IMAX Review: Resident Evil – The Final Chapter.
The “last” chapter of the Resident Evil franchise recycles a few of the best moments, but too many of the worst moments.
This movie was billed as “evil comes home.” It turns out that the evil in question was kleptomania, because there is nothing that this final entry of the series is not willing to steal. From its better films. From its garbage films. From other films. From anyone, really. There’s so little here that is in any way new, it’s hard to call this a new movie. It is more of a compilation, and the sad truth is that for all of the cool moments in the series, this franchise ran out of ideas very early on.
We’ll also discuss if you should see this movie in IMAX 3D.
Spoiler: You definitely should not.
Resident Evil, A History.
I wanted to like this film very much. I really enjoyed the first movie. It was a novel and stylish twist on the video game, which I think is one of the best games ever made. They’ve remade it nearly half a dozen times, so apparently Capcom thought it was pretty awesome too. Here’s all you need to know:
Umbrella developed the T-Virus for its regenerative power, but discovered it turned most people into violent zombies. They built a research facility under Raccoon City to perfect it.
Alice (Milla Jovovich,) a clone, is able to metabolize T-Virus nearly perfectly and gain immense power from it. (RE 1.)
Umbrella nukes Raccoon City, ostensibly to cover their ass, but they really wanted to drive the virus airborne. (RE 2.)
After the world is decimated, a sanctuary city sends signals out to survivors, but it is an elaborate ruse to catch resistant people and Alice. (RE 3.)
Alice escapes capture, while the series name-drops characters who don’t matter, goes to Japan and kicks ass there. Scared, Umbrella sends Albert Wesker, another T-Virus recipient and loyal lap dog, to destroy her. He fails. (RE 4.)
Albert plays possum and pretends that he is now “free” from his programming, and that The Red Queen, an AI from the first movie, is trying to kill everyone. He lures her into a trap in Washington D.C. (RE 5.)
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017).
After the trap at Washington, Alice is injured and alone. She gets a message from an unlikely source: The Red Queen. The AI says that she is now awake, but cannot directly thwart Umbrella. Dr. Isaac, co-creator of the T-Virus, is actually alive and is trying to use it as a controlled genocide, so only Umbrella personnel inherit the earth. The Red Queen has a cure, but unless Alice gets it in 48 hours, it won’t matter. The wrinkle is that she must return to The Hive, the facility in Raccoon City that was bombed. This death trap is the only place the cure exists, and is surrounded by zombies and soldiers.
Corrupted Save Data.
The major issue with the series is that they have only the barest continuity. Despite having the same writer, who also directed many of the films (Paul W.S. Anderson), there is a schizophrenic nature to the story. The whole narrative builds each film to a head, with a cliff hanger ending that is almost always completely scrapped. Each victory is illusory, each defeat is temporary. Characters are introduced and disposed of in rapid fashion. It only seems to matter who has signed a contract. People who are important disappear or die with little warning. If they renegotiate, they get revived…and often killed again just as soon.
There’s no rhyme or reason. What the hell is the story? People who were villains are heroes, and the reverse. Dead characters are now alive and important, until they are dead and incidental. Alice gains and loses powers like a slim down diet. The motivations of the Umbrella company are either meticulously crafted or a complete accident, and they change who is really in control over and over again. Big bads are either the top guy…or not…depends. It’s a mess.
Cadavers Gathered by Moonlight…
The latest Resident Evil tries to glue together aspects that worked in earlier films. The first film was quite claustrophobic and had a solid horror movie aesthetic that ramped up the danger and the gruesome deaths at a good pace. The later films went for spectacle, with Alice fighting insanely large and powerful foes with the grace of a martial artist and the power of a god. There were also large set pieces that showed how overwhelming the zombie hordes had become. Finally, we usually got a solid core of companions, many adapted from popular characters in the games, who managed to last the whole movie, if not carry over from movie to movie.
The Final Chapter tries to weld all of that into one film, without checking to see if it can bear the weight of all the pieces. It starts with a large monster fight, moves into a zombie horde fight, then settles into a final act that consists of navigating fiendish traps. There’s jut the problem that none of these elements work together.
…Stitched into an Assemblage of Rotting Meat.
The film opens with an overlong recap that retcons or ignores much of the earlier films. It also fails to mention or show how Alice went from defending D.C. to being all alone. The cold call from The Red Queen makes no sense since her motivations are completely different from the other movies. Wesker is suddenly demoted to make way for a bad guy we saw die many movies ago. The zombie battle royale is filled with nobodies who don’t have a story, so you don’t care if they die. One character actually got a few lines of development…and she dies pointlessly a few minutes after. Couldn’t they spend even a few dollars to get back more than one named character, so this “epic conclusion” actually has some weight behind it?
SAW it Already.
The final segment returns to The Hive, a great setting that is completely wasted. Gone is the futuristic science lab where the dangers were cutting edge. Replacing it is a ludicrous torture dungeon, apparently designed by Jigsaw. The first film had traps that seemed designed to actually keep intruders out of the facility and the monsters inside of it. This last film has a bunch of silly murder pits designed to deliver gory deaths, despite being rather poor as deterrents. The breaking point comes early, when Wesker closes the doors on the heroes, forcing them to run as a spiked wall tries to crush them. He knows he needs to keep them out for just 30 minutes and thereby gets to rule the world. So why wait till they are halfway in to shut the fucking door?! Close the damn door an hour before they arrive, and DON’T OPEN IT. You win. Idiot.
Out of Time.
Resident Evil also features one of the most maddening tropes of a horror thriller: the ticking clock. We get a 48 hour deadline, and before you know it, we’re down to 12. Instead of hoofing it to the base, Alice wastes time killing zombies (you know, the ones who would all disappear if she found the cure instead?) so that she only has an hour left to actually get into the murder fortress. As she finally gets to her goal with 7 minutes left, we get treated to a 20 minute fight scene. Screw that. Like I said in the review of Air, an arbitrary clock that speeds up and slows down just to fit the plot is an infuriating cheat that kills any suspension of disbelief. If you just flashed the word “tension!”on the screen over and over, I would find it a less dishonest method of trying to create tension.
The IMAX disappointment.
This film is horrible in 3D. It keeps trying to use shaky cam, low visibility, and close-ups to create a horror movie vibe, which is maddening to watch in widescreen 3D. You can’t focus on anything. At least the 3rd movie realized that 3D works best for sweeping visuals and wide shots, and actually used it competently. This film gets no benefit from 3D, and actually hurts to watch. There is one scene where Alice is being stalked in a dark room and she keeps swinging her flashlight straight at the camera. I got to the point where I just blurted out “I dare you to fucking point that damn light in my face one more time!” The two other people in the theater laughed. I think it was the high point of the film for them.
They Escaped to the Mansion, Where They Thought It Was Safe…
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter lives up to its name by thoroughly killing the franchise. Though not likely literally, since the ending teases that they are indeed going to make more of these damn things. As a send off for a series that had some high points, this film is a dud. It lurches from one recycled sequence of mindless action to the next, shamelessly self plagiarizing itself. There is nobody involved worth caring about except Alice, and Milla Jovovich can only prop up this franchise so long with her action scenes. It appears that the Resident Evil series has died with a whimper instead of a bang. Let’s hope they leave it in its grave.