After a five-year hiatus, Resident Evil is back to assault everything we hold dear about action movies, horror movies, zombies, and video games. Assuming this to be the last in the series (until it makes a buttload of money), The Final Chapter finally delivers something this viewer never thought he’d see from the franchise: A real, honest-to-god plot. Believe it or not, providing us with a backstory and villains with motivations gives us characters to root for/against. It’s a crime that it took six films to get us to this point, and if this is truly the end of the series, The Final Chapter ends the Resident Evil series on something resembling a high note.
It ain’t half bad, is what I’m saying.
Picking up not long after the events of Retribution, we find survivor/superweapon Alice (Milla Jovovich) traversing the burned out ruins of Washington DC. (Never let it be said that these movies weren’t timely.) The Umbrella Corporation’s AI system, The Red Queen (Ever Anderson, daughter of Jovovich and director Paul WS Anderson), tasks Alice with a mission that sends her back to Raccoon City, where the zombie outbreak all began. With the help of returning NPC Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and a new team of zombie fodder (including xXx 3’s Ruby Rose), Alice has 48 hours to infiltrate the Hive and unleash the antivirus before the zombie hordes wipe out humanity for good.
Along the way, Alice runs afoul of Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen), last seen as a tentacle monster way back in Extinction. He’s back to his old self again, which raises all sorts of kooky questions. The Resident Evil saga’s grasp of continuity is shaky at best, and with the end in sight, this film finally settles into a groove where answers are expected. Of course, the first order of business is retconning everything we’ve seen in previous installments, up to and including pretending most of Apocalypse never happened. (And lampshading the fact by saying “History is written by the victors.”) Not that any of it particularly matters, anyway. Nothing in the previous three installments has affected the overarching plot of this series aside from where our characters are and how many zombies they kill.
The Resident Evil films have all been an elaborate excuse for Paul Anderson to direct his wife in as many incoherent action sequences as he could convince the studio to pay for. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, of course. Milla Jovovich makes for a fun action heroine, and she’s game for pretty much everything these ridiculous movies throw at her. From overseeing a zombie siege on a burned-out high rise to navigating the industrial Saw-like funhouse that is The Hive, this film gives Alice plenty of opportunities to kick monster ass. Anderson still chops these scenes to death, rendering them mostly incomprehensible, but you can at least tell they’re having fun with it.
It all comes back around to the story, though, and to date this series has had a monumentally shitty one. Alice’s travels across the continent have yielded negative results in moving the plot forward, which lends this film a weird sense of urgency. Operating under the assumption that this truly is the final chapter, the film finally sets about answering such fundamental questions as:
- Who unleashed the T-virus?
- Why did they unleash the T-virus?
- What the fuck is Wesker’s deal, anyway?
- Who’s really running Umbrella?
- What else are they hiding in The Hive?
Without spoiling too much, it’s revealed that Dr. Isaacs is a religious nut with a nasty apocalyptic streak. Even dropping that one little hint into his backstory helps humanize and situate the character to a degree we’ve never seen from this series. And as a result, Iain Glen finally gets to have some fun with the role as we catch up with an Isaacs who seems to be unraveling as the world tumbles towards its eventual demise. Until now, Isaacs and Wesker have been the stone-faced facade of the Umbrella Corporation, destroying the world because “Money.” Again, I’m just assuming here. They’ve never said it was for monetary gain; they’ve never given us any reason before now.
Taking the time to explain one of these characters, even just for a minute, damn near saves the entire film. To say that The Final Chapter succeeds at Screenwriting 101-level storytelling is the definition of damning with faint praise, but it’s a notable step up from a series that has, to date, completely failed at this. Call it a testament to the power of details.
Will this truly be the final chapter in the Resident Evil series? Only time will tell. The film offers fans enough closure to safely put the series to bed, but at the same time leaves things juuuuust open-ended enough that you can never truly say never. It wouldn’t be the first time, either. They made eight more Friday the 13th movies after its Final Chapter. And as long as Capcom is in the business of making Resident Evil games, I have no doubt it’ll find a way to keep pumping out these terrible, ridiculous movies. There’s always more money on the table.
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