Thursday, February 9, 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) review

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

Paul WS Anderson's fan fiction family film borrowing a video game title comes to its overdue end. 

The Good: Returns to dark gritty action, genuinely scary scenes, top notch special effects, tense fight scenes, closes the franchise neatly

The Bad: Flat characters, disappointing acting, lack of cast chemistry, overuse of closeups in fights, retcons essential plot points form previous movies, detracts too much from the video game, shallow themes
 The previous movie RESIDENT EVIL RETRIBUTION ended just as a massive battle against Monster our hordes of undead and mutants was about to begin right at The White House. Epic right? Well we never get to see that as our Mary Sue protagonist Alice awakens in rubble after the battle. Mimicking the video game experience, she gets a Mission to return to Raccoon City, the place where it all began, to try and find a new cure for the global zombie virus outbreak. With her special powers (supposedly returned to her in the last movie) now gone, Alice must rally the last survivors on earth, which conveniently include a few familiar faces, to storm the Hive, umbrella corporation's secret underground lair from the first movie.

Make no mistake, Resident Evil as a movie franchise has Long since severed ties with the video games it is based on. It is now essentially multi million dollar fan fiction which uses some of the creatures from the games, some homages and supporting characters that do happen to share their names with the main characters from the games. The movies craft their own lore apart from the games and it was fairly intriguing with the twists and revelations, the cloning sub plot, the mystery of who Alice really is, the virus granting special powers, all of it. That is until they went and retconned stuff on a whim. The revelation that there was a cure to the virus? There was already a cure in the first movie. Funny how everyone forgot that. The revelation of the virus' true creator? Contradicts RESIDENT EVIL APOCALYPSE. The retelling of the origins of the outbreak? contradicts the first movie. It is almost as if this second trilogy (Afterlife, Retribution, Final chapter) is a reboot of the franchise or a wholly separate franchise from the first trilogy (RE, Apocalypse and Extinction).

The story wraps itself up nicely bringing multiple sub plots to a satisfactory end but the execution is disappointing and the journey is almost laughable. Alice as a character is as devoid of personality as a raw chicken wing. Her delivery of dialogue alters between bored angry, bored upset and bored surprise as if actress Milla Jovovich is tired of all the narrative loopholes that the franchise has dug for itself. Every line from her can be punctuated with a sarcastic "seriously?" and it would not feel out of place. Despite having no special powers, she still kicks a lot of Monster butt while maintaining her ageless good looks.

The look of RE: THE FINAL CHAPTER lacks the visual polish of the previous native 3D movie. This one is shot in traditional 2D replacing the surreal slow motion with close up frantic camerawork and flat, dingy cinematography that reminds me of a direct to video movie. Surprisingly this actually works in the movie's favour, bringing it back to the grittier aesthetic which attracted me to the first 3 movies. It is grim, it is claustrophobic, it is perfect for a horror action movie. My only gripe is that the director falls back on way too many cuts during action scenes giving that choppy jittery feel that too many modern blockbusters are known for.

I am torn when it comes to this franchise. It is cheap guilty pleasure of a shallow 80s action movie which this film makes no excuses for. But on the other hand it has so much potential to be a little smarter and tackle themes a little deeper. The cloning subplot could give rise to a plot thread exploring individuality and the nature vs nurture debate. The Umbrella Corporation had potential to be a compelling protagonist with the amount of resources and influence we had seen in past films, but alas they are no better than something out of a 1990s anime, all "wipe out the world and recreate in our image" and stuff. Any compelling motive? No, just because they are the villain and must be evil.

As a movie franchise, RESIDENT EVIL had overstayed its welcome by 3 movies. Its needlessly convoluted story which literally hits the reset button at the start of every movie does little justice to its simplistic narrative, cheap thrills and shallow themes. If it is any consolation, the franchise is consistent in that regard so we only have the action, special effects and camerawork to fall back on.  It is immensely entertaining, and an improvement over past installments. But sadly even those aspects  are still mediocre compared to many other horror science fiction movies, leaving this final RESIDENT EVIL movie as neither the best Nor the worst of the bunch.


Entertainment: B+
Story: C-
Acting: B
Characters: B
Music: C
Replay value: B+
"Brains": C-