By: Henry J. Fromage (Five Beers) –
Just like with Michael Bay, there are some very serious, very considered Paul W.S. Anderson apologists out there, and I’m at least 75% sure they don’t mistakenly think Paul Thomas Anderson directed Event Horizon.
Although, I’m sure I’d like to have seen him try.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter brings his defining series to a close, as we rejoin Alice (Milla Jovovich) after the promised climactic battle at the end of the last film as she travels back to Raccoon City and The Hive to, what else, destroy the Umbrella Corporation and save the world.
The one think I can agree with those Anderson auteur theorists is that he knows how to make the most of his production design. Anderson may crib a lot for the worlds he creates, but they’re pretty striking and detailed, and often contribute as much or more to the plot than any semblance of dialogue his scripts contain.
If this isn’t iconic, it’s something close.
This edition of the franchise is no different, with crazy Mad Max-style rolling fortresses and rivers of fire raining down on zombie hordes from dilapidated apartment towers. Jovovich is still a bona fide action star, of course, and I liked the idea of the Red Queen turning against Umbrella as a plot driver.
I’ll also admit that Anderson knows how to engineer a jump scare, and uses his sound design to amplify their impact even when you know they’re coming. It’s not screeching violins and screams, but the sound of something with bulk lunging out of the darkness- a cut above most films that deploy them, if still very much a jump scare.
The bait ‘n switch after the end of the last film feels like some weird capitulation to budget or something. We get no zombie apocalypse throw-down but rather a return (again) to Raccoon City and The Hive. We even get several of the greatest hits, like the laser maze, all over again, with no appreciable reason to do so outside of, presumably, that people liked it it the first time.
Hey, that philosophy got not one, but two Hangover sequels made.
The action may be the shakiest, quickest cutting of Anderson’s career, which is saying something. Apparently Anderson replaced his usual editor with the one who did Crank: High Voltage, an editing style that really only worked the once. Here, the camera never holds in one place long enough for you to get more than the basic sense of somebody getting punched or shot- it’s all PG-13 rating-preserving blur and overbearing sound design. Likewise, you almost never get a good enough glimpse at the beasties that jump scare the fuck out of you thanks to that sound design to register very much about them, probably in a clever strategy to cheapen the CGI budget. It’s all suggestion, foreplay, with no payoff.
Alice really is a terrible decision maker. Not once, but twice does she run into a clear barrier when driving something and get knocked out in the process. Forget saving the world, she’s having a hard enough job operating a motor vehicle.
In the film you again have a hardened survivor being won over by Alice’s unique ability to kick ass, even though the first he laid eyes on her he predicted she’d get them all killed. Obviously, she does. Supporting characters are purely cannon fodder in these films.
Dead, you’re all dead.
The script tries to add history and pathos to Alice’s story, but it’s all a weak stab at pretending these films have really been headed anywhere at all in a predetermined manner. The plots have always been pretty dumb and clearly engineered around the action setpieces, and not the other way around. Here, the overarching plot of the series gets revamped into an environmentalism vs. radical Christian fundamentalists allegory somehow despite there being literally zero traces of either of those themes in any preceding movie. Paul W.S. is about as good at making a political statement as he is holding the camera in one place for three straight seconds.
SPOILERS, LIKE IT MATTERS EVEN IN THE LEAST
The plot’s countdown clock conceit is the worst, though, which the film seems to realize only at the end and tries to justify with a few tossed-off lines. How are the last remaining human settlements that will be eradicated in like 10 seconds get saved by the system intervening? It’s zombies attacking, right? Since when does the system control those? You said yourself that the airborne antivirus that would kill the zombies will take years for the winds to carry everywhere, so… everyone but the two women we see are dead, right? Cool.
The Resident Evil movies have staged some pretty impressive set pieces over the years, but The Final Chapter probably falls towards the back of the pack of the series as a whole. If you’re a fan, go for it, otherwise this is not going to be worth your time.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for jump scares
Take a Drink: whenever one of The Expendables (any non-Alice character) dies
Take a Drink: for every appearance of the Red Queen
Take a Drink: whenever Alice wakes up after getting knocked out
Take a Drink: whenever you see the countdown clock
Do a Shot: did they just… set up another sequel? Definitely throw back one or two just for the possibility.