Last of the Monster Kids

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

VIDEO GAME MOVIE MONTH: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

All of the “Resident Evil” movies were box office successes. However, “Retribution” was the lowest grossing entry in the series since the first one. This, perhaps, suggested that the public's hunger for this particular franchise was finally running low. Thus, the decision was made that the sixth installment would conclude things, a staggering fourteen years after the original came out. Adopting the oh-so-original title of “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” the sequel would see Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich coming back one last time, to conclude the baffingly long-running series they started.

Humanity's last stand in D.C. didn't go so well, as the resistance was apparently betrayed by Albert Wesker, something apparently nobody anticipated. Alice is the only survivor again. She soon gets in contact with the Red Queen, who informs her that Umbrella has an airborne anecdote to the T-Virus, hidden within the Hive under the remains of Raccoon City. Alice has twenty-four hours to find the anecdote, before the last remaining humans are wiped out. Along the way, she teams up with Claire Redfield and a new team of wasteland warriors. They take on Umbrella together, led by the suddenly alive Dr. Alexander Issacs, and learn many secrets.

Since this is the final chapter and all that, Anderson attempts to bring the story full circle. However, his methods are sloppy and frequently only draw further attention to the “Resident Evil” films' overall flaws. It is only now, in the sixth entry in the series, that we learn why the T-Virus was created and what the Umbrella Corporation hoped to accomplished with it. How the hell was that not covered sooner? The film retraces elements from the earlier films, Raccoon City and the Hive reappearing. Yet it says a lot about Anderson's priorities that he's largely paying homage to stuff he himself, not Capcom, created. The Red Queen parrots her trademark line of dialogue. The tunnel of criss-crossing laser beams shows up yet again. The final boss of the franchise is not Albert Wesker, the primary antagonist of the last two films, but Dr. Isaacs... Who was already killed off but, never mind, that was a clone. Also do not mind that the greatest enemy of this zombie/monster series is an old British guy in a suit with super-fast reflexes.

In fact, “The Final Chapter” is weirdly dismissive of so much stuff from the later, better “Resident Evil” films. Even as someone who defiantly does not give a shit about these movies, I'm kind of pissed at how freely the concluding chapter disregards stuff the last film set up. The showdown in D.C. happens totally off-screen. Alice regaining her superpowers was a lie, apparently. The Red Queen's motivations are the exact opposite of what they were last time, as are Wesker's. With the exception of Claire, all the other reoccurring cast members are nowhere in sight, apparently dying off-screen. That presumably includes Becky, Alice's adopted daughter, who is never even fucking mentioned. It's not like Anderson was retconning stuff he didn't approve off from later sequels. He directed the last two movies! Why toss out so much stuff the previous installment took the time to set up?

Not that plot or continuity have ever been much of a concern for this franchise. As with all the others, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is about brain-dead action more than anything else. After showing considerable improvement over the last two films, Anderson's direction is somehow the worst it has ever been. Within the first five minutes of the film, there are two obnoxious jump-scares. “The Final Chapter” indulges in every modern action movie cliché I hate. There's shaky-cam, some of the fights being rendered impossible to follow. All the action scenes are ridiculously over-edited, with roughly a hundred cuts every time something happens. This is most apparent in a totally gratuitous scene where Alice spins upside down while shooting random thugs. (Humanity is nearing extinction but she has no problem murdering more of it.) The film throws in a random martial arts expert for Alice to fight, though I don't know why as you can't follow what the hell he's doing. Yes, there's plenty of slow-mo and “Matrix”-style bullet time, people leaping from CGI explosions, and heavy metal on the soundtrack. I guess Paul was also feeling nostalgic for how shitty that first “Resident Evil” looked.

With most of the sequels' established cast gone, “The Final Chapter” includes a bunch of new characters. None of them are memorable, save for Ruby Rose's tough and resourceful mechanic. She bluntly exits the film following a few scenes. Claire Redfield is the only notable return and Ali Larter gives a bored performance. The decision to make Ian Glen's Dr. Isaacs the big bad of the series is so strange, though Glenn at least gets to ham it up some. Most of revelations in the plot concerns Alice's past. Turns out her origins are far more convoluted, and interlinked with series' lore, than we ever expected. Not that Milla Jovovich ever feels the need to change her flat acting style for this. Once again utterly unstoppable, despite being de-powered, Milla's Alice is going through the murderous motion. Her delivery of lines are flat, she seems disinterested during the action scenes, and she has no viable screen presence. And she was getting better too!

By the end, “The Final Chapter” is so self-obsessed with its own bullshit, that I was wondering if it even counts as a video game movie anymore. The disconnect from Capcom's games have never felt stronger. Save for some bat monsters and the very mutated zombie dogs, none of the creatures have that distinct “Resident Evil” style. Especially not a pair of skull-faced muscle monsters that randomly show up at one point. And even though the film is the concluding chapter in the series, bringing Alice's non-existent character arc to something of a close, its final scene is still shockingly open-ended.

It would seem audiences finally had enough of this bullshit. Released in the dumping grounds of January, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” flopped domestically. The international box office, however, was the highest its ever been, making this technically the most successful of the whole series. It's only this iteration of the “Resident Evil” film series that's over, as a reboot was announced last year. James Wan was once producing, with low-budget genre work-horse Johannes Roberts directing. This hopefully means the new “Resident Evil” will be an actual horror film that draws more from the games. (Paul and Milla, meanwhile, are headed off to ruin a different Capcom video game series.) As for “The Final Chapter,” it's almost impressive how badly “Resident Evil” swings back after it became relatively tolerable over the last three films. It sucks but at least I can say I've seen them all now. Does this mean I have to watch the “Underworld” movies next? [4/10]

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