Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Written and Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson
Starring Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Ever Anderson
Review by Jordan
“You’re all going to die down here”
For each Resident Evil film is reserved a particularly strong sense of nostalgia. In the long, delayed build up to The Final Chapter, fond memories of each entry would come flooding back intermittently, most highlighted by Milla Jovovich’s Alice as she seeks to save humanity while on a continual quest to find her own, but others drawn from moments unique to their outing.
Resident Evil (2002), while a complete departure from the beloved survival-horror video games, offered fans a different perspective on the source material and re-introduced zombies to mainstream cinema. Stuck miles underground in a secret, bio-weapon laboratory called The Hive, Alice and her companions (mostly Umbrella operatives) faced a race against time to escape before the Red Queen sealed their fate, needing to overcome the infected, a now enthusiastically overused laser room, betrayal and the lickers from Resident Evil 2 (the game). Co-starring Michelle Rodriguez and James Purefoy, this remains the best in the series and a genuinely exciting, stylised action/horror movie.
Apocalypse (2004), the first of two not directed by Anderson (this is still Alexander Witt’s sole directorial credit) brought the action to the streets of Racoon City, offered more Easter Eggs for the initiated and was honestly quite bad. This can’t be denied. Unfortunately though for those who believe that bad films should be avoided, we got Jill Valentine, with Sienna Guillory actually doing the iconic character justice, going as far as studying her characteristic, hip-swaying walk and embracing her impractical outfit.
Directed by Russel Mulcahy (Razorback, Highlander), Extinction (2007) presented America as a desolate desert landscape populated by ragtag pockets of survivors, one of which being led by Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who like Jill would later inexplicably go missing for an entire film, but otherwise has proved a worthy support act. Ending with the apparent death of Alice’s nemesis Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) and the release of hundreds of Alice clones, Extinction is seen as the conclusion of the first trilogy, before Anderson again returned to the warm groove of his director’s chair and things got really trippy.
The subtitles Afterlife (2010) and Retribution (2012) make about as much sense in the context of their stories as the appearance and disappearance of Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller), and in fact the less said about whatever these are the better. This can be viewed as the experimental chapter in the most successful horror franchise of all time, where after making the Guinness World Book of Records in the highest-grossing video game adaptation category, the post-production team also wanted to feature for most excessive use of slow-motion, and the writing team for most returning characters who have previously died. Making large profits internationally, these are undeniably fun eye-candy, but Anderson knew that a change was necessary for the final instalment.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is a return to The Hive, literally and stylistically, taking a scenic route that also features the extremes of the sequels but imbuing them with grit and an unexpectedly dark tone. The monstrosities that this last band of survivors encounter snarl and gnash with a grotesque desperation, with the Umbrella Corporation too finally showing a sense of urgency as their grand plan stands on the cusp of completion.
With help from an unexpected source in The Red Queen (played by Milla and Paul’s real-life daughter Ever, which may sound like nepotism but actually reveals itself to be quite clever and inspired. Seriously), Alice, recovering from the final stand at the White House that Retribution ended on, has 48 hours to return the infamous laboratory where an airborne anti-virus awaits as the key to destroy the T-Virus once and for all. Along the way she is reunited with Claire and faces off against old foes in Dr. Isaacs and Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), and confronts the past that through memory loss has long evaded her.
While still riddled with plot holes, the effort that Anderson and Jeremy Bolt have gone to in producing a plot that pays respect to the fans and gives weight to the actions of the protagonists (and antagonists) has to be appreciated. This is a franchise that has long been illogical, incomprehensible and of more recent times downright bizarre, and in The Final Chapter this is both embraced and refined. Indulgent action set-pieces still abound, and the script is still cheesy and exposition heavy, but this time around these cherished elements are in support of an exciting narrative that presents a dire future and a noteworthy twist. The bioweapons are scarier, motivations more defined and the pace relentless. The editing and sound mixing might assault the senses, but anyone expecting anything different really shouldn’t be watching a Resident Evil film.
Its bittersweet that The Final Chapter is both a return to form and the conclusion of a series that has found success through the enthusiasm of its creators and audience. Symbolic of the ever-present need for escapism in film and a movie-goers will to support a brand that critics have long wished extinguished, as well as a pioneer in female empowerment in the action genre (Alice deserves mention among the strongest, most resilient action heroes/heroines put to screen), Resident Evil has left a bloodied footprint that can never be overlooked, and for that reason its finale deserves to be seen by all who can accept it for its many flaws and again defy any critics that remain.