Resident Evil: The Final Chapter - Review: A Passable Game Over
“The Final Chapter”..... the “alternative facts” of film titles when a big promised ending turns out to be anything but. Friday the 13th; The Final Chapter was merely film 4 of 12 (including crossovers and reboots). Saw 3D being dubbed “The Final Chapter” held true for nearly 6 years until a new film was commissioned last year. Final Destination 4 was “The Final Destination” or rather it wasn’t when number 5 showed up. You’re right, there is a recurring horror franchise theme here which kind of makes sense.... the killer always comes back. Now the Resident Evil video game film franchise becomes the latest to pledge us, “The Final Chapter”. The thing is, it would be really really great if this one turned out be actual facts. While they’ve had some merit in their action and game character recreatio,n the last two films have been of a poor quality with 2007's Afterlife being the last passable effort (it at least tried to have a story rather than being a shambles of dumped in components). It’s time to call time on Umbrella, tentacle-sprouting zombies and Milla Jovovich in skin-tight PVC (okay, I’m flexible on that last one) so if Final Chapter could muster a respectable send off, that would be best for all involved. In the end, it more or less does.
Ten years after the T-Virus destroyed human civilization, the former Umbrella security officer and survivor Alice (Milla Jovovich – The Fifth Element, The Three Musketeers) will return to its origin of Racoon City to stop the company’s endgame and finally learn her true identity.
So in true film series franchise, the early scenes quickly skirt away from the prior film’s big ending tease (a last stand for humanity at the White House) into a completely different story so they can explain why many characters haven’t returned. It’s still a disappointment. but less for seeing it coming. In this case, that was actually a big old trap by Albert Wesker to have everyone taken out (#dickmove) with that Washington location now baring resemblances to Trump’s Inauguration Day. Now, the story we do get actually isn’t that bad and in many ways, it showcases the best features of the film series and even some game style tense survivor horror scenes too, punctuated by jump scares. It incorporates everything long term fans have long to expect from big location and biohazard battling set pieces, post-apocalyptic settings, hard-hitting fights and zombie hordes. In particular, the second half makes a U-turn back towards the first (and best) film both thematically and in setting as the team infiltrate the Racoon City Hive with security measures and T-virus creations being used against them. At times, this even has shades of a slightly less sadistic Saw film but most enjoyably of all, we get an encore to the first film’s most memorable sequence….. yep, the one that gave us diced Colin Salmon. However, the story does come with a humongous special combo kick to the teeth though and it’s one you’re absolutely better off knowing going in. Much of the story is based on Umbrella secretly having a big T-Virus cure all along (I know, it’s MGS torture-level frustrating) and that the whole outbreak was the company pulling a Noah’s Ark routine. While that does tie some things up well as an idea, to have it just thrown in this late can’t help but feel like a disappointing cop out that makes a number of past events now seen rather dumb.
The single biggest problem here is the cast… or the lack of. This does not feel like a big climatic ending for the franchise because so much of it is populate red shirt newbies. The biggest selling point of any final chapter is the vulnerability of all main characters; instead of miraculous sequel setting up character escapes suddenly anyone can (and often does) die, especially in a horror franchise. Yet this film has minimal long standing film or game characters available to utilize that. Aside from Alice, Ali Larter’s (Heroes) Claire Redfield returning from 2010's Afterlife , is the only returning protagonist (so no Jill, Leon, Chris or Ada). On the villain side, thankfully Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) makes a good old, “but you’re dead?” comeback as Dr. Issacs to bolster Shawn Roberts blander than a green herb Albert Wesker. In fact, without Iain Glen this film, it would have been a complete mission failure and his character fate is the only one who carries any meaning and he brings good menace to Umbrella’s scheming. Around them are nothing but bland and occasionally nameless archetypes like, ”Moody guy with a sword”, “Cool Ozzy chick” and “Asian martial arts guy”. It all combines to make it feel more like just another film rather than a climax. However, one character point they do get right is the big reveal of Alice’s identity. I’d laugh for a full minute if they claimed it was their plan all along but it’s a respectable effort than manages to be surprising and unorthodox without being too ridiculous.
The action elements of the film are mostly strong but with one unexpected head shot. There’s a lot of good variety from fighting on moving tanks (Indiana Jones approves), to post apocalyptic siege warfare, monster fights and big character showdowns. Most of it is a good enjoyable and often quite fast paced spectacle. Yet in some sequences, for reasons, not even online support can explain, the camera work is utterly terrible. Director of Photography Glen MacPherson.... did you get infected midway through production? It’s like they filmed some parts handheld with a pair of rampant ferrets down the cameraman’s pants turning everything into an almost unrecognizable blur of flailing limbs that may or may not be hitting something. It kills any enjoyment and instead becomes overwhelmingly frustrating. In fairness, the intent is clear: to make it more edgy and surreal but it gets an E-grade for accuracy. Thankfully, it’s not every sequence but when it happens don’t waste your time trying to follow too closely.
Although Jovovich has claimed this will be her last Alice suit up, her final words includes, “my work is not yet done”….. so we’re either being teased or trolled over the idea of more. Yet if this is to be end it’s one we’ll take. The Final Chapter is not the best film of the series but it’s certainly better than the last two. “We’ve played a long game, you and I” says villain to hero just like franchise writer/director P. S. Anderson to the fans who’ve stuck it out. Indeed we have…. but now is the right time for a game over.