IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 105 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Three weeks after the events of Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice awakens in the now-ruined White House, after being betrayed once again by Albert Wesker. While searching for survivors, the Red Queen appears to Alice and tells her that she must return to the Hive in Raccoon City within 48 hours, where the Umbrella Corporation has developed an airborne antivirus which will kill every organism infected by the T-virus. When asked why she’s betraying her creators, the Red Queen simply says that she will tell Alice once she arrives at The Hive. Alice sets off and encounters a group of humans desperately trying to fight off the zombie hordes, plus Dr. Alexander Isaacs, Alice only having actually killed his clone….
There’s a really cool moment in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, inspired perhaps by some bits in the second Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie, where its heroine Alice has a gun held to her and decides what she’s going to use as a weapon to take down her opponent, the film showing us three possible scenarios. Then the bad guy, who’s ‘programmed’ with some kind of protective software, responds by showing us how all three of Alice’s attempts are doomed to failure. It’s actually quite witty but there’s nothing else in the film like it and the scene almost seems out of place – though of course one shouldn’t expect too much of what will probably – though I won’t say definitely – be the last picture in this franchise, a franchise which – even more than the Underworld series, the latest instalment of which I reviewed a few weeks ago – could be the very definition of a critic proof series. Reviews tend to be mostly bad, but the franchise has a great many fans who keep on flocking to these movies, which aren’t too costly by blockbuster standards so they always make a load of money – though saying that this one appears to be underperforming which isn’t a good sign. In a way my fellow HCF critics Bat and Juanvasquez are more qualified to review this film than I as they’re familiar with the games, and if one of them wants to do a review for the Blu-ray than they’re very welcome. I do know that the movies bring in ideas and characters from the games but otherwise are quite different and are considerably tamer in terms of bloodshed.
One thing I am sure of though – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, which was originally due to start filming in 2013 for a 2014 release until star Milla Jovovich inconveniently decided to become pregnant, isn’t a very good movie and might very well be the worst of the franchise [previously Apocalypse and Retribution jostled for that position]. Considering that this is probably going to be the last film in the series, you would have thought that Paul W. S. Anderson and company would have made a decent attempt to pull all the stops out. It’s not like they haven’t had time. Instead, all they’ve really come up is a kind of ‘greatest hits’ package, a string of mostly rehashed action scenes which look like they’ve been directed by Paul Greengrass on steroids. With these sequences often little more than a confused, eye-hurting blur due to the rapid cutting and shaky camerawork, it’s down to the story and the characters to try to make up for this, and they mostly fail until the final section when we’re fed some twists and are even intended to feel some emotion, though it’s hard to actually care. Having finally caught up with all the films the last couple of weeks, my personal feelings about this series are similar to my feelings about the Underworld franchise: the films are usually fun in an undemanding manner, but none of them have really fulfilled the potential of its premise. The Final Chapter though isn’t even much fun.
Before the usual recap from Alice, we’re also shown a flashback which tells us a bit more background. Apparently Dr. James Marcus, the original founder of the Umbrella Corporation, had a daughter who was dying of premature aging. Desperate to save her, Marcus developed the T-virus as a way to cure all diseases on Earth. After having had his creation taken away from him, Marcus’ business partner Dr. Alexander Isaacs tried to convince Marcus to use the T-virus for military purposes. When he refused, Isaacs ordered Albert Wesker to kill Marcus. This is all quite interesting and we get a sudden zombie attack in a lift which is quite good. Then we flash forward to after the big battle that was about to happen at the end of Retribution. Yes, despite being led to believe otherwise, we’re not shown it, though that may be just as well considering the atrocious CGI in the earlier film. Cut to Alice, and she’s soon trying to outrun a dragon in a car. Now one of the things that annoys the hell out of me in this series are the monsters who tend to pop up here and there – there’s no explanation for their existence except that presumably they’re in the games. Anyway, at least Jovovich looks better in this film. In the previous one, they tried to make her look younger with CGI, but it didn’t come off very well. She’s back to her normal self here though and, though she looks worn out, it’s kind of appropriate as the character must be worn out by now anyway.
Alice begins to head towards Raccoon City after the Red Queen has told her to return, and determined to stop her is Isaacs who was last a gruesome mutant in film number three Extinction. In a typical example of the way this series continually contradicts itself, we’re told that Alice only actually killed a clone of the Doctor in that film, and the real one is now a mad religious zealot leading an army of zombies. She also runs into Claire from Afterlife and Extinction again as part of a large band of survivors, though as usual it’s a very small group that Alice forms to infiltrate the Hive. The characters are pretty forgettable which means that it’s hard to react much as they begin to die, and after pretty much wall to wall action [in what is actually the longest film of the series] for two thirds of the film, we get to the Surprise Revelations and – yes – a couple of them are surprising if not tending to make much sense, though I was irritated at what they ended up doing with Alice. Then again, the whole series has wasted the character to the point that she rarely even registers as a character.
The biggest action sequence is a 20 minute or so battle, obviously modelled on Helm’s Deep from The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, where humans are defending their fortress ruins from loads of zombies, but because the camera never seems to stay still and the shots never seem to last longer than a second, the result is almost unwatchable and this viewer actually began to close his eyes just to get a break from the eye-hurting imagery on screen. Anderson way overdid the slow motion on the last two films, hampering the excitement of many action scenes, so he obviously decided to go the other way with this one, but to the point where I was actually longing for some slow motion because I would at least have been able to see what the hell was going on. What I could just about see is that the fights look barely choreographed at all, even a lengthy climactic one-on-one which should have been great, and have been pretty much put together in the editing suite. Alice hanging on to a rope being dragged along by a truck is still quite a thrilling moment, there’s a genuinely frightening scene with a giant turbine, and we get a bit more gore than we saw in the last movie [though not as much as in Extinction]. Also good is that there’s slightly less reliance on CGI then Afterlife and Retribution which were crammed with often lousy green screen work making parts look very fake, The Final Chapter returning to the dusty, dirty Mad Max-esque look and feel of Extinction, though we do get a whole load of shoddy digital explosions.
Anderson repeats over and over again his favourite shot of panning back from a few characters to a whole [usually digital] landscape, while even a mundane action like somebody putting a weapon away obviously requires three or four cuts or the camera jittering all over the place. Meanwhile Iain Glen seems to be the only member of the cast really having fun, meaning that his scenes tend to be amongst the best in the film. In general, it seems that they didn’t really try very hard with this finale [probably] to the series. I guess that it wouldn’t have been too bad if it had at least been shot and edited in a decent fashion, but because Anderson, cinematographer Glen MacPherson and editor Doobie Wilson decided that we weren’t allowed to have the privilege of properly seeing the action in a film where there’s so much of the stuff, and decided to punish us by trying to make us feel sick and have sore eyes instead, the result is often very hard to actually enjoy.