Resident Evil has something of a reputation when it comes to adaptations. That reputation being they are pretty bad. Paul WS Anderson originally brought the beloved videogame series to life at the turn of the millennium with the first of 6 Resident Evil films fronted by Milla Jovovich. From the off, they were somewhat divisive, completely forgoing the source material in favour of a new story, but keeping some of the plot devices such as Umbrella and having some of the game’s more recognisable monsters show up. Despite that, they have an audience, as there aren’t many videogame or film franchises that have many outings at the cinema, let alone six. And although the movies may be very silly, they are also very entertaining. The latest cinematic installment did a full 180, setting the film during the events of the first two games, and while it was nice to finally see that on screen, it was far too late in the day. By this point we’d already seen numerous remakes and re-releases of the games, meaning that the story had already tread the same ground several times over.
So what can the new Netflix show being to the table, where these cinematic installments have failed, as well as several CG animated movies? Luckily for us, it turns out that’s a fantastic cast and an engaging story set several years after the events of the main-line series of videogames. The show runs in 2 parallel time-lines, showing us part of New Raccoon City in 2022 and a world ravaged by the T-Virus in 2036. It’s between these two eras we see the struggle of the Wesker sisters, Billie and Jade. Daughters of the infamous Albert Wesker, one of Umbrella Corporation’s most notorious employees. We see them relocated to this sterile corporate world of NRC, where their dad is working on one of Umbrella’s new miracle drugs.
Umbrella being Umbrella, are still up to their old tricks. Only this time it’s pharmaceuticals being made instead of weapons. What could go wrong? Each episode is full of twists, turns, and monsters of the week. And while it initially feels like the TV show is as far removed as the Paul Anderson movies, the further into the series we get, the more the dots start to connect. We’re even treated to some classic Resi style puzzle solving, which will probably strike a chord with fans of the very first game. The spirit of the classic games is kept alive and well, with a rogues gallery of abominations causing trouble for the cast and it’s great to see them implemented like this.
This is all set in the shadow of the previous games, where the events of the Resident Evil series are often referred to, be it in conversation, video footage or via journalists trying to take down Umbrella. And despite its arms length approach to the source material, it’s not a bad thing. With each installment of the games, especially the more recent generations, they got more ridiculous and bombastic, upping the ante on the more stripped down, puzzle focussed originals. And with that came sillier plot lines and even sillier characters. Luckily, aside from Wesker, the only other things brought through are the monsters.
The leads are fantastic, with great performances from Ella Belinska and Tamara Smart, who play the future and present versions of Jade Wesker, and Siena Agudong as Billie. The biggest and best however, is Lance Reddick, who plays Albert Wesker, in a surprisingly deep and multilayered role. Resident Evil may have had something of a backlash on social media, but that is probably down to the casting of certain characters more than anything, but this is probably the best adaptation of the videogames series yet. As entertaining as PWSA’s films are, they are just dumb fun. Resident Evil is a genuinely great TV show, which ends on a fantastic cliff hanger and season 2 cannot come quickly enough.