries to take a victory lap for the whole franchise, bringing back a number of characters and locations so it can reference things that have happened before. It brings back Wesker as a villain, despite the fact that he was an ally at the end of the last movie, and it brings back the Red Queen as an ally, despite the fact that she was a villain in the last film. It also resurrects Isaacs, this despite the fact that he died four movies ago and absolutely no one cared about him at all. And, of course, Ali Larter's Claire Redfield is here, simply because she's already been in over half the series and why not, right?
Weirdly, none of the other surviving characters -- Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Leon Kennedy -- make return appearances. These were all characters introduced in the film series to give it some connections to the game series the movies are based on, and they're all fan-favorite characters from the games. You'd think that with a series so obsessed with reviving everyone it could have brought these guys back. And yet, no, and there's no explanation as to why or what happened to them.
Maybe I could accept all this -- the movies aren't exactly smart or well written, so at this point I should be numb to all of it, right? -- if the action were any good. But this is easily the worst directed movie of the whole bunch. Two films ago, in Afterlife, the film seemed to be copying The MatrixA speculative future story with superhero and anime influences, The Matrix not only pushed viewers to think about the nature of their own reality but also expanded what filmmakers could do with action sequences and filming. It then launched a series of movies, games, and comics, creating a franchise still talked about today. wither overly elaborate slow-mo and plenty of bullet time. While it was dumb to watch, and already felt dated, at least is was vaguely coherent. Now, though, the film seems to have taken a page from the Taken films, specifically Taken 3 and it's famous "15 cuts in six seconds to show its hero climb a fence". The level of editing her is about the same, with ever shot requiring five different angles and as many cuts for any kick, punch, or gunshot our heroes unleash.
To say the action is choppy is an understatement. It's beyond hard to follow as it has absolutely no flow, energy, or context. Things happen, punches and kicks are thrown, people fly around a bunch, but none of it has any weight, any substance. The action plays out in a series of frenetic cuts all designed, I have to assume, because Milla Jovovich was a 14 years older at the time of the last film's release and may not have been as up for all the action stunts required at that point as she was earlier in the series (again, like Liam Neeson and Taken 3). It's the only explanation I have for why this film is so hard to watch.
Whatever the reason, it makes the case that this film should have had a drastically different focus. Maybe it was time to let Alice led from the sidelines as her army of recurring characters went out and did the work for her. But the series has always dressed her up like an action figure and thrown her around the playroom and whatever Jovovich wanted to do this time, the series still had to trot her out and make her play action hero. It was a shtick that was barely working in the previous films and it completely falls apart here.
Don't get me wrong: I like the idea of a series of films telling a single storyline from the start through to the end of a zombie apocalypse. I even dig on the idea of having the lead character be a woman, and letting her remain the one person with plot armor that rides it all out. I just wish these films could have created anything close to a coherent story, instead of constantly retconning past events. And, above all, it would have been nice if the action could have even been somewhat bearable. This film is easily the worst of the whole run, a movie that assumes you're invested so it can get away with doing whatever it wants for nearly two hours before ending the series with a bit of a victory lap. It doesn't earn its ending, and it hardly holds together as a film at all.
The only saving grace is that it's over. We hope. Even then the film sends its heroine off saying, "my work isn't done," so many the series will get resurrected, making the title "The Final Chapter" as truthful as any of the other endings the film series has given us so far. I'm sure, with enough money, they can tempt Jovovich back to make another one of these cruddy films and the cycle of pain with continue. Until then, though, let's all pray that Hollywood has come to its senses and will leave bad enough alone with this sixth film. I dunno if I can take another.