Resident Evil: The Final Chapter Evolves But Does Not Die
Our tour through the Resident Evil franchise concludes with Alice shattering the Looking Glass.
Nearly 15 years (and five sequels) after Alice stepped through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole of the Umbrella Corporation’s self-made apocalypse, the Resident Evil cinematic saga closes the book on the world’s most successful video game movie franchise. The first five films have already grossed $915.9m dollars worldwide, and The Final Chapter is geared to easily break that billion dollar mark. In 2002, if you had told me the low-budget and rather liberal adaptation of the Capcom Playstation game would result in those figures, I would have slapped you before stampeding my way to the next Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers screening – now there’s an IP that could not possibly ever let me down, right? I certainly would not have believed or understood how I could have spent the last month writing over 6,000 words of adoration for writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson’s series. But I’ve done just that.
I say all this as an admission, that I am one of the converted. Not an excuse, but an understanding. If you’ve always been baffled by the success of the Resident Evil films, then The Final Chapter will not bring you into the light. This is a film for the fans, and it gleefully rejoices in its history in the same fashion that other recent fanboy flicks like Rogue One or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them do. The big difference being that Anderson has had his hands on this material since inception, and this singular voice has not faded even when its been seemingly altered from sequel to sequel.
At the start of The Final Chapter, Milla Jovovich’s Alice stumbles from the rubble of Washington D.C. and collapses in a heap before the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool. When we last saw our hero, she was defiantly resisting a zombie horde while standing atop the White House, shoulder-to-shoulder with iconic douchebag Albert Wesker. Time has moved on, Wesker has retreated to the bunkers of Umbrella, and Alice’s on again, off again T-Virus super powers have been firmly stripped from her DNA. The wasteland of our Nation’s Capital appears to be the logical extension of Resident Evil: Extinction, Mad Max, Logan’s Run, or our current administration. The dregs of the human race have reached the finish line, and corporate greed will kill us all.
Maybe not as drastic as the stylistic fluctuations of the Mission Impossible movies, it is obviously apparent from the first 15 minutes that Anderson is not interested in replicating the wire-fu aerobics of his previous two entries. The action of The Final Chapter is up close, choppy, and as furious as Jason Bourne. Alice’s costume is bound with 90% fewer buckles, and has toned down the fetishizing to the disappointment of desktop wallpapers everywhere. Don’t worry, audiences can still ogle her weaponry, as she’s now strapped with Reggie Bannister’s triple-barreled shotgun, and Crocodile Dundee’s “That’s not a knife, this is a knife.”
Alice butchers her way out of D.C. and back into the clutches of Iain Glen’s Dr. Isaacs, who has not been seen since the third film, in which he was sprouting Lovecraftian tentacles to match his mutagen makeover. When dealing in a universe populated by clones and robotically controlled doppelgängers, dead is never dead, and you can’t trust this Dr. Isaacs to be that Dr. Isaacs, or some other abomination. Whatever or whoever the case may be, as much fun as zombie people, dogs, and dragons are, Glen brings more diabolical flavor than a dozen fiendish nods to the video games. Toss in some newfound religious zealotry, and the Umbrella Corporation’s second largest shareholder has reached new heights of villainous theatricality. Of course, it helps that we’ve all fallen hard for Jorah during these last few seasons of Game of Thrones.
The Final Chapter delivers a series of revelations for Jovovich’s character, and while some have been telegraphed over the series, most are simply satisfying in their execution. After years of being dragged through wannabe Hive bunkers, Alice returns to the bombed out basement of Raccoon City. In cahoots with The Red Queen, she’s been given Snake Plissken’s countdown timepiece, and a matching defcon deadline. She has 48 hours to prevent the Umbrella Corps’ one-percenters from Old Testamtenting the Earth, and maybe there’s a chance to reverse the zombie plague.
There are a lot of missing faces here, which I suppose, keeps up with the tradition of the franchise. Jill Valentine, Ada Wong, Leon Kennedy, Chris Redfield – all gone without even a mention to their absence. Anderson has always seemed obliged to make references to the source material, but from the very beginning, Resident Evil has just been a backbone to tell the story of his original creation. Alice stems from a long line of confident female badasses, but her journey from the frail amnesiac of the first film to this ultimate champion of humanity is a big thank you to Ellen Ripley.
Of course, you need a bevy of chum for the horde to devour, and The Final Chapter does not disappoint in its supply. Ali Larter returns as Claire Redfield, and while her brother is not on the forefront of her mind, she’s allowed some serious ass-kickery without stealing the show from Jovovich. 2017 has already dubbed Ruby Rose the hardest working woman in action, but don’t expect a sidequel for her character. Eoin Macken, Fraser James, and William Levy are barely extensions of their weaponry, but they’re all equally as effective as previous Raccoon City citizens.
Like any string of sequels you are going to come away with your favorites. I’ll always appreciate part one for its ability to circumvent slavish adaptation, and transplant Anderson’s Lewis Carroll obsessions into George R. Romero’s land of the dead. Apocalypse is that goofy exploitation film that exposed the possibilities of just how delightfully ludicrous this series was willing to plunge. Extinction relishes in homage, and with that easy fan-servicing, probably ranks at the top of my list. And while I’ll always be frustrated by the stunting of Alice’s godhood, I cannot deny my enjoyment of the monstrous set-pieces from Afterlife and Retribution.
However, The Final Chapter has to be the most satisfying film of the bunch. Anderson has tackled the character of Alice with a chain of switchbacking plot points and still manages to fulfill on our ludicrous desires for apocalyptic mayhem. In diving back down into The Hive, our nostalgia is massaged with laser corridors and decomposing Dobermans, and he rewards the fanbase with a backstory worthy of our Jovovich idolatry.
Is it over? Are we done with umbrellas, scarabs, Red Queens, and Albert Wesker? Naw. We shall sit back and await the inevitable reboot. But while some pine for that masterpiece of video game wish fulfillment, us converted know that it’s already happened. Resident Evil may not have followed your strategy guide, but it carved its own path into the gooey halls of genre.
Read more from our series about the Resident Evil franchise:
- The Unstoppable Gross of Resident Evil: Afterlife and Retribution
- The Aggressive Admiration of Resident Evil: Extinction
- Owning The Pleasures of Resident Evil: Apocalypse
- The Utterly Genuine Beginning of The Resident Evil Franchise