There’s an interesting commentary on the state of modern franchise cinema within the Resident Evil series. Based on the popular video game, Resident Evil has been a film franchise that has endured for 15 years without ever having a single smash hit. Through keeping the budgets relatively reined in and making movies that appeal mainly to the games’ fans, Resident Evil has been able to defy critical drubbings and survive when video game movies often die. Now brings us the sixth and final (maybe) entry in the series with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Director Paul W.S. Anderson’s fourth Resident Evil film seeks to conclude the journey started by Milla Jovovich’s Alice 15 years prior. The Final Chapter isn’t going to bring in any new converts into the world of Resident Evil. For better or worse, this is a movie intended solely for fans of the series.
In case you’ve missed the previous five movies, The Final Chapter opens with a rundown of the events leading to the apocalyptic wasteland that Alice (Jovovich) occupies thanks to the nefarious deeds of the Umbrella Corporation. A virus that turns people into the flesh-eating hordes of the undead has been let loose and claimed the lives of most of humanity. When the artificial intelligence of the Umbrella Corporation known as the Red Queen (Ever Anderson) informs Alice of an impending cataclysmic event that will kill the remains of humanity and the last ditch effort to release a cure, the enduring warrior must travel to The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is holed up.
Alice teams with a group of survivors in the city and they team up to battle the Umbrella Corporations goons as well as the massive armies of zombies that are lured towards them like a weapon of flesh-eating mass destruction. Along with Claire (Ali Larter), Abagail (Ruby Rose), and others, this leads to a Medieval-like battle at a heavily fortified location, hurling explosives with a catapults at the Umbrella Corporation goons and the undead armies in tow. Then they go deeper into The Hive and uncover all of the answers behind the plague that has devastated humanity and how Alice along with the Umbrella Corporation factors in.
I like zombie movies. I like dystopian settings. I feel like I should like the Resident Evil movies, but the work of writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson just won’t allow me to. However, just because I don’t personally care for what Anderson does is not to say that isn’t good at what he does. The Final Chapter opens with action and keeps it coming from start to finish, creating a series of set pieces that are increasingly outlandish. Anderson shakes his camera and edits shots together frantically in a chaotic style that creates the illusion of swift movement and impeccable choreography. The chaotic nature of Anderson’s direction may not appeal to my preferences visually but he does construct his sequences better than most of his chaos cinema peers.
As much as I can forgive Anderson’s stylish tics with the camera, I just can’t do the same for his writing, which has all the subtlety of a punch in the nose. Any themes that Anderson wants to bring to The Final Chapter are bluntly stated and repeated by the characters, and it’s all so astoundingly heavy-handed. For Paul W.S. Anderson, it’s not enough to simply show the events. He has to show and tell, and tell again and again. I wouldn’t know if Anderson is employing some of the aspects of the game into his outlandish screenplay, but the corporatist villains have a ludicrous scheme that doesn’t seem as if it was given the slightest bit of thought.
Then there’s the fact that the film’s villain (played by Iain Glen) is constantly killed and resurrected because he’s a clone – you can get away with this for a bit in a wild piece of sci-fi before it becomes a tiresome habit of moving the goalposts. The constantly malleable situations of Resident Evil reach their apex at the film’s conclusion, where everything we’ve been told previously is irrelevant and everything that happened is explained by the Red Queen in monotone detail. It’s clearly a case of a movie that is a fairly insecure in its genre roots that it feels obligated to over-explain every little detail no matter how absurd.
Of the special features on the Blu-ray for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter are a number of featurettes exploring the making of the movie and how it ties into the franchise as a whole. One amusing aspect of these featurettes are the incredibly self-serious tone that Paul W.S. Anderson takes when talking about these ridiculous movies. That, it should be said, is probably why the series has continued to endure, as it certainly seems that Anderson is a fan of the series and is solely concerned with pleasing his fellow fans. Then there’s the “Retaliation Mode,” where Anderson and Jovovich explore the entirety of the franchise including some its crucial moments.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter isn’t a good movie nor do I really think that there’s a good movie in the series. However, for those that have enjoyed the ride that Paul W.S. Anderson has created with the Resident Evil series, you should be more than pleased with its conclusion. Resident Evil was able to last six movies over 15 years because it knew its audience and what they wanted from these movies, and those on the outside, like myself, be damned.