Look. I knew there was a 99.99% probability that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was not going to be any good. But it was December 31, and I had gotten a rare day off from work and family duties for the first and last time of 2016. I just wanted to relax and do something I enjoy—and that’s to watch a movie, no matter how bad it may be. And you know what? It was really, really bad.
Having been a fan of the video game series on which the films are (loosely) based since the very first one on PS1 in 1996, I have stuck with the Resident Evil movies all the way through as well (or at least I think I have, because they all blend together after a while and don’t have any consistent coherency or logic). This “Final Chapter”, or so they say, is more of the same. Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, the ass-kicking warrior waging war against the Umbrella Corporation that unleashed the zombie apocalypse on the world with the T-virus 10 years ago. Ali Larter, in desperate need of a paycheck, also reprises her role as Claire Redfield, basically a shittier version of Alice. Additional returnees are Shawn Roberts, who plays the wearing-sunglasses-indoors-and-at-all-times villain Wesker, and Game of Thrones alum Iain Glen (Ser Jorah Mormont) is back as Dr Sam Isaacs.
If you’ve watched any of the previous films, I know what you’re thinking: Haven’t some or all of these people died already? Multiple times? Yes and yes. But it doesn’t matter. For the sake of money the plot, everyone can be brought back. Of the new cast members, the only one I know of is Aussie DJ Ruby Rose, who has been in a lot of things lately. I wish she could have done more, but she’s a sorry footnote of a character who doesn’t get anywhere close to living up to her potential.
Actually, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter plays out very much like a bad video game. I thought the film started off well, with Alice basically recapping the entire film series up until now in a way that made the story almost seem coherent, and there’s a couple of early jump scares that had me hopeful of a solid horror action flick. But then, a plot contrivance is created to put the story for this film in motion, and it’s an absolute stinker. It’s so bad and lame and lazy that I literally laughed out loud. And then it was all downhill from there. Like a video game, character actions and motivations are driven by what monster or plot device the movie wants to throw at the audience next. So you get a lot of scenes where Milla just walks into a place for no reason and then encounters enemies she needs to kill—and kill in spectacular fashion.
Knowing what I know about the franchise, I didn’t have a huge problem with that per se, or even the terrible dialogue or plot holes galore, or the “borrowing” of visual ideas and designs from The Walking Dead and Mad Max: Fury Road, or the plethora of other things that just defied belief. What I couldn’t stand was how badly the film was shot and edited, especially the action sequences. Writer and director Paul WS Anderson (Milla’s husband in real life) has some average films on his CV, but never have I seen him this lazy. Throughout the entire movie, you only get a vague idea of what is happening in terms of the action that’s taking place on the screen. Perhaps there were budgetary or time constraints, but every action sequence is marred by a ridiculous number of rapid cuts. And when the action’s not unwatchable because of the editing, it’s unwatchable because of the deliberate darkness (and this was in 2D, without the added darkness of 3D). It’s as though Anderson decided it was too much trouble shooting these scenes and just went, “F*%$ it, let’s just cut it or make it too dark to see anything properly.” It’s unfortunate because some of the ideas in the choreography aren’t all that bad. It even brought back possibly the only memorable idea from the entire franchise (Hint: It has something to do with lasers).
What you end up with is a movie that kicks off from a laughable starting point and premise, makes no sense from a plot perspective, has terrible dialogue, and is visually incoherent. Milla Jovovich does her best as she always does, but it’s not enough—and it’s never been enough—to save the movie. Iain Glen also gives it his best shot, making Dr Isaacs one of the better villains I’ve seen in the franchise, though there’s only so much he could do. The scariest thing about the whole thing is that, just when you think the franchise has reached its sad, wretched conclusion, there is a final wink at the possibility of a sequel. All I know is that if there ever is a Resident Evil: The REAL Final Chapter, I’ll be ready to waste my money on it.
1.5 stars out of 5
PS: Perhaps the film was cursed. I read that Olivia Jackson, Milla’s stunt double, was involved in an accident during filming that left her in a medically-induced coma for two weeks and led to a thumb and then an arm amputation. Another crew member, Ricardo Cornelius, was crushed to death by a prop on set.