Friday, February 24, 2017

"Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" Review: We Can Only Hope That This is Indeed the Final Chapter


It has become increasingly difficult to keep track of what is happening in this franchise let alone differentiating them from one another. The first two films (in hindsight mind you) stand out as the most cohesive from a story perspective but as soon as we get to the third film (Extinction) things start to get muddled real fast. The confusion is only compounded by revelations made in the next two entries (Afterlife and Retribution) where it is readily apparent that events from each previous installment are either rewritten or otherwise forgotten about all together. Now we have what is labeled as "The Final Chapter" which by all horror movie accounts means absolutely nothing but we can at least hope this is the one promise this series has made that it will actually make good on. Read the full review after the break.

Review Vital Stats:   
Projector Type: 2D Digital
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime:  1 hr 46 min
Studio: Sony Pictures
Release Date: January 27, 2017

Biases:  
Loves:  The Resident Evil videogame franchise
Likes: The first two Resident Evil movies
Neutral: Rewriting the story at the beginning of each new sequel
Hates: That we will likely never get a faithful live action version of the videogame
Could have been worse?: At least Uwe Boll didn't make these.

Alice is hunting down the people she killed last time...to kill them again.

Let's see...where to start? At the end of Retribution we left Alice and company in Washington D.C. where it appeared she was teaming up with the unflinchingly evil but too cool for the apocalypse to care Albert Wesker to wipe out the zombie threat once and for all. Well as is expected with this franchise at this point we discover very quickly that none of that was true or better yet ever mattered. In fact you would be hard pressed to even remember any of that as the opening scenes of The Final Chapter (henceforth known as TFC) feels as though it is the continuation of a completely different film. Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still in Washington but she is alone and wandering the wasteland aimlessly looking for...something. We get some limited exposition after the trademark "previously" moment each RE film gets to remind us of everything we likely forgot about that attempts to make sense of the radical rewrite that happened in between films. But besides that it is obvious that the writers/director decided they didn't like how they ended the last film and have decided to do something else.

Fairly quickly we get a completely pointless encounter with Alice facing off against a random monster for no other reason than to remind us how loud and obnoxious the action scenes are in these films (the shaky cam in these films are particularly grueling) but soon after that we discover what the actual plot is this time around and surprise! After reuniting with the AI interface called the Red Queen from the first film Alice must infiltrate yet ANOTHER secret underground Umbrella instillation to defeat the same villains she has defeated the 4 previous films all over again. Seriously, Alice has been fighting these exact same people AND KILLING THEM the entire series (she herself has died over a dozen or so times as well). The reasoning behind this asinine idea is that they have all been clones, something introduced in Extinction that is probably one of the only plot threads to carry over into subsequent sequels (probably because it gets the writers out of whatever corners they write themselves into). But before we can get to that tiresome exercise in futility we once again must be introduced to all the cannon fodder new recruits.

Yes, there are zombies in this but this is the furthest thing from a zombie movie you will find.

In the past any new characters introduced outside of anyone sharing a name with an iconic figure from the videogame franchise dies a quick and senseless death. The people we meet this time are probably the most disposable bunch this series has ever had (and that is saying something) with the only stand out being the character played by Ruby Rose who only makes an impression simply by being an actor I recognized. Besides that they are all quickly dispatched as Alice and her friend Claire (Ali Larter) who she conveniently reunites with raid the original Umbrella facility called the Hive which was the focal point of the first RE film. The hall of horrors that they must traverse to reach the heart of the facility has an odd similarity with all the other locations used in the last few films, dark corridors, labs with wet floors and chains hanging from the ceiling and of course plenty of vents to travel through. In probably one of the more inspired and underutilized ideas of the film during this segment is when Alice revisits an actual location from the first film, now decayed and broken down but it does evoke a strange sense of nostalgia that makes one wish the film had more of these moments especially for a film that is marketing itself as "evil comes home".

As for the story this time around, well it is surprisingly interesting and the most well developed arc of the entire franchise. Not exactly high praise when you look at what it is being compared against but it does give a purpose to a film franchise that up until now had little purpose beyond being a shining example of why videogame movies don't work. We learn the real reason behind the Umbrella corporation and their plans to release the T virus which essentially kickstarted a worldwide apocalypse and for the most part it makes sense. As a matter of fact it is somewhat relevant to certain current real world crisis and in some ways actually makes the previous films just a tad bit more cohesive (but not really). The only real downside is that this feels too little too late. This story could be really interesting and worth exploring if it was in a different film franchise that actually had a real direction it was heading from the get go instead of making it up and rewriting history with each and every new entry.

Here is the next group of cannon fodder all lined up and ready for us to not care.

Arguably the one thing that has kept the franchise going this whole time though was all the crazy action sequences filled with zombies and monsters ripped from the videogames (although never properly utilized). That stuff is still here but at this point it all feels so derivative of itself with recycled set pieces and the same monsters we have seen time and again. That is going to be the greatest failing of this so called final chapter in the eyes of whatever fans are still left; that the filmmakers appear to have just stopped caring enough to come up with even one original idea. The single new action sequence we get involves a horde of zombies attacking a high rise tower who are dispatched via fire being rained down upon them. Sounds cool for sure but it is the execution that muddles the whole thing up.

Director Paul WS. Anderson has clearly decided to forgo any sense of providing an action scene that doesn't involve the dreaded shaky cam. Simple scenes of two people facing off in either hand to hand combat or a fire fight are often times an exercise in futility to try and decipher anything that is happening. For all we know it is just two people standing still as the camera shakes wildly all over the place in an attempt to convey a sense of urgency or chaos that simply didn't exist while filming. The entire film is littered with these action scenes which with the recycled ideas mixed with lackluster execution makes sitting through this desolate landscape of ineptitude more of a chore than it should be.

I have seen all the Resident Evil movies yet I still don't fully understand who this guy is.

The title says this is the final chapter and despite an ending that eludes to possible sequels we can only hope that this is indeed the final nail in the coffin for this franchise. As a eulogy on the Resident Evil films (live action anyways), while they didn't start off too bad it has been a steady decline in quality on all fronts. The main gripe many fans of the videogame series had with it at the outset was with its inherent lack of staying true to the source material which quickly gave way to just outright displeasure as eventually each film just failed at being just simple entertainment. The only silver lining to this whole venture is that for anyone out there who still cares you at least get some closure as the series ends on its own terms (which very few film franchises get the chance for, even the good ones). So if you have been along for the ride this whole time consider this a therapeutic recommendation as to give yourself a piece of mind more so than to see it out of a sense of loyalty. All others should avoid it and wait for it to hit your favorite streaming service down the road.


FINAL THOUGHTS:

You know what, I've devoted enough time talking about this. How about I just give a recommendation that matters and tell you that if you are at all interested in the Resident Evil franchise to check out the games or even the animated films from Capcom instead. They are far from perfect but at the very least you get an authentic representation of how crappy the games can be instead of a cheap knock off film series that clearly has no idea what the games are or what they were even about.

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