'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter'
It’s hard to believe that anyone involved in 2002’s ‘Resident Evil’ ever imagined they’d still be adding chapters 14 years later. Easily the most successful franchise in the much-maligned genre of videogame adaptations, ‘Resident Evil’ continues to thrive at the global box office. Now, Paul W.S. Anderson and his wife Milla Jovovich have a final film in the series that they met on oh so many moons ago.
As per usual, the plot makes very little sense even though it’s wrapping up narrative threads that have been kind-of/sort-of explored over the last five movies. Also as usual, it’s actually fairly fun in a tongue-in-cheek, B-movie way. It’s very dumb and nonsensical (like the games the endless film franchise derives from), but at least it’s executed by people who don’t take this zombie mutant horror action stuff seriously. The finale is big dumb pulp just like the last few movies and worth seeing if you have the stomach for this sort of thing, even if no one would ever confuse ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ with art.
So… plot. This is tricky. As with anything branded ‘Resident Evil’, it’s both rather simple and mind-bogglingly convoluted. That’s just how these things roll. Humanity has been reduced down to the last few thousand survivors after the zombie/mutant plague. However, there is hope. (Yay!) An airborne antivirus now exists that could cure the undead epidemic once and for all. The pesky supercomputer that’s been a problem since the start of these flicks even decides to share that information with Alice (Jovovich, the one-woman ass-kicking machine who has been around since ‘Resident Evil: The First Chapter’).
Alice has to go back to where this whole thing began to set things right. That means battling evil franchise baddie Wesker (Shawn Roberts) in the process and also making some new friends too. What follows is just enough of an attempt at closure for this franchise to feel satisfyingly complete, as well as a simple enough storyline for newcomers to jump on board. Plus, you know, lots of ludicrously expensive and gory action scenes. Those are this franchise’s bread and butter after all.
Given that each one of the ‘Resident Evil’ movies has felt like a fairly self-contained episode in an endless undead battle, the biggest shock of ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ might be that Paul W.S. Anderson actually offers some closure. He employs the franchise trope of returning to the location from the first movie (rather well, even). Alice learns some revelations about her character that have at least been hinted at a couple times before. Then she gets a 48-hour deadline to save the world, and who knows if she does it (note: don’t read the title), but the ticking time bomb certainly adds a little extra oomph to this series’ silly shenanigans. As usual, charming B-movie schlockmeister Anderson (‘Event Horizon’, ‘Mortal Kombat’) keeps things bright, colorful, violent and fast-paced. Oh sure, bits don’t make sense, some supporting characters are useless and it’s all dumb-dumb-dumb, but he keeps it flying by at a rapid clip and ensures that everyone has a good time.
Sadly, the absolutely insane gun-fu action of the last two ‘Resident Evil’ movies has been toned down slightly. For a moment there, Anderson and Jovovich decided to turn this series into a sexy/gory Looney Tune and it was far too much fun. The pair keep their tongues-in-their-cheeks, but play things a little bit tighter and more grounded (well… by the delightfully idiotic standards of these movies, anyway). That’s kind of a shame because the goofiest ‘Resident Evil’ flicks were by far the best.
Don’t worry, though, there’s still plenty of insanity here, like a wild knife fight on a tank pursued by an army of the undead. Anderson keeps it light and fun as always, filling the screen with winks and nods to many other big franchises, including ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Mad Max’ (which Anderson amusingly used as an influence on this series over a decade before George Miller revived it). As long as you don’t mind how dumb and ridiculous this unapologetic B-movie can feel, you may well have some fun.
The movie works almost entirely thanks to Anderson’s light/insane touch and the talents of Milla Jovovich. She’s a genuinely talented actress who can treat this pulp seriously when needed and also wink along with the director when laughs should enter from the sidelines. She also handles herself extraordinarily well in fight scenes and just oozes movie star qualities out of every pore. The ‘Resident Evil’ series has been both a blessing and a curse for Jovovich. On the one hand, the movies have been a massive success all over the globe and let her show off her action chops in a manner few actresses ever get to do. On the other hand, the trashy series undoubtedly hindered her being taken seriously as an actress in other roles. That’s too bad because she should have an even better career. At least she got this goofy star vehicle, which has actually been kind of fun and somehow even got better over the last few sequels as budgets got bigger and she and Anderson embraced the silliness a little deeper.
Is ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ a great film? Not even close. But it is damn amusing pulp that knows its limitations and something that you might have fun with if your brain can shut down long enough to laugh at a good jump kick to a zombie’s face. This actually isn’t a bad note for the franchise to go out on. It’s not the best ‘Resident Evil’ movie, but it’s not the worst either (and the line between the best and worst in this series is thin). Chances are, this will be as definitive a finale as ‘Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter’, and that’s OK. Anyone who has actually stuck with this series knows that it grew into a guilty pleasure worth secretly looking forward to. No one involved has run that charm into the ground yet. However, if this thing makes a ton of money, that still might happen. We’ll see. Either way, thanks for the blood and laughs, Paul and Milla. These movies were better (and far funnier) than they needed to be.