ALICE THROUGH WITH KICKING ASS
It seems odd that it’s been 24 years since poor old Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper bounced through “Super Mario Bros” … and we STILL haven’t had a well-regarded movie made from a video game. This year’s “Assassin’s Creed” couldn’t do more than summon a “M’eh” from most people. But it’s easy to forget that one game has spawned a very successful franchise, which has pulled consistently profitable figures at the global box office. That’s “Resident Evil” (2002 – 15 years ago!!) and here we have the emphatic last entry in the saga (yeah, right!). It’s thought of as a “guilty pleasure” by most die-hard genre fans, and each film gets more ludicrously bombastic than the last, with only the vaguest of links to the games that inspired them. Game characters like Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and Albert Wesker only get minimal involvements in the chaos, with the iconic monsters like the “Licker” and “Nemesis “getting brief appearances. It’s all about the combat and SFX. Milla Jovovich is an effective action heroine and synonymous with the brand, apparently loving every minute of it. So after an “Apocalypse”, some “Extinction”, a dollop of “Afterlife”, and a portion of “Retribution” … get ready for some finality. Now on home-media in the UK, YGROY lives next door to Alice and watches her kick some undead butt for the last time…
It starts with the obligatory voice-over from Alice (Jovovich of course) explaining the beginnings of the global zombie outbreak and how the eeeevvv-iilll corporation “Umbrella” staged it all. Refreshingly here, at least we get some new footage showing the first incident and with hints towards the actual origin of Alice herself. Post credit sequence, we’re straight back into the storyline, which (sort of) follows on directly from the previous film (“Retribution” from 2012). Alice is pulling herself from an underground bunker in a devastated wasteland which used to be Washington D.C. After despatching a couple of undead beasts, she is contacted by the Umbrella A.I. known as the “Red Queen”. It informs her that only 4,472 humans remain on the planet, and they will be snuffed out in exactly 48 hours. (Bit over-precise to be honest, but we all need a goal). Seemingly turning against its corporate master, the A.I. directs Alice back towards ground-zero in Raccoon City and the “Hive” facility where it all started. So for one last time, she teams up with a dwindling group of survivors (including a returning Ali Larter as Claire Redfield) and tries to save humanity. As you do…
Let’s be honest, in many respects the “Resident Evil” franchise is as critic-proof as the “Fast & Furious” one, except with less cars, more zombies, and no annoying bullcrap about “family”. But let’s also revel in the fact that each film has also been very bankable on a global scale, and been an exclusively female-lead franchise for 15 years (where many other movie brands feared to tread).
With that mentioned, let’s just also say that “The Final Chapter” is pretty much more of the same and what most fans would expect. And that’s either a good thing or bad thing according to your perspective. But it very much feels like a wink and a thumbs-up to the franchise fans, saying; “Well, it’s been a fun ride y’all, but this is where we sign off. Thanks a bunch.”
To that end, we still get umpteen scenes of Alice shooting and flippy-kicking CG monstrosities, along with a simple A-to-B action-movie plot, laughable deus-ex-machina, and several plot-pits and logic holes. It does look good though, and in its best moments it totally feels like “Walking Dead” + “Mad Max”. Although for some reason, it doesn’t feel quite as “epic” in scale as previous efforts like “Apocalypse”, but that’s probably due to the overuse of ruined CG landscapes rather than proper locations.
However, some sequences do substantially standout. There’s a really cool mock-mediaeval siege scene, complete with massed undead hordes and a “boiling oil” equivalent. And there’s another visually impressive moment where thousands of zombies are revealed to be suddenly trailing behind a vehicle. Interestingly there’s not a great deal of variety with the creatures, because along with the common walking corpse, there are just a few nondescript monsters that seem to be based on the “Las Plagas” mutants from the “Resident Evil 5” game. This time there’s a little more emphasis on the human enemies.
Iain Glen is superb as the thought-to-be-dead Dr. Alexander Isaacs, chewing scenery like it was made of chocolate and channelling the spirit of Dr Evil. Jovovich is as athletic and as grimly heroic as all previous entries. Both the actors are obviously having a ball with the material. However Ruby Rose is as underused in her role as she was in “John Wick 2”. Has she upset somebody in Hollywood? Whilst fun, the script does leave a little to be desired with “gems” like; “It seems you let her slip through your fingers … or what remains of them”. There are plenty of moments where people are left alive (or killed) for no valid reason (other than plot development), and a pointless who’s-the-traitor sub-plot that grates.
And even for director Paul W.S. Anderson, there are an extraordinary amount of edits during fight scenes that will end up giving a lot of people migraines.
But most of that is obvious and unnecessary griping as far as many people will be concerned. Inasmuch as satisfying fans of the franchise, ending certain plot-strands and questions, acknowledging previous entries, and still providing a break-neck action-movie experience … well, it manages to hit the (joystick) button on that level at the very least. It obviously won’t work for any bewildered newcomers, who will wonder what the fuss was about (and what’s actually going on), but it’s a positive experience for those who’ve followed the saga so far.
It’s probably not the best of the series, but it’s still an enjoyable romp. It does end the overall arc in an effective way (although there would be potential for follow-ups if they REALLY wanted to), and with news that James Wan is intending a reboot of the franchise this is almost definitely the end for Alice. But it’s not a bad way to go …
DVD Extras: Alright! Credit where credit’s due … Not content with including extras on the main disc (“Exploring the Hive”, “Women of Resident Evil”), the UK DVD has a separate bonus disc with more stuff, including making-of features and character/actor profiles. Nice one Sony!
As preposterous and silly as you would expect, but it’s basically a big-budget fan film which gives the franchise lovers some form of closure. Glen is brilliant fun as the pantomime villain, and Jovovich is as sternly watchable as ever. There are a couple of standout sequences, but it’s basically more CG monstrosity bashing with rapid-fire editing. Fans will eat it up, and it’s good inoffensive fun to be sure. Final right.
RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (15)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter
Review: David Stephens