Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER is a partly satisfying, partly frustrating ending to the epic billion-dollar-grossing sextology that people all around the world have been following for 15 years and that I have been following for about a month.

Writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson returns (he ended up directing all but parts 2 and 3) and follows many of the fun traditions of the series:

1. Starting off with a ludicrously long and convoluted narrated recap/revision of the story thus far

2. Sort of following up on the last cliffhanger, but in a way that suggests they abandoned the original idea they had when they made the last one. At the end of RETRIBUTION, the surviving characters were on top of the White House surrounded by millions of zombies and monsters, about to begin “the last battle to save humanity.” Now we CUT TO: Alice (Milla Jovovich) all alone in a completely destroyed and barren DC. Last time Wesker (Shawn Roberts) had just given her her powers back to fight this battle, now they tell us that was a trick and she actually doesn’t have powers. Huh? She keeps losing and regaining them without much consequence.

3. Giving it a different look and style from all the other installments. This one is very brown and smoky, everything is dirty and blown up or worn out. Even some of the areas of the Hive that they return to are weathered and grimy instead of smooth and sleek.

Storywise I would say this is less random and set-piece-based than the others. There’s not a section that seems lifted out from a whole different movie like most of the series has. It’s pretty straightforward about Alice teaming with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and yet another squad of survivors (including Ruby Rose from xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE) to steal an airborne anti-virus that they’re told would destroy everything infected by the T-virus. That means not only zombies and dog monsters and flying demons but also Alice, and she’s willing to make that sacrifice. Thank you for your service, Alice.

I do miss the zig-zagging, making-shit-up-on-the-fly tradition of RESIDENT EVIL storytelling, but this new sense of focus makes sense for what really does seem intended as probably-the-last-one. They do a decent job of tying the story back into the beginning. They bring back the little girl A.I. The Red Queen (who tells them about the anti-virus), the original Raccoon City Hive (where they have to get it from), the hallway laser grids, the most advanced version of the monster dogs (now with mouths like the reapers in BLADE II). They have more going on with clones and people being alive when we thought they were dead, specifically Iain Glen as Umbrella Corp founder-or-whatever Dr. Isaacs. They do mention Alice waking up in the mansion where it all started, and near the end have her lying in a similar fetal position (but clothed). I have to say I was disappointed that they didn’t fight their way up from the Hive into the mansion for the final showdown – that would be cool if they ended up literally where it all began. And smashed some shit.

(Well, I guess it must’ve gotten nuked, but logic never stopped them before. It could’ve gotten rebuilt for some damn reason.)

Jill Valentine isn’t back, and neither is Ada. I found articles claiming that Li Bingbing was returning as Ada – maybe that changed when filming was postponed due to Jovovich’s pregnancy.

The three-weeks-after-RETRIBUTION (source: Wikipedia) post-apocalyptic world is a cool one. There are less than 4,500 humans left on the entire earth, so Alice is almost like an Omega-Woman at the beginning. It’s a hazy afternoon in the former U.S. capital, and she’s in a car getting attacked by a giant bat monster, and a decade and a half sure does make a difference in digital monster quality, because this is a good one. But immediately we spot the big, disappointing problem with this movie, the one that will kill it for some people: the action scenes have disorienting quick cuts and the camera shaking all over the fucking place. Remember how RETRIBUTION so blatantly lifted from the MATRIX movies way after the fact? Now here’s Anderson coming years late to the post-action party.

It’s too bad, because all through that unfortunate fad he was one of the few carrying the torch for the proud tradition of precise action cinematography. I did not survey the earlier entries for action comprehensibility, but I suspect if I went back and looked for it, APOCALYPSE might be the only other one not in the 4-5 range on the ACR scale. I guess I got on the P.W.S. Anderson train just in time for it to derail while going over a bridge.

So some of the mayhem that would’ve made for some beloved scenes if shot in the old style can now mostly just be appreciated as cool action ideas. My favorite would be when she’s snared by a trap and hanging upside down by one foot from a freeway overpass, and some guys in motorcycle helmets are beating her with clubs. She seems defeated until she laughs and grunts “Is that all you got?” and this is when she swings around and does a bunch of acrobatics to beat them all up. But we don’t see it all like in the old days.

(After this she’s defeated by a parked motorcycle.)

Her capture leads to another should’ve-been-big-action-scene when Dr. Isaacs ties her to the back of his tank to run along as the carrot on a stick for his pet zombie army, and she has to fight off some guards and escape. It’s… pretty cool.

There are two new retroactively-added-in revelations about Alice’s background, both of which are easy to guess the first moment they start to set them up, but that’s not really a problem. (I mean SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER it’s hard to miss that the newly-introduced-Umbrella-bigshot they’re not showing the face of is Milla Jovovich, but it’s worth it to get her in old lady makeup!)

(And as long as we’re SPOILERING I should mention that I thought they did a good job of casting the new Red Queen to look like a young Milla, and it turns out it’s because it’s her daughter Ever Anderson.)

The climax is mostly a one-on-one fight between Alice and Dr. Isaacs. It may seem unfair for a badass wasteland warrior woman to beat up an old man, but he has cybernetic implants that allow him to predict the outcome of any combat possibility. So while she has to use her good old fashioned brain to consider whether to stab him with an ice pick, a pen or a decanter he has already used a computer to dramatize how he would block each attack and then drink some scotch. Anyway, it’s a long and involved fight, it has a couple good gimmicks, and you probly see more than in the similar climax of JASON BOURNE, at least.

Oh yeah, and there are zombies too. It’s funny that I came into this series wanting George Romero and go out knowing the zombies are just an afterthought. This is the most user friendly anti-virus of all time because all she has to do is break the vial and that’s it. That’s silly, but it’s a cool image to see the zombies around her just drop dead in waves.

I know it’s not intentional, but the big reveal about what the Umbrella Corp has supposedly been up to this whole time – SPOILER deliberately ruining the world while the rich people hide away to take over in the aftermath – hits a little close to home at the moment. So that was a strength.

In the grand RESIDENT EVIL tradition, the very end doesn’t seem to match up with the beginning. Though the opening narration double underlines that this is “THE END OF MY STORY,” the end emphasizes that there was still some shit going down in the world after this and she still could’ve gone around having smaller adventures.

Then she ends with, “My name is Alice.” This is not new information. We got that already. Not exactly a mindblowing capper in my opinion.

Though the disappointing action lowers the overall quality of the movie and ends the trend of the series getting better with each chapter, it’s not like they ruined the whole thing. This is a very respectable disreputable series and I think it’s really cool that Jovovich not only starred in all six of them but seemed to get better and more involved in each one. Many actors would, by part 6, be coming up with ways to limit their filming schedule. Have the character go into a coma for a while or something. Not this one.

It would be hard to argue that the character of Alice is a complex one, especially for one who’s had 10+ hours of screen time to evolve. But she’s a very appealing action icon, and this series probly doesn’t get enough credit for how woman-centered it is. They tried a couple times, but they could never find a dude character that anybody would pay attention to standing next to her. It’s all about Alice. It’s all about Milla. Good for her.

I’m glad I watched these.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 30th, 2017 at 12:55 pm and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

13 Responses to “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter”

  1. The movie has some awesome ideas, but not much in the way of execution. The previous films all have consecutive suites of set-pieces I adore: here there are only moments and glimmers.

    The production seems like it was originally designed to have the gasoline fight as the opening, then follow Alice on her journey back to the hive (presumably, Alice would leave D.C. In a bullet train, hidden beneath the White House), while we intercut with scenes the other survivors of Part 5, engaging in humanity’s last stand.

    You know, like the world of mad max, coupled with the structure of Matrix Revolutions and welded to the style of a Heist movie.

    Instead of the epic zombie war scenes we were promised, Alice looks at her watch occasionally and sees that humanity must be having a hard time in some mentioned-but-unseen stronghold.

    I figure this is where they plan to go with potential sequels. Follow Ada Wong and, I guess, Kmart, as they lead a stronghold resistance.

    It would be shrewd to pivot and make RE:7 a multilingual production aimed primarily at the Japanese market. A soft reboot that refocuses he franchise on specific, more-profitable foreign markets without losing the “legacy” value a long running series iconography is something I expect to see lots of in the near future. Warcraft 2 and Pacific Rim 2 are allegedly trying a similar approach.

    Anyway, I liked laughing at this movie. It’s not even close to good, but I’m glad I went.

  2. I left this one very disappointed due to the shaky cam and quick cuts but I legit want to thank Felix for having me list everything I liked about the movie, it saved me from being too negative and realize that despite dropping the ball (hard) on the action, there was still plenty I enjoyed about this one. I have to admit, I really dig the Alice character and am happy I really want to second the giving credit to how female-centric the movies are. It’s the only credit I really give the UNDERWORLD series (though 3 mostly had a male lead). It’s why I hope GHOST IN THE SHELL pulls it off (though I’m not holding my breath, please lets save the white-washing discussion for later: it sucks and it is wrong but we know why they are doing it, we should be thankful they didn’t gender-swap the lead at least). I always liked female protagonist and even when I was younger I seemed to drift towards them (not for pervy reasons). On top of that, Alice’s background doesn’t involve rape. She wanders around helping people because she feels it’s the right thing to do. The one time they made her gender a factor, RETRIBUTION, I feel they make it work in their favor (as Vern talked about in his review).

    As for this movie, it felt like Anderson wanted to rush through it to get it over with. He comes off that way in all the EPK interviews as well: I remember one group interview he did Jovovoich where she was talking about ways they could continue it (she says she wants but it is for promoting this one afterall) and Anderson quickly says “No, it’s done.” I guess like STAR WARS to Lucas, Anderson feels it’s holding him back (his last two non-RE movies bombed). Too bad he decided to rush through this one as an obligation rather than trying to make it great (by his standards). But after listing what I liked about this one in the AFTERLIFE thread, I’m mostly fine with it. Hopefully Anderson goes back to solid action scenes with his two-part MONSTER HUNTER movie.

  3. This one felt like for the first time since WS started making 3D movies that he just wasn’t entirely into it. The rapid fire cutting was too much (especially on an IMAX 3D screen) and a few cool shots aside, I feel like it wouldn’t have mattered if I saw it plain ole 2D. (something I can’t say for the last 2, as well as 3 Musketeers and even Pompeii).

    Still, it was pretty cool when those pools of fire poured down on the zombies in the beginning. And that they managed to find a way to shoehorn in a dreadnaught.

  4. Anderson is no stranger to shakycam. Go back and watch DEATH RACE. Also, he practically invented Avid Farts with EVENT HORIZON. So the quick cutting and spastic camerawork of this one was just him backsliding.

    I can kind of see why. It seems like they wanted to bring this one back to the franchise’s horror roots (in keeping with my vague understanding of the direction the video game series has gone), and you can’t really do that with smooth, Matrix-y camera moves and stylized wirework choreography. These techniques are used to show that a character is in full control of his/her destiny, and this one is all about making Alice the underdog again so that you fear for her safety (something no one has done in at least four and a half movies). The mise en scene is chaotic and frantic, not cool and calculated, to show a heroine at the end of her resources who may actually lose this time.

    Now, while I appreciate this strategy in theory, I only started liking this series because of the clean and classically shot action set-pieces, so I can’t say I’m glad they went in this direction. I did like the movie, but it’s more of an impressionist sketch of an action movie than an actual action movie. It’s still probably my third favorite in the series.

    Also, it’s pretty clear that the budget was lower, so maybe that dictated the visual approach. It’s hard to do ultra-precision on a budget.

  5. I don’t remember the action being shitty in DEATH RACE (like the RE films I’ve been a big defender of that one), now I’m a bit worried to give it a re-watch. I hope this isn’t another RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, PART II situation for me: a movie I remember being awesome and recommended it a whole bunch and when I finally rewatched it years later I learned that actually, it was terrible.

    I remember the avid-farts from EVENT HORIZON though, helps that I watched that one a bunch back in the day and re-watched it a few years back.

    Anderson has been a big saying in interviews that this one was going to be scary like the original, so I guess he has a different definition of horror than we do.

  6. Just took my wife to see it for her birthday; she’s a big fan of the series. My take is about the same. They boned it on the quick cut action, but the story was better than normal by series standards and they did a nice job wrapping up the story line. And as usual, there were some very cool ideas here and there. One still has to make allowances for things that don’t make a lick of sense based on what happens on screen, but that is just par for the course with Resident Evil movies. The wife was also pleased. Especially after we saw the latest Underworld which was an epic disaster even by that series somewhat modest standards.

  7. Any movie that starts with a game of chicken with a mutant dragon isn’t all bad.

  8. I was worried about this one from the moment I saw the first trailer. It looked like they were going to close out the series by combining the boring hive/red queen stuff from the first movie (my least favorite RE) with the drab brown-gray color palate of Afterife, and… they did!

    What really surprised me was how awful the action was shot and how little they emphasized the 3D. Easy to follow action and people throwing shit at the screen made me a fan of the series! I checked imdb and it looks like they didn’t even use 3D cameras for this one. That’s something they used to brag about in RE trailers! Maybe the clunkiness of those cameras was part of the reason why the action in 4&5 was so steady and clean?

    Man… I wish they had been able to do the RESIDENT EVIL ALL-STARS movie that was set up at the end of Retribution.

    I was also really disappointed that they did next to nothing with Milla’s true nemesis: tiny, diabolical Albert Wesker.

  9. Despite the shaky cam and quick cutting, there’s a lot to like in this entry. Alice feels more weathered, beat down. Less than a superhero. Nice call backs to the first film as well.

  10. Welp saw a second time and it went it down much better. The action is still disappointing but overall I’m satisfied. Feels good for me to say goodbye to Alice on good terms. I’ll take good feelings where I can get them these days.

  11. What, no mention of the Fury Road moment when fighting on the tank? I swear the music even switched over for a few seconds.

    I found this series a little late, so I only saw the last two in the theater. Still, it’s one I absolutely love, even though I can never really explain it. They’re not the best examples of action or horror or zombies, etc, and yet I own and rewatch all of them (aside from this one, of course; guess I should check to see if it’s on sale yet).

    Hell, maybe it’s as simple as it being successfully “woman centered” in a way that’s not cliche.

  12. After the surprisingly ambitious and almost experimental Retribution, this is a pretty big let-down. It’s cheap-feeling and small, with hardly any of the cast returning – it feels like a TV show that went on a few seasons too long and ends with a low-rated whimper. The kind of show where you say “Oh they just cancelled that? I seriously didn’t know it was still on!” (Btw, this is strangely the lowest grossing of the series domestically but the highest grossing internationally).

    I barely remember most of the series but I could still spot how much lazy retconning this thing does. I mean, this is a movie where The Red Queen says her programming doesn’t allow her to harm any employee of Umbrella (basically so they can rip off the “Dick, You’re Fired!” bit from Robocop) – wasn’t this entire series set in motion by her killing like 200 employees of Umbrella? The origin of the virus and how it got out is also changed, but I think it was also changed between Parts 1 and 2, so maybe it’s changed in every movie, I don’t know. And don’t get me started on the sudden disappearance of Newt from the last one. The relationship between Alice and the girl was kinda the best part and they just don’t address what happened to her? Why can’t any of these movies actually deliver on the previous film’s cliffhanger ending? How are all these movies so incongruous, yet written by the same guy? I’ve been a Paul W.S. Anderson defender for years but I’m starting to get the hate.

    But even ignoring the other movies, does this work on its own? Not really – the action scenes, aka, the entire raison d’etre of the series, are incomprehensibly terrible- like Olivier Megaton terrible. The new characters are uninteresting and charisma-free, we have to suffer through yet another “traitor” subplot, the stuffy British bad guy is just doing the same thing he did in Tomb Raider. I don’t remember him already being the villain of Part 3, but I do remember the finale for this film is a callback to Part 3’s laser room scene, which was already a callback to the laser room scene in Part 1. I wonder if Anderson even noticed he’s already called back to that same scene before, or did someone just inform him after the fact?

    It’s not a total wash – the “storming the castle” attack from early on is a pretty decent setpiece, I like the Mad Maxian road sequences, and Milla is a joy to watch. The 40’s are looking great on her – her face is weathered but more expressive, like a badass spaghetti western hero – she’s light on dialogue but full of charismatic screen presence and world-weariness. I’m hoping she moves on to actual good movies in her future.

  13. I apologize in advance but the girl’s name in RETRIBUTION was Not-Newt, not Newt as you have stated. I have since eased up on that but overall I agree with you that it’s let down that they did not bring back Not-Newt or even mention her.

    My first review agrees with you but I saw it a second time in theaters and with much lowered expectations (yes I legit had expectations for this thing so I am at fault but if you tell me that Im’ma accuse you of victim-blaming) I enjoyed it much more (helped that the second viewing was in 2D is also a possibility, I loved the (real) 3D in 4 & 5 but the action did the (fake) 3D no favors in here). When I watched it again on home video I continued to forgive this one for being a very flawed finale. What helped with that is, as Vern said in his review, the villain’s plot being that they just want to get rid of all the non-1% people kinda hits me.

    As for the series loose-continuity but being spear-headed by the same one guy… I think Anderson is both is an old-school in that ‘who really cares about continuity?’ ‘I Want to tell THIS story instead and having to keep up with the continuity will only get in the way!’ or he just doesn’t care and figure we don’t either…

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