There’s a distinctive lack of shame inherent to the Resident Evil films that I’ve always appreciated. Yes, they’re loud, over-stylized video game adaptations unambiguously catering to the adolescent male gaze. But at times they’ve been convincingly creepy, even if they were never compelling from a standpoint of story or character. The Final Chapter, like its predecessors, is an assault on the senses that doesn’t pause long enough for audiences to think too deeply about its narrative shortcomings. Unfortunately, this film is an awkward epitaph ill-befitting the dubious accomplishments of director Paul W. S. Anderson and his wife-star Milla Jovovich.
Make no mistake, these films have never been high art — and The Final Chapter is no exception. But for a property packing as many guilty pleasures as Resident Evil to end with what feels like a retread of everything that’s come before amounts to more than a bit of a let down. The film picks up shortly after the events of 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution, but the apocalyptic last stand between Jovovich’s Alice and a marauding zombie army (complete with undead mutant dragons, for some reason) with the White House standing in for the Alamo has taken place offscreen. For those who may have skipped an installment or three, don’t worry — the opening minutes provide an exposition dump that fills in more than enough pertinent details — but anyone genuinely concerned about not following the story has missed the point of these films.
Jovovich has long been the primary draw for these pictures, her piercing eyes and animalistic athleticism the principal driver of the allure behind her portrayal of Alice. Anderson gives her plenty of carefully choreographed fight scenes and obligatory motorcycle chases to keep diehard fans happy, but it all feels a little too familiar. Like an unearned victory lap, the film returns to the principal setting of its initial predecessor, the evil Umbrella Corporation’s underground headquarters buried deep beneath the remains of the improbably named Raccoon City. Locations are revisited, set pieces are lifted wholesale from earlier films, and even Iain Glen’s villainous Dr. Isaacs is back after having been killed off a couple of movies ago. It’s just another piece of perfunctory plotting designed to tie up loose ends that probably didn’t need to be resolved in order for fans to sleep at night.
The script, such as it is, is really just a skeletal framework of McGuffin hunting and ticking clocks, a series of balletic zombie massacres and jump scares strung together by the most elementary of screenwriting tactics. The plot “twists” are painfully obvious, the character turning points more obligatory than necessary. Is it any good? I don’t know, do you relish the thought of a character with tenuous ties to Louis Carroll blowing up a zombie dragon with an antipersonnel mine? If so, then this is the film for you. At any rate, I can definitively say that it’s vastly superior to the last Underworld movie I had to review.
The Resident Evil franchise has long been one of the less offensive entries into the subgenere of video game adaptations that started plaguing multiplexes in the early aughts. After fifteen years and six films, the property is allegedly being allowed to die. I can’t quite go so far as to say that I’ll miss the franchise, although I do dread what will likely take its place. Still, I hope this death will bear the finality absent from such prospects in the story world of these films. Rated R for sequences of violence throughout.
Now Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.