Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ** / *****
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson.
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson.
Starring: Milla Jovovich (Alice / Alicia Marcus), Iain Glen (Dr. Isaacs), Ali Larter (Claire Redfield), Shawn Roberts (Wesker), Eoin Macken (Doc), Fraser James (Razor), Ruby Rose (Abigail), William Levy (Christian), Rola (Cobalt), Ever Anderson (Young Alicia / Red Queen), Mark Simpson (James Marcus).
Most action franchises start to feel played out around their third installment – and downright dead by their fourth, if they get that far. And yet, if they keep on pushing, eventually, I think they just kind of wear you down, and all you can do is smile when another installment appears. That’s certainly happened with The Fast and the Furious franchise – which will see its eighth installment this summer, and although I think we can all admit that the series is really rather dumb, it’s also immensely entertaining – I know I’ll be there opening weekend, no matter how dumb the title is. On a smaller scale, something similar has happened with the Resident Evil franchise – now on its sixth, and supposedly final, installment over the span of 14 years. I was surprised to find out that I apparently missed the fifth installment for 2012 – I was convinced I had seen them all, if for no other reason than because I know there is a hardcore fan base for this franchise – and that some enterprising critic will make up a year-end top 10 list with 9 avant-garde films I’ve never heard of, and the latest Resident Evil movie (I say this with genuine affection, but also confusion – I don’t get the Cinemascope crowd that loves these movies, and see their director – Paul W.S. Anderson – as some sort of maverick genius). Not that it matters that I missed one – I never remember what happened in each installment anyway – and I think that maybe the best way to watch them – then even the most mundane recounting of previous installments count as plot twists.
This time, Alice (Milla Jovovich – the only cast member in all of the film) is out there in the wasteland of the post apocalypse, when she is contacted by the Red Queen – a computer program that basically runs the Umbrella Corporation, those corporate monsters who caused the apocalypse in the first place. The Red Queen tells Alice that Umbrella has an antidote that once airborne, will destroy the T-virus in anything it comes into contact with. But, that within 48 hours, the last human settlement will be destroyed, so she better get the antidote released by then (my major question throughout the whole movie is why it needs to be released by then, if it needs to come into contact with the T-virus, means it needs to get to that settlement by then, not released by then – something the film’s final monologue seems to address, but not really). In order to do so, Alice needs to get back to Raccoon City, and back into the Hive to get the antidote. She will encounter old foes – Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glenn) – who hasn’t been in this series since 2007, just because he was killed in that one (it turns out, that was just a clone, naturally) and allies – Claire (Ali Larter), who wasn’t in the last episode either. (as a side note, I love how this series seems to cast people from its past installments based on whoever is available at the time, and just invents reasons for them to be where Alice is – this time, Claire and Alice almost literally bump into each other, and are just like, “Hey, what’s up?”). There is, of course, a countdown clock counting down the 48 hour limit she has – and we assume she’ll release it with 1 second to go, and SPOILER ALERT we’re right (just once, I’d love to see someone have a giant countdown clock, and get it released with an hour to spare).
The one constant this series has had is Jovovich as Alice. She may not be the best actress in the world, but in these movies, she gives them the proper respect and weight they need. Kate Beckinsale is a better actress, sure, but when I see the Underworld movies, I always feel like she’s looking down on them – Jovovich doesn’t do that, and while her range is limited, she does the role well. Director Anderson also knows what is expected from him – and he delivers. There are a few good action sequences – although unfortunately, they’re mainly frontloaded (I enjoyed the ones where Jovovich was tied up, and used it to her advantage).
Listen, there have been six of these things, and in all honesty, if you’re a fan of this series, I find it hard to believe you’re not going to like this last installment – that both wraps things up if they decide this really is the end, and leaves things open, in case it isn’t (I know it’s called The Final Chapter – but we’ve seen them lie to us before in franchise movie subheadings). If you don’t like the series, it’s not like this series is all of a sudden going to become something different. And if you’re like me, and basically indifferent to the franchise, well, you’ll be indifferent again. We all know what we’re getting in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter – and that is what the film delivers.