The Resident Evil movie franchise has always been a fun one. The movies do not take themselves too seriously and focus on delivering an engaging experience rather than trying to break new ground. The usual recipe for a Resident Evil film is over the top fight scenes mixed with ridiculous plot twists, plus a dash of corny dialogue for flavor. It has worked well. You cannot argue with fifteen years, six films, and one billion dollars. However, this time around that sense of self, and sense of fun, is missing and as a result Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the series first clunker.
Trying to Force It
The first thing that you will notice about RE:TFC is that it is very loud, distractingly so. The movie is so noisy that you will not be able to focus on what is happening on-screen for at least the first five minutes. And even after that, the loudness will continue to draw your focus away from the action. Every explosion, every gunshot, every jump-scare is punctuated by a blast of follicle-destroying sound. The sad part is that the jarring sounds were probably meant to enhance your excitement, to make you want to jump out of your seat, to draw you into the world of RE:TFC. Unfortunately, they have the opposite effect, making it impossible for you to lose yourself in the movie. Not that there is much to get lost in this time around.
One of the more underrated aspects of the Resident Evil series is director Paul W.S. Anderson’s ability to craft engaging and memorable visuals. Thus far, each film in the series has been full of creative fight scenes, interesting settings, and arresting imagery. Not so in RE:TFC.
This time the fight scenes are shot too closely and with too many cuts to be effective, and most of the time you will only have a vague idea of what is going on. This approach to action scenes is common in modern movies, but Resident Evil had managed to stay clear of it, at least until now. Even a scene depicting a group of survivors defending their skyscraper home against a horde of zombies, as well as Umbrella’s tanks, is jumbled and uninteresting.
There are only three action scenes in the whole movie that manage to be engaging: An under-bridge ambush by Umbrella agents, Alice(Milla Jovovich) and her nemesis Dr. Isaac’s(Iain Glen) first dust-up, and RE: TFC’s climactic showdown. This last scene takes place in the laser corridor from the first film and its clear action, clever choreography, and understated brutality make it the highlight of the movie.
There really is not much to say about the settings. They are almost uniformly bland. This is disappointing because RE: TFC takes place in a post-apocalyptic United States and one would think that a lot could be done with such a rich setup. After all, the Mad Max series has built its entire reputation on exploring post-apocalyptic wastelands and those movies are set in Australia. Instead, the bulk of the movie plays out in poorly realized versions of Raccoon City and Umbrella’s underground base, the Hive. As far as RE: TFC is concerned there is exactly one building in Raccoon City: the survivor’s high-rise stronghold. This stronghold has, as far as I can remember, exactly one room: the infirmary. And the infirmary is used in only one scene. Everything else of importance happens on the skyscraper roof. The Hive is not realized any better and seems like a random assortment of rooms that somehow gets the characters where they need to go. In addition, even though it is supposed to be the final stronghold of a cabal that has succeeded in wiping out most of humankind, there is no sense of menace or power. It seems more like a deadly obstacle course than a military stronghold.
The one saving grace for this film, visually at least, is the scene in which Alice’s group returns to the bombed out entrance to the Hive. The ruined landscape is haunting and the clever use of light and darkness creates the movie’s most affecting imagery. The only bad thing about it is that is too brief, soon shunted aside for a return to less engaging environments.
Straight Slog of a Story
Story-wise, RE: TFC is the weakest of the series, and that says a lot. At the start of the film, Alice is told to save the world and she spends the rest of the movie doing exactly that, in precisely the method that was explained to her. There are no plot twists, no surprises, and worst of all no humour. RE: TFC is the driest film in the series and, as far as this reviewer is concerned, one the most humorless pulp movies in existence.
This lack of fun is almost entirely the result of an underdeveloped supporting cast. There is no wisecracking or tomfoolery with this group. There is not much of anything, really. The bulk of them get a couple lines to introduce themselves and then fight, run and scream until they die. Worse yet, because they are one-dimensional, their deaths will mean nothing to you. You will not feel sadness, you will not feel shock, you will not feel anything. Even returning characters Claire Redfield(Ali Larter) and Wesker(Shawn Roberts) are underutilized. Claire is reduced to a “spurned woman” sub-plot, and poor Wesker spends the movie arguing with an A.I. and is then dispatched in the most anticlimactic way possible.
The only two characters that are worth anything are Milla Jovovich’s Alice and Iain Glen’s Dr. Isaacs. These two are the only characters with more than one dimension and give RE: TFC what little life it has. Ms. Jovovich is still one of the most enjoyable and committed action stars in the industry and, as always, she treats even the silliest, blandest scenes as serious drama. Her screen presence has always been the anchor preventing the Resident Evil movies from drifting into total schlock, and this time is no different. While Ms. Jovovich grounds the film, it is Mr. Glen’s performance as Dr. Isaacs that keeps it running. Whether he is knifing subordinates, having his friends murdered, or fighting it out for the fate of the world Mr. Glen keeps the audience enthralled. If not for his performance, RE: TFC would have been unwatchable.
There is also a sub-plot involving Alice’s origin. Yes, fifteen years after she woke up in that mansion the story behind the unstoppable Alice is finally revealed. It is a decent addition to the lore and gives more meaning to Alice’s long struggle; however, it does not add much excitement to the film. After all, it is the answer to a question that most fans stopped asking long ago.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is a frustrating film. Instead of taking the audience on a fun romp full of entertaining characters, the film focuses on telling the story of how and why the T-virus came into being, as well as fleshing out the history of the Umbrella Corporation and its two key figures. But this is the movies’ fatal mistake. It takes itself too seriously and in doing so loses the spark that made the previous films good, pulpy fun.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is a finale that does not to justice to its predecessors and forgets that in Alice’s world it was never about the destination; it was about having as much fun as possible on the journey.
What did you think of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter? Did it end the series on a low note? Leave a comment and let me know.