Synopsis – Picking up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began – The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.
My Take – The end of the long-running Resident Evil film franchise is here! According to director Paul W. S. Anderson and star Milla Jovovich, this is definitely, without question, the last installment in the Resident Evil film series that launched in 2002, inspired by the computer games of the same title. As writer of the five previous Resident Evil films and director of three of them, Paul W. S. Anderson, Jovovich’s husband, has steered the franchise to global box office takings of US$1 billion – an unlikely feat not only because video game adaptations seldom transition successfully to the big screen, but also because much of Anderson’s other work (Alien vs. Predator, The Three Musketeers, Pompeii) has been almost universally panned. Yet, as a fan of the series (Yes I am one of them), I was quite hopeful to watch a decent send off to its lead character Alice & the series I have been following for the past 15 years, along with receiving some clear answers to some nagging questions which have been building since the 1st installment came out. And I’m glad to say that the series does go out on a high, sure it’s still not a cinematic masterpiece, but it does exactly what this kind of film is meant to do: entertain you with fun and ridiculous action, and a few twists and turns along the way. Seriously, if there’s one thing that makes this film as entertaining (and at times even more so) than the first two films, then it’s the action. Pretty relentless from start to finish, the film is such an entertaining watch, hopping from action scene to action scene at a rapid pace, and very rarely letting up with too much planning, dialogue and character development that the series’ weakest entries tried to pull off. One of the more surprising elements of the film, however, is the last-ditch twists within the series’ overall story arc. Sometimes, this film does a great job at tying up some loose ends from previous films, and at others, it’s a little contradictory of the past events. Still, as the film goes on, we begin to learn more and more about the true reason that the world was plunged into chaos, as well as a whole host of other hugely entertaining, albeit ridiculous, twists that actually give this film some genuine stakes.
Picking up where the last film left off in Washington D.C. after the battle against the undead brought everything down and humanity is finally on the edge of extinction a decade after the original viral outbreak, the story follows Alice (Milla Jovovich), the sole survivor of the onslaught. On the brink of giving up, as she has lost so many friends since this war started and the fight seems to be never ending that is, until she receives a message from the dangerous A.I. known as The Red Queen (Ever Anderson) from the unlikeliest of places, The Hive, nefarious Umbrella Corporation facility. The Red Queen informs Alice that there is in fact a cure and she has 48 hours to return to Raccoon City, make it through The Hive’s defense systems run by her nemesis Wesker (Shawn Roberts), retrieve the cure, return to the surface, and release it, before ruthless scientist Dr Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen) catches up with her. For whatever reason, the A.I. supercomputer of the soulless company responsible for this world-ending outbreak chooses to share this delicate information with Alice, she must act upon this and with the help of fellow survivors, Claire (Ali Larter), Doc (Eoin Macken), Razor (Fraser James), Abigail (Ruby Rose), Christian (William Levy) & Cobalt (Rola) and get back where this all began. This final chapter starts out with a montage that clears up a few things you may not have realized about the series with the full origin of the T-virus and the Red Queen. The story as usual with the other films in the franchise is very broad and basic. The simplistic plot allows for tons of extra baggage like untold back stories and plot twists. From start to finish, the action moves at a brisk pace and rarely, if ever, stops. While I hate that the series waits till the last minute to fill in some major questions, at least most plot threads are resolved. Without giving too much away, there’s finally important information on Alice’s background and what came before the first film. What makes this film different from the others besides the quick editing, making the action gritty and fast. This one does feel like a Mad Max with zombies, as Alice is fighting against Umbrella corp. and the undead on a chase to get to the Hive. Some of the set-pieces that follow – especially one where Alice is captured and literally made to run for her life – suggest that Anderson has taken a long hard look at George Miller‘s recent Mad Max: Fury Road, the current gold standard for post-apocalyptic action cinema. While he can’t match Miller‘s imaginative intensity (or his budget), he too combines post-punk excess with the skill of an expert engineer – contrasting wide-open spaces with claustrophobic ones, and carrying rapid cutting to the edge of delirium while ensuring that the essential narrative information comes through. Part of the charm of these pulpy films lies in their lack of pretension, the way they rarely pause for breath. While Jovovich ranks among cinema’s all-time great action heroines, Alice’s comrades barely register even as types: there’s no feeling of loss when one is sliced up in a turbine and another revealed as a turncoat. On the other hand, Anderson does allow himself some audacious hints of religious allegory, with the ruthless scientist Dr Isaacs explicitly equating himself with the God of the Old Testament, and Alice portrayed as a Christ figure who forms part of a new, feminine Holy Trinity. Also, like the t-Virus that caused the franchise ‘brand of zombie-dom, the series itself has mutated into something quite different from its original form over the last 15 years. Growth and change are good, but it’s been difficult, from one film to the next, to see the connective tissue linking each chapter. Each story feels too self-contained, too episodic, for the franchise to amount to more than the sum of its parts.
That’s part of why this works as well as it does: It dovetails with the original film more elegantly than any of the four sequels that precede it. To that end, Alice of course ends up back at the Hive where the 1st first adventure began in 2002 — a familiar trope in series-concluding installments, but one that feels right in this case. For the first time, the story supports and adds to the action rather than distract from it; it’s almost as though Anderson was holding back in the earlier films because he wanted to save the best for last. Structured much like a video game, the film sees Alice overcome numerous challenges, from rabid zombies to mutant dog monsters, after which she is rewarded with expository information to further the plot. Sadly, Doobie White’s frenzied editing renders much of the action incomprehensible, lessening the film’s ability to build tension or excitement along the way. The editing is so fast that it confuses what’s happening in the midst of a fight, events occur because they have to in order for the plot to progress rather than being a progression of cause-to-effect and, without exaggeration, there are more jump scares in this film than in ten other horror films combined. They happen so often that they actually start to slow the film down. There are scenes that are cut so jarringly with no real purpose that it leaves you wanting more. There are a few disappointing moments too, firstly, Ruby Rose died way too quick. Ruby‘s known for her “tough girl” roles and for her to die so soon after we meet her was a huge let down. Second, the film keeps referring back a betrayal in Washington by Wesker to Alice but we never see it. It starts after the attack and never flashes back. There’s been talk that the Sony wanted to wipe the slate clean but it comes off disjointed when an important piece of information is missing. Other than that, the film suffers from some pretty clichéd dialogue but that’s never been what you go into these for. Third, Wesker’s death was too anti-climactic. He’s been around for a few of the films, which led us to believe there would be a huge showdown between him and Alice. That’s not the case, however. The final thing that disappointed me was that there was no explanation as to what happened to characters of the previous films like Leon, Ada, and Chris. It’s assumed they were all killed but it would have been nice if they had at least been mentioned. However, director Paul W.S. Anderson does his best in delivering the intense action, visual effects, and Paul Haslinger’s hardcore music score. Also, the characters return to the Hive, were they fall into traps, and encountering beasts that lurk in dark areas. Other than zombie killing madness, there are plenty of impressive hand-to-hand combat scenes. Alice has some great fights that show a different side to the action. It feels like Alice has a variety of threats as she takes on zombies, humans, and even winged beasts! Each of these fights feels distinct and end up being a big highlight throughout. And at the end of a six film streak, you’d expect lead actress Milla Jovovich to be phoning it in with a bored and generic performance, but that’s not the case. Her character has never been the most fascinating, but you can’t deny that Jovovich really goes for it in this final outing, reaffirming how good an action hero she can be. Iain Glen is menacing, while in supporting roles, Ali Larter & Eoin Macken are alright. Crucial too is the role of Alice’s long-term adversary the Red Queen, manifests as a hologram, played by Anderson and Jovovich‘s nine-year-old daughter Ever Anderson– confirmation, if any is needed, that the saga has been personal for its creators all along. On the whole, ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ is an enjoyable action flick filled with guns blazing, cool monster effects and everything blowing up so swiftly that it makes you numb.
Directed – Paul W.S. Anderson
Rated – R
Run Time – 106 minutes