So here we are. Fifteen years and six movies in, the cinematic Resident Evil franchise is apparently coming to an end. And it’s an ending that should prove satisfying for most of its fans which are, despite what critics and movie news websites might want you to believe, a lot. No other video game adaptation has survived as long or has earned as much money as Resident Evil, and the reason for that is that people really like this movies.
Resident Evil was born out of Paul W.S. Anderson’s love for the video games it’s based on, and even though it begun as sort of prequel to them, the films have built their own path towards an apocalyptic, zombie-infested world that the games have yet to reach. In building its own mythology, Anderson also created the character of Alice who thanks to Milla Jovovich’s love and dedication has become the heart and soul of the franchise. Alice’s journey through the films has seen her running, jumping and killing countless undead creatures while also uncovering pieces about the motives and truths behind her formers employees world-ending greed. And now, thanks to Resident Evil: The Final Chapter all those pieces have been put together to complete her arc.
As the film starts, the usual recap it’s preceded by a prologue in which we learn more about the origins of the T-Virus and the Red Queen, and the relationship between Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glein) and Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). Then, in an uncharacteristic move for the series, the film skips the payoff promised at the end of Retribution, and instead picks up in the aftermath of that big battle. We learn Alice and the ones she was with have been betrayed by Wesker. It’s not clear what happened in the battle, but Alice appears as the sole survivor. No time to grief for her, as she’s informed by the Red Queen (now played by Jovovich and Anderson’s daughter Ever Gabo Anderson) that she must reach the Hive, deep beneath the ruins of Raccoon City, is she is to save what’s left of humanity. Alice must fight against hordes of undead monstrosities, while being relentlessly chased by someone claiming to be the real Dr. Isaacs, avoiding Wesker’s traps and Umbrella soldiers and return where everything begun. Luckily Alice is not alone in her quest as she is joined by a group of survivors which reunites her with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter).
While the batch of new characters is mostly likable, and it’s wonderful to have Ali Larter back, hers is a role that could have been filled by any of the other video game characters that have popped up over the course of the series. Perhaps it would have fit to give her character a proper ending, a reward for not giving up in her attempt to save humanity, which was parallel to Alice’s own story. But this is Alice’s show after all, and the movie is all about her, her journey, her comings to terms with the truth and her fight against the two biggest antagonists of the series.
As such, even though it will entertain the casual viewer with all the action and gore expected from a movie like this, The Final Chapter is a movie that truly rewards the fans who stayed with the franchise all this years. By the end events from past films take a new meaning in a way that will give you another perspective the next time you revisit them. Recurring plot points also take further importance on Alice’s revelation about her own story. Anderson says he knew how it all was going to end a long time ago. Whether that’s actually true or not, there’s no denying the plot neatly ties several loose ends together.
The action in the film is relentless, and for the first two-thirds almost non-stop, only tarnished by the frenetic way in which it’s cut making it sometimes difficult to make out what is going on. Perhaps that is the intent, to show confusion and chaos, but it doesn’t always work like that, specially on the night scenes. Despite that criticism, every action scene and every shot is filled with imagination, and with an energy that makes it feel more brutal and gritty than before. Things slow down once Alice and company reach the Hive. The quick cuts disappear and the pace slows down to make room for atmosphere and as Alice’s journey reaches its climax the story takes an emotive turn, something completely new for the series.
Every Resident Evil movie has had a very distinctive tone and style, and Anderson fills The Final Chapter with an oppressive mood supported greatly by the South African location which sells the post-apocalyptic U.S. setting. Day light scenes feel suffocating and more dangerous thanks to their color palette, and they’re nicely contrasted by the coldness of the night shots, with the musical score by series newcomer Paul Haslinger tying them together with a soundtrack that mixes wall-to-wall ambient sounds and aggressive electronic pounding with an epic feeling and just the right amount of slower, tender moments to reflect Alice’s end of the journey.
For all its minor issues and unexplained plot points, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is a proper send off to a series that through Anderson’s vision has found its own voice, and which thanks to Milla Jovovich’s portrayal has turned Alice into one of the most beloved female characters ever put on the big screen. As was always going to be the case, this isn’t a movie that will be loved by the critics no matter its merits, but as a fan rarely have I witnessed an ending to a long running franchise to be this satisfying.
- The good:
- Tying loose ends and giving an emotive end to Alice’s journey gives the series a nice sense of closure.
- The bad:
- Too many quick cuts make the action confusing. Also there are some plot points left unexplained.
- Bottom line:
- If you enjoyed the previous movies in the series you’re probably love this one. If not, nothing here will change your mind.