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“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” (2017): Same Old Notes In a Not-Swan Song

After 15 years of silly action horror antics,  Resident Evil: The Final Chapter  has finally come. Allegedly. Like Friday the 13th  and  Nightmare on Elm Street  before it, the idea of  Resident Evil  stopping with this declaration seems dubious if the box office remains consistent. Indeed, that along with the egos of star Milla Jovovich and her husband/writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson has kept this franchise afloat far longer than expected. The zombies clearly haven’t,  becoming less and less involved as things have gone along. This franchise roughed  out the  Apocalypse. It survived  total  Extinction. Arrived in  Afterlife.  Then sought its  Retribution. Now, what sort of horrors await in Alice’s final journey? Well… ones that may seem more than a bit familiar for  Resident Evil.

As with any  Resident Evil  chapter, it starts with Alice (Jovovich) waking up in the remnants of her previous escapades. This time, she’s woken up to utter chaos in the ruins of Washington D.C., destroying a few monsters and zombies that creep out of the corners. She makes her way underground, where the Umbrella Corporation’s A.I. The Red Queen (Ever Anderson, daughter of Paul & Jovovich) informs Alice of the company’s plan to wipe out the remaining humans and an anti-virus that could reverse  the effects of the T-Virus. While doubtful of the Red Queen’s sudden desire to assist her, Alice makes her way back to her hometown of Raccoon City. Unfortunately, along the way she has to escape the capture of her old nemesis Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen), the co-owner of Umbrella who has a mad obsession with finally destroying Alice before she can do the same to his company. Later joined by her old friend Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and a rag tag group of survivors, Alice must try to get past the zombies, mutants and other creations of Umbrella to find her destiny and destroy these zombies once and for all.

Resident Evil  isn’t a good franchise. The vision of Paul W.S. Anderson is one that  started these films on a dull note.  The hallmarks  of an early 2000s  The Matrix  rip off persist nearly a decade and a half later. Choppy editing. Generic rock score. Bland leading performances. Mary Sue style characters who pack a punch while leaving any sort of character at the door. For this installment, Anderson’s “craft” has gone well below his work on even another  video game adaptation of  Mortal Kombat  in the mid-90s. This doesn’t even rise to the mediocre yet fun heights of Extinction,  probably because  Highlander  director Russell Mulcahy knew how to put in some energy and color into the proceedings. To his credit, Anderson seemingly took note of for his return with Afterlife  and  Retribution. With Resident Evil‘s sixth entry however,  the atmosphere is pitch black. The stark lighting covers up much of the action and  warped zombie designs strown throughout. Any momentum pretty much gets lost in these dark corridors. Anderson even completely loses track of continuity for setting during one sequence, where the forward momentum is abruptly stopped within one cut. If he can’t even be invested, neither should the audience.

The fleeting moments of fun usually come from a few bits and pieces of ambitious stupidity. The type of stupidity that’s embraced by some  actors full stop. Unfortunately – as with any  Resident Evil  film – that is never Milla Jovovich. While she’s proven to be a solid performer elsewhere, her husband brings out the wooden plank  in her. Even when Anderson reveals more of Alice’s  backstory, Jovovich can’t breathe much pathos  in between the  choppy edits. None of the other heroes  are able to do much, as  Ali Larter, Ruby Rose and the rest of the resistance are either canon fodder or just trying to lift Jovovich’s character through obstacles.  The polar opposite points of enjoyability really come from our villains. Shawn Roberts as the stone faced ham  Wesker and Iain Glen as the maniacal doctor breathe some  cheesy life into things. Glen in particular has a bit more of a challenge, given he’s pulling a bit of double duty as clones of his doctor character. Both have been in multiple  Resident Evil  films and seem to be aware of the lunacy that needs to be intact for consistent entertainment.

Unfortunately, Anderson and Jovovich seem to have forgotten how to keep this  Resident Evil  lively. This limp dud ends up being one of the lesser entries in the series. The shame is there’s not that high a bar to hurdle over. Entries  like  Extinction  or  Retribution  aren’t good films by any traditional sense, but they at least have the decency to throw as much crazy shit at the wall as possible to see what sticks.  The Final Chapter  even does a half assed job at recalling elements from earlier in the series that  Retribution  oddly did so well as a tenth anniversary.  The Final Chapter  has moments of this, particularly during the opening moments of Alice fighting monsters in broad daylight. Yet, the more characters are added into the mix, the more this gets bogged down in dark lighting and incomprehensible editing.  Retribution,  Extinction  and even  Afterlife  managed to break up the meandering plot & bland characters with some interesting moments of inspired action or silly performances  to make things entertaining on a minor schlock level.

However – with a few silly exceptions –  Resident Evil: The Final Chapter  seems to be going back to the bland basics that started this franchise off on such a dull note. There are many moments that recall the initial  Resident Evil  and it’s a rare case where a franchise going back to its roots really dulls things down. With some of the latter entries,  Resident Evil  seemed to be on track to produce low budget schlock on solid Hollywood budgets in an inspiredly stupid fashion. Even when Anderson took the helm back with  Afterlife, the non-stop lunacy of directors like Mulcahy seemed to rub off on him. With  The Final Chapter  however, inspiration dwindled into the ether. Leaving behind some half assed remembrances and an ending that attempts to have its cake as a finale & eat it too by keeping things open for a sequel. While the  Resident Evil  franchise would never be considered high art, the series at least showed it had the potential legs for a consistently entertaining popcorn flick near its end. Instead of sticking the landing, this pole vaulter landed right near the starting gate and right on it’s ass to boot.

1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)

Thomas Mariani
Thomas Mariani is a born geek, with a bit of nerd mixed in here & there. A native of the (less) swampy parts of Florida, Thomas has always been a fan of films, television & other sources of media ever since he was a child, having been raised on Jim Henson, Star Wars and the basic cable cartoons of the ’90s & ’00s.

Some of his favorite horror films include Evil Dead II, Poltergeist and An American Werewolf in London. He already has experience writing and podcasting about pop culture, which you can read/listen to on sites like www.oneofus.net, www.horrornews.net or even on twitter as @NotTheWhosTommy.
Thomas Mariani
Thomas Mariani is a born geek, with a bit of nerd mixed in here & there. A native of the (less) swampy parts of Florida, Thomas has always been a fan of films, television & other sources of media ever since he was a child, having been raised on Jim Henson, Star Wars and the basic cable cartoons of the ’90s & ’00s. Some of his favorite horror films include Evil Dead II, Poltergeist and An American Werewolf in London. He already has experience writing and podcasting about pop culture, which you can read/listen to on sites like www.oneofus.net, www.horrornews.net or even on twitter as @NotTheWhosTommy.