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Revisiting the Resident Evil movies (Part 2)

The franchise goes back to where it all began.

If you have not already, make sure to check out Part 1 here. 

Contains SPOILERS of the Resident Evil film series

From 2002 to 2007, we had the initial Resident Evil trilogy, movies that borrowed elements of the successful video game series, but forged their own identity right from the jump. This may have distanced the gaming fans, but it gained a new fandom. Around this time, the games themselves were going through a transition as in 2002 – the same year that the first film was released – the 1996 original game was remade for the Nintendo GameCube. However, this critically acclaimed remake sold worse than expected, leading Capcom to change the direction of the series to a more action-oriented approach, which led to 2005’s Resident Evil 4.

Not only did the excellent fourth instalment reinvent both the survival horror and third-person genres, but the influence of the film adaptations started to creep in. This includes a similar sequence from the first film, in which characters have to escape a narrow hallway with a laser defense system. Even though the films were contradicting the survival horror nature of the games, those contradictions ended up influencing them. This led to what many consider to be the worst era in the franchise’s history.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

As the film series began its next phase writer/producer Paul W.S. Anderson returned to direct this new trilogy. Afterlife opens with a bang as the many clones of Milla Jovovich’s Alice invades the Umbrella Corporation Headquarters under Tokyo. Matrix-styled “coolness” was thrown into this opening action set-piece. The Alices held a gun in each hand as they fire their way to reach the villainous Albert Wesker, who might as well be Agent Smith. Given that the earlier films stole a bit from the Wachowskis’ work, Afterlife cranks it up despite the Matrix sequels left a bad taste and were no longer cool by 2010.

There are zombies and other mutated creatures along the way, but for a long section of the film, the action stops and Alice hangs out with yet another group of thinly-written survivors. As numbing as the action can be, whenever people are talking in these films, you never really care about their dynamics. There simply isn’t one and never any nuance towards their performances, not even Kim Coates, who chews the scenery as a slimy former film producer.

Most Random Moment: Character actor Fulvio Cecere cast as Wendell, an old pervert who attempted to peep on Alice before getting snatched by an infected.

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

A continuity may exist within the films, but Anderson establishes a reset with every instalment as Alice always wakes up in new surroundings; in this case, an underwater facility in the Extreme North, used for testing the T-virus through simulations through known worldwide cities. Once again, the Matrix references are there, such as Alice going through a fake reality and finding some meaning of the life she could’ve had.  The themes get lost within the constant action, which also takes cues from Asian films, where you can suitably apply a cheesiness to the OTT spectacle. To be honest, the 2000 Japanese cult film Versus was doing a similar thing before the Resident Evil films.

After the success of James Cameron’s Avatar, many filmmakers wanted to experiment with 3D, including Paul W.S. Anderson, who would go on to use the process from Afterlife onwards. The supposed purpose of 3D is to be both an immersive experience (which the Resident Evil films never achieved) and a gimmicky series of things being thrown towards the screen, which is what the film eventually became. Watching these films years later on a 2D television, this gimmick is so laughable in this current age where the 3D craze is no more, the series become instantly outdated.

Most Random Moment: During the Moscow set-piece, a member of the rescue team gets chainsawed by a zombified Soviet Union soldier. 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Whatever problems there were the previous installments are nothing compared to The Final Chapter, which undoes any good will that became before. Despite the last film teasing us with a final battle taking place in the White House at the end, this finale opens with the aftermath. Alice once again roams through the post-apocalyptic America to eventually return to the first film’s setting where a cure of the T-virus is located. There are also the answers the fan have been yearning to know. Anderson seems to be drowning in his own nostalgia as he repeats the same set-pieces, proving that these films have never been original. 

When characters are having conversations, the film quickly wants to move on and get to the action. This is worsened by the headache-inducing editing as the majority of shots can’t be held for more than a second to causing a lack of elegance in the choreography. Although I am not a fan of the majority of Anderson’s work as he seems to make these films in his sleep, The Final Chapter is a new low in his filmmaking.

Most Random Moment: Iain Glen hams it up as the religious-crazed clone of Dr. Isaacs, the main villain.

Epilogue 

So why did spend over nine hours of my life rewatching a series of films that further validate the fact that the great video game movie is yet to be made? There are other ongoing movie franchises that went into ridiculous directions and are more enjoyable, like the Fast & Furious series. However, the Resident Evil film series feels more unique in its weirdness, especially how it deviates and yet influences the source material. In fact, Paul W.S. Anderson still maintains such a good relationship with Capcom that he and his wife Milla Jovovich worked on the upcoming film adaptation of their other successful franchise: Monster Hunter.

As Capcom reinvented their franchise again with the first-person viewed Biohazard as a return to the horror roots, as well as the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, we are expecting a film reboot in the future, which may be the live-action Resident Evil film the gaming community is waiting for.

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