This past weekend saw the release of “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” in theatres, marking the alleged end of a film franchise spanning all the way back to 2002. While it was certainly never a cinematic classic, I’ve enjoyed the movies for the most part and have always looked forward to the next instalment. I’ve never played a Resident Evil game in my life, so I have zero attachment or knowledge to this franchise outside of these films. That being said, I do find it exciting when they include a game character just based on the little I’ve read. Watching all these in a row, it does strike me that Alice doesn’t really have any personality or character progression; she’s just a stoic bad ass warrior bent on revenge.
Before watching the sixth and final movie, I had a little marathon of the previous entries:
(Spoiler Warning for the first 5 Films, up to and including Resident Evil: Retribution)
Resident Evil (2002): The only movie to actually feel like a horror story rather than video game action, it does open with an intriguing mystery and takes the time to build some dread before dropping the bomb. I didn’t love it, but it ended on a fun cliffhanger.
Resident Evil Apocalypse (2004): My favorite of the series. I loved seeing Alice and friends running around a city in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Jill Valentine was fun, and having a “boss monster” in Nemesis really did make this feel like a video game come to life.
Resident Evil Extinction (2007): This is where the series dropped for me. I really don’t like it moving into a post-apocalyptic setting, which unfortunately will define the rest of the series. I much prefer the ‘secret conspiracy in the real world causing an outbreak’ scenario of the first two movies. Alice getting super powers was fun, though. The ‘boss fight’ at the end was definitely a step down from the previous entry.
Resident Evil Afterlife (2010): Even more of a disappointment than Extinction. I just can’t fathom the creative choices behind this story. Extinction ended on this wonderful cliffhanger of Alice and her army of clones coming for the Umbrella HQ in Tokyo… which is promptly wasted in the opening 20 minutes of this movie. This should have been the entire story. It all happens so quickly we don’t know what’s going on, and since the Alices don’t even talk they all have zero personality or connection to the audience. We don’t even know which one is the real one. And then it’s all over, all the clones are conveniently killed except for the original, and she loses all her fun powers. And then the rest of the movie is wasted on a very disappointing ‘holed up in a prison’ scenario that just isn’t interesting at all.
Resident Evil Retribution (2012): Another great cliffhanger gets promptly used up. I really didn’t care for this story either. Going through virtual reality recreations of the previous movies was just tedious. It was fun seeing old characters, but it all just seems like such a waste. It definitely ends on a wonderful note that left me dying for the conclusion… which would end up taking five years…
And finally… (light spoilers for first act only)
Resident Evil Final Chapter (2017): A solid conclusion to the story, and the best movie since #2, but there are definitely once again some big disappointments. This one takes the cake for the ‘worst ever continuation of a cliffhanger’. I was so excited to see this story based on 5’s ending. Alice (with her powers back) and Wesker and all the allies fighting the last stand of humanity from the White House, facing the evil Red Queen! Sounds great! But the battle takes place off-screen and they walked back every single aspect of it. Alice didn’t get her powers. She didn’t work with Wesker. The allies disappear without explanation. The Red Queen wasn’t evil. What a massive disappointment.
Moving past that, the movie definitely looks good. I hesitate to use the word ‘realistic’ for this series, but this was definitely more grounded a story than the cartoon-like twists and graphics of the last two. They also did away with the crazier zombie monsters for the most part, sticking with the normal undead. The final mission is pretty good, but this story seems wildly contradictory to what’s come before. All of Alice’s allies (except for Claire) are gone without explanation. Dr. Isaacs, a minor scientist in 3, is suddenly the head of Umbrella and was all along, and the Umbrella plot was an intentional Christian fundamentalist plot to remake the world like Noah’s Flood. Where did that come from?! We do finally learn the truth about Alice and I did like that revelation. I just really wish Alice got her powers back for the finale; what kind of series evolves your character to have super powers halfway through, then abruptly takes them away and never gives them back, not even for the big final battle? I would have loved to have seen every game character team up for the last mission, rather than Alice on her own with a Claire assist. Scheduling issues, I assume…