(On Cable TV, September 2017) The Resident Evil series has been a mixed bag of inconsistent results, so it’s perhaps no surprise to find out that what is billed as a final instalment would be so uneven. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter starts on a sour note, as the big-scale Washington, DC, battle promised by the previous instalment is completely avoided, with an inferior opening action sequence setting low expectations. Much of the first and second acts are a moving post-apocalyptic mixture of road rage and zombie action, seldom reaching the lunacy that marked the series’ best moments. Iain Glen does bring a bit of gravitas to the instalment, just in time for the film’s most interesting third act, which sees the action go back to The Hive where the series began. The fan-favourite laser corridor makes a return appearance (although it’s absurdly easy to defeat when the panels are smashed) and it all leads to a competent set-piece between super-powered characters before a conclusion of sort is offered, finalizing series lead Alice’s role in the entire shenanigans. (Milla Jovovich gives it all she can, but the most interesting thing here is how visibly she has aged in the fifteen years between the first and last movies of the series.) As an announced conclusion, it does carry a not-entirely-unearned weight—unfortunately, it can’t meet those expectations. While there are a few good moments here and there, The Final Chapter remains a disappointment for not following up on the previous volume, for not fully giving satisfying endings to the series’ recurring characters and for settling for a fairly obvious conclusion. Even on a strictly visual level, director Paul W.S. Anderson turns in a routine film, without any of the visual flair he’s proven able to accomplish, even in the previous volume of the series. Much more would have been possible. With this lukewarm conclusion, it almost goes without saying that you’d better be a fan of the series before watching The Final Chapter—there’s little here, either in plotting or execution, to make it interesting if you’re not already invested in knowing how it will turn out.
(In theaters, September 2004) It’s not that this film is entirely unpleasant: It’s just that whatever is interesting about this film comes in thirty-seconds snippets, sandwiched between vast stretches of silliness and boredom. Yes, there’s plenty of added value-for-money for us Canadian in seeing a very explicit Toronto double as a “Raccoon City” overwhelmed by flesh-eating zombies. It’s interesting to see another take on the urban desolation theme. Roughly three of the last five minutes are top-notch. Milla Jovonovich isn’t completely wasted as super-powered heroine “Alice”. Here and there, dumb shoot-em-ups still manage to bring back memories of the rock-and-roll first film. But by and large, Resident Evil: Apocalypse struggles from one set-piece to another, barely managing to distinguish itself in the increasingly crowded zombie sub-genre. The dark-on-black cinematography annoys, the cheap production values hurt and so does the painfully inept script: The characters are so unimaginably stupid that it’s hard to actually cheer for any of them. Worst of all, though, is the dawning insight that Paul Anderson’s much-derided direction is what propelled the original Resident Evil from stupid video-game movie to enjoyable stupid video-game movie. Here, well, it’s not all good. Not all good at all.
(In theaters, March 2002) I’m usually a very forgiving viewer when it comes to zombie films or videogame adaptations, so don’t blame me if I liked Resident Evil for what it tried to be; a trashy-but-fun B-grade horror/action film. The first thirty minutes are easily the best (save from one boffo last shot), with a finely-tuned sense of pervasive dread that promises much more than it delivers. It’s much more pedestrian after that (alas!), but it never stops being fun in its B-grade kind of way. For director Paul W.S. Anderson, it’s nowhere near the terrifying atmosphere of Event Horizon or even the pure good kung-fu fun of Mortal Kombat, but at least it’s a step up from the putrid Soldier. There isn’t a while lot of originality to the plotline (watch and identify the sources: Aliens, Romero, Half-Life, Cube, etc…) but it’s handled with some visual deftness and a script that doesn’t attempt to be anything but zombie fun. It’s a bit frustrating to imagine how much better this film could have been if it had pushed the limits of its R-rating, here grossly wasted by a near-complete absence of gore and nudity. The acting is unremarkable, save for Michelle Rodriguez, who essentially reprises the same character she’s played in her last two films. As far as zombie films go, it’s a good one. Take it for what it’s worth!
(Second viewing, In theaters, June 2002) Audacious directing can save a film from total boredom, and my second viewing of Resident Evil shows that even though director Paul Anderson may be a total moron when it comes to writing stories, he’s actually not all that bad when it comes to showing a story on screen. The script is still weak and highly derivative, but the rhythm is sustained, there are a few nice technical flourishes and the actors hold their own. I still like it as a B-grade zombie film. It’s not as good as it ought to have been, but it’ll do.