More lifeless than the zombies it has so much fun killing.
Considering the reviews of all of the films that have preceded it, as well as the success of practically every other video game adaptation in cinema history, it’s honestly shocking to think that the Resident Evil franchise has made it to its sixth installment this year with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Luckily, this one has been marketed and packaged as truly the final addition to the Resident Evil films, and at this point, such an end could only be seen as some kind of mercy for a franchise that should have ended a long time ago.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opens as Milla Jovovich’s Alice emerges from the sewers running underneath a barren and overrun Washington D.C., returning to the surface for the first time in years. Not much is known about why Alice comes back, other than that she is supposed to meet someone (or something) who has vital information to give her. This results in Alice journeying back to Raccoon City and the Hive in a last ditch effort to try and save humanity from being completely extinguished once and for all.
That’s the basic premise of The Final Chapter, which is at times then twisted and stretched out to ungodly degrees throughout, often to make room for set pieces or half-hearted emotional beats that very rarely land with much more than a whimper. Maybe the most frustrating part of The Final Chapter, however, and basically the entirety of the Resident Evil franchise, is the legitimate promise it has to be a fun, stylistic action/horror franchise.
As fans of the franchise are probably already aware too, a majority of that potential comes from Milla Jovovich, who’s proven time and time again that she can bring a certain level of charisma and life to her roles. Combining that with her willingness to perform as many of her own stunts as possible, plus her efficiency at actually pulling them off, she has the potential to be a female action star with legitimate star power and pull on screen. That is, if she wasn’t buried underneath some of the worst editing and CGI action scenes that contemporary cinema has ever seen.
Unlike some of the other prominent action franchises in cinema today, like Fast and the Furious or John Wick, which have benefitted from strong filmmakers bringing new life to each installment, the fact of the matter is that Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t have the technical prowess or finesse to give Resident Evil the kind of edgy, blood-pumping action that it so very clearly is capable of creating. Which is a shame considering how much love he seems to evidently have for the franchise and world of Resident Evil, even though none of that is able to be translated to the big screen in any coherent or appreciable way. Instead, it just ends up feeling like nothing more than a collage of ideas of characters or action scenes, rather than palpable versions of either.
Along her journey, Alice predictably runs across a number of both familiar and new characters, including Ali Larter’s Claire Redfield and Iain Glen’s villainous Dr. Alexander Isaacs, the latter of whom seems to have been devolved down into nothing more than just a bunch of heavy-handed religious and political metaphors. Similar to Jovovich, both Larter and Glen are capable actors in their own right, with the same level of enthusiasm for their stunts that Jovovich brings to hers. But where Claire and Alice’s pre-existing relationship could have given The Final Chapter a much-needed emotional throughline, it’s instead chopped up and rushed over in favor of nonsensical action set pieces and way too many scenes of tedious plotting.
Any chance the actors have of creating legitimate chemistry between the film’s characters, or bringing their own charisma to their roles is extinguished within moments of their introductions. Even Ruby Rose, who has such on screen energy and action prowess that she could have resurrected the whole film, is so underutilized and wasted that you’ll almost feel thankful the actress didn’t waste any more of her time and talent on a character who’s almost as thinly written as some of the prominent CGI monsters Alice fights throughout.
For fans of the franchise, a few of The Final Chapter’s reveals and last-minute twists may add interesting layers to the Resident Evil canon, but the film is so overstuffed and frantic that none of them are truly given the weight that they deserve or need to even matter. Not to mention how quickly it seems Anderson is willing to contradict everything about the twists themselves. Some of the action scenes are interestingly staged — like one involving Jovovich’s Alice hanging upside down surrounded by a group of armed gunmen, or a fight between Alice and Isaacs on top of a moving vehicle, which if you can get past the film’s choppy, overenthusiastic editing — may offer brief moments of excitement in an otherwise boring and predictable film.
Like most of the previous Resident Evil films, The Final Chapter is a pointless mess from beginning to end, and acts as an unfortunate reminder of why January gets such a bad rap amongst moviegoers. The film breaks its own rules, and undercuts any chance it has at creating anything even remotely close to feeling real. In the end, it’s not all that different from being bitten by a zombie; you hope to God that it never happens, because of how painful it is to endure, but once it starts, you just want it to end as quickly as humanly possible.