Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (review)

Confession time. As I mentioned in my Return of Xander Cage review, I am a fan of cheesy b-action movies. So it might not come as a huge surprise that I kinda liked the Resident Evil film franchise for what it was, a messy B-horror/action series. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of their gaping flaws and their overall blotchy quality. But I thought they were decent popcorn flicks filled with zombies, action scenes that were entertaining enough, and a continuity (albeit a disjointed one) that it continued to build upon in each film.

So when I saw the trailer for the film I was one of the few people who was actually excited to see it. It was the long awaited finale, and many fans (yes this franchise has fans) like me were eager to see how Paul W.S. Anderson would wrap up Alice’s (played by Milla Jovovich) story.

Alas the sixth Resident Evil film would fail to even meet the quality standards of it’s own franchise.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is about series protagonist Alice who must return to the place where it all began, the Hive of the Umbrella Corporation, for one last showdown with the fate of humanity at stake.

Let’s start with the positives, because believe it or not there are some things that are worthy of note.

Milla Jovovich has always been one of the saving graces for this franchise. She not only carries the entire series, she actually does a good job. She has managed to create a vulnerable sympathetic action hero that also is charismatic and extremely badass. Not matter how ridiculous the plots get, she manages to deliver a solid performance. Jovovich makes all the incredible moves and techniques her character is able to do believable as she has trained for most of the movies and performed a lot of her own stunts. An actor being able to fight convincingly usually makes it better for the editor, as they are then able to linger on shots longer allowing the audience to get a sense of what’s happening on screen. For the most part the action scenes work best in the Paul W.S. Anderson’s directed films in the franchise as he allows Milla to showcase her abilities. Without a doubt Milla’s performance as Alice is one of the major reasons this franchise has had the legs it’s had.

Another positive is Iain Glen’s performance as Dr. Issacs. He just eats up his scenes with a campiness that is befitting of the world the film takes place in, but he does so without ever going too over-the-top. He provides a nice foil against Milla’s Alice in the last half of the film. Their chemistry as hero and villain is very entertaining.

The action sequences, as they appeared to have been laid out seemed to be really good as well. Once again showcasing Milla’s physical capabilities, and creating something that could have been truly entertaining. Sadly, as I will get into later, the scenes are totally butchered by an appalling editing job. So while I give it marks for what lies beneath, its final execution leaves me in want.

The film has all the usual flaws that this franchise has become known for like bad CGI, poor character development, and a convoluted story just to name a few. But then this film kinda kicks the terribleness up to 11, and then adds a few more horrible elements that just leave the franchise a heap of smoldering trash.

First off the obvious and most egregious sin this movie commits right out the gate is the editing. It is without a doubt the worst editing I’ve seen in a long long time. The editing was reminiscent of that now infamous scene in Taken 3 that has been circulated online as an exemplar of bad editing. In that scene Liam Neeson simply jumps a fence but in those few seconds we are blasted with a flurry of edits that render the scene nigh unwatchable (here’s the clip). Pretty much every action scene in Resident Evil is edited like that. Just a jumbled hurricane of edits that obfuscate what is going on in the scene. Each shot lasts less than a fraction of a second before it cuts to a new shot of which we only have a fraction of second to grasp before again being cut to a new shot. It’s absolutely infuriating to watch.

It’s also a bit baffling to be honest, because up until this movie Paul W.S. Anderson always directed pretty decent action sequences. They were clear and unobstructed. The editing was clean, and bearable. To be fair the editor (Doobie White) they hired has been notorious for his sloppy work on action films, but the director I think still has culpability. Now unless the studio took the film from him, there’s no excuse for allowing this bad a job on a film. It tarnishes your work and your rep.

There are also lighting issues within the movie. There were night scenes that were so dark you couldn’t see what was transpiring on screen. There were scenes where it was indiscernible who was dying and who was fighting, forcing the audience to wait until the scene was over and we’re able to adequately assess who survived and who didn’t. Combine that with the editing and you get a headache. At least that’s what I got.

The story itself seemed rushed and slapped together. The main character is rushed from point A to point B in a very inorganic manner, and the new characters she meets in between are never properly introduced nor are they developed. In the end the audience doesn’t care when those characters start to become dispensable fodder in the final act of the film.

Now as a fan of the series my biggest beef was that this movie does large scale retcons. In a series you’re supposed to build up to the finale in which the climax and resolution of the entire series running conflict comes to a head. Loose ends are supposed to be tied, subplots are supposed to have payoffs, and everything is supposed to get resolved.

Instead of providing resolutions, they decided to have this movie retcon many established things from pretty much every film in the franchise. Just cleans the slate out to re-establish a new continuity for the sake of this story. The first 5 mins of the movie are dedicated to retelling the story so far, and in doing so they introduce new things that retcon previous story elements from previous films.

For 5 films Resident Evil somehow managed not to do an large scale retcons to the established continuity. Sure there were odd workarounds to elements that didn’t quite match up from movie to movie, or there would be a throwaway line to explain away gaps and jumps in time. But overall they managed to stick with what they had built for better or for worse. It was part of the reason I liked the films, because no matter how ridiculous things got they managed to continue build upon a larger overarching story.

Then they pretty much throw large chunks of it out, replace them and all in service of a plot resolution that only works to resolve this movie, instead of the series as a whole. Ruining continuity like that is a bit of a slap in the face of fans who had invested time in Resident Evil. It’s also inadvertently renders the previous films pointless. There is no reason for fans or new people to go revisit the other films in the franchise if this one renders them unimportant.

I could go further into detail about what exactly and how bad the retcon hurt the overarching story, but I won’t, at least not here. I could also just continue listing fault after fault this movie has, because I only really dealt with the big issues that prevent me from even enjoying the most superficial elements of the movie, but I then I’d go on forever.

The movie is an overall disappointment to fans of the Resident Evil franchise who came to see a thrilling conclusion, and instead are presented with this grotesque beast that hardly resembles the Resident Evil from before. And in general Resident Evil the Final Chapter is just a bad film in every way, and not in anyway that can be fun to watch.

 

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