One of the most consistently irritating things about the Resident Evil franchise is that they usually end on a massive change on the status quo that’s instantly ret-conned the second the next film starts. Alice gets an army of clones at the end of part 3? You can bet your bottom dollar they’ll all be dead ten minutes in to the start of part 4 – and so on. It’s worth bringing this up for two reasons; 1) this sixth installment expects us to be absolutely fine with not following up the massive, Lord Of The Rings sized, human versus zombie war on the White House lawn that part 5 promised and starts with Milla Jovovich’s overworked hero waking up after the battle has happened – and 2) in a T-Virus injected example of irony, this Final Chapter will also be ret-conned out of existence the second the reboot, Resident Evil: Welcome To Racoon City, arrives in late 2021.
So it looks like it’s a long overdue goodbye to Alice and her ever-changing abilities/memory, but has franchise honcho Paul W.S. Anderson got enough in the tank for a suitably explosive goodbye?
Awaking to find that not only both she and the audience have missed the massive battle that was promised at the end of Retribution but that shades wearing henchmen totally lied about giving her her superpowers back (are you trying to piss us off, Anderson?), athletic amnesiac Alice is contacted by the Red Queen, the A.I. of the evil Umbrella corporation. As this holographic entity that take the form of the 10 year old daughter of the orginal head of Umbrella starts to lay out the entire plot of the movie, Alice finds out that there’s a cure to the T-Virus that would not only wipe out every zombie and misshapen abomination that’s been created by the extraordinarily versatile pathogen but most likely kill her too. The seemingly benevolent computer programme tells her that it’s located back at the Hive, the underground lab/death trap where this entire mess started back in the first movie, but also headed that way in a carpool of sick tanks is Dr. Isaacs, a big wheel in Umberella, thought dead in the third film. Getting caught up in a loud, flashy cornucopia of random action sequences, Alice finally makes it back to Racoon City to team up with a returning Claire Redfield who survived the events of part 4 and quite possibly the most nondescript survivors ever seen in a post apocalyptic sci-fi action movie to date. In order to slow Isaac’s roll and halt the endless hordes of zombies that are following in his wake, the humans stage a large, expensive battle scene that results in Alice and her group retreating back into the Hive to complete their mission before time runs out and the remaining humans across the world are destroyed for some reason…
Before I tear headlong into my seemingly endless list of complaints I’d like to bring up some positive points. Props, as always should go to Milla Jovovich, one of the few women in Hollywood who regularly does the sweaty action hero thing. I mean she’s hardly a renowned thespian, but Scarlett Johansson and Gal Godot are the only other women who’s headlined multiple action blockbusters as a single character and Jovovich has been knee deep in zombies and firearms since 2002 – needless to say it’s still an impressive feat.
Anyway, what with this series being arguably the king of the mid-range budgeted, horror/action, CGI soaked, kill-everyone-then-bust-a-matrix-pose genre (which isn’t that impressive – saying R.E. movies are better than, say, the Underworld movies are kind of like saying you’d prefer being coated in puke rather than coated in shit), you’d think they would pull out the stops when delivering an epic conclusion to end the series on a high. However what we get is a bland, virtually joyless slog through awful dialogue and boring characters all thrown together with the skill and dexterity of a drunk seal playing with paper maché. Some characters return, Iain Glen and Ali Larter obviously owe money to someone so they get wheeled out again, while series über-thug, ray-band spokesman Wesker is reduced from franchise big bad to merely a guy wandering around a control room who argues a lot with a digitised 10 year old.
The plot is needlessly complicated yet, horrifyingly dull (it essentially steals Blade: Trinity’s antivirus do-over ending) and if you’ve managed to miss a single episode, attempting to follow the whole thing is as stressful and pointless as an amnesiac forced to take a 15 hour written examination in an unfamiliar language that’s made up entirely in the sounds of howler monkeys.
Franchise devotees will no doubt claim that the movies simply play up to their audience, but that suggests that the audience hasn’t managed to mature in fifteen years and are convinced all this bollocks about clones, viruses, and evil corporations is super duper serious and important. Also: quick question: why the crap does Umbrella still think of themselves as a “corporation” when everyone else in the world bar around 4000 people are fucking dead – where would their money and resources come from? I never took business studies at school but surely killing every man, woman and child on the face of the earth cuts a hell of a chunk out of your bottom line and I just can’t buy the evil plan that the thousand or so shareholders cryogenically frozen in the basement will awaken to inherit the earth.
Due to this kind of ramshackle plotting there’s a quite a hard core drinking game to be had here (as alcohol poisoning is most likely more fun) with a shot going down everytime an overloud jump scare desperately tries to get your attention with all the subtleness of a screaming, abandoned child in a supermarket, or when someone angrily ends a conversation or a scene with a melodramatic re-sheathing of their knife/gun (bizarrely, that happens a LOT). You’d be shit faced from boozing everytime Jovovich’s oddly gullible Alice refuses to trust an ally yet takes EVERYTHING the villains say on face value alone.
Even the action is moribund, with everyone engaging in life or death battles with everyone else, all apparently a black belt in edit-fu. The terrible, hyper aggressive cutting (at one point 4 minutes on a countdown clock are stretched to an unbelievable 15 minutes of film time!) is second only to an overbearing score that seems to think that Ruby Rose’s character deserves a huge tragic fanfare despite the fact that I’d struggle to remember her name even if it was tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.
Even for fans, the returning characters are somewhat overshadowed by the previous movie having far more call backs (they got Michelle Rodriguez to come back for god’s sake) and the return to the Hive (that fucking laser corridor is back!) is sullied by the closure of Alice’s plot being quite horribly contrived but if you dig the franchise then God go with you, you’re a more forgiving man than I. But for me, this is one Resident that deserves to be finally evicted from cinemas.