Before I begin, let me digress into a topic worthy of its own post: women’s roles in movies. There were three movies previewed before Resident Evil: The Final Chapter began, and all of them could be summed up as “women are evil, or crazy, or problems that the men have to deal with.” Not uncommon, at all.
So… to follow those previews with Resident Evil, where women are trying to be the freaking superheroine saviors of humanity??? Was kind of awesome.
This is why I love Resident Evil so very much. In theory, at least. For six months, I’ve been testing that love, rewatching each of the installments in the series. And let’s face it. It’s been a bumpy ride. Some installments have been good; some have been not-so-good, but entertaining anyway; some have been dreadful affronts to B-movie cinema. And now, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
The thing about a wobbly series (books, movies, what have you) is that the ending can make or break your enjoyment of the whole shebang. Stick the landing, and a lot of sins can be forgiven. Mess up the ending, and the franchise can become unwatchable. Did Resident Evil: The Final Chapter live up to the good start provided in the first movie? Or did it give us another nigh-unwatchable muddle of plot and misused character and go out with a whimper?
All right. The short answer: What a satisfactory ending that was. I am breathing a sigh of happy relief, and not just because I didn’t waste $20 at the theater. (Yes, I had to buy the $5 candy, what am I, inhuman?)
There will be a few small spoilers below, but not many because Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is new and shiny.
Overall, The Final Chapter just works in a way that the last two movies didn’t.
Things that were good:
Alice gets the emotional arc she’s been denied for the last couple of movies, and it’s an oddly satisfying one. Alice has always been a creature of the present. We meet her when she’s just lost her memory as a result of being gassed. Even when she regains her memory, it’s focused tightly on plot requirements; we see her regain the few moments related to her job, when everything went wrong. We’ve watched her wander the world, making and losing friends. But we’ve never really known the life she lost when the zombies all got loose. Here, we finally get an answer, and the revelation of Alice’s past feels both well-led up to and a satisfying surprise.
Overall, the characters are well-drawn — an assortment of new friends to protect and fight zombies with, plus Claire Redfield. If they could bring only one of Alice’s previous cohorts back, I’m glad it was Claire. I adore her, and she gets a great moment or two in this movie.
The bad guys actually turn out to have a motive for the whole mess. I might quibble with the sudden underpinnings of that motive — I kind of cocked my head in the middle of the theater and said, oh wait, what now? — but honestly, it’s probably the only motive left that would cover all of their nonsensical evil deeds.
Except Wesker. Nothing explains Wesker.
There’s tons of fighting — the movie careens from one fight scene to the next, and it mostly works here. It doesn’t feel like video game filler. There are zombie dragon-things to start us off with a bang — actually they don’t remind me of dragons so much as some other entity that I will have to ponder. Two bat-wings, a Predator-style head, and a long, talon-tipped prehensile tail? What the hell are those things based on, anyway? They were weird and ridiculous but in a delightful way. No axeman zombie with nails in his head, here, thank you. No bazooka-wielding zombies, either.
Someone finally put some thought into the Red Queen’s mercurial nature. Thank you.
And hey! Everyone wears appropriate clothing for the whole damned movie! This is a win, which you know if you’ve been following along with the rewatch.
There are the usual call-backs to previous movies, but instead of feeling like forced reminders of better days, these call-backs work well. One of them even saves the day.
There’s oddly less SF in this movie, even though some of the “everyone’s a clone” fall-out is finally shown here. Mostly, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter gives us an apocalyptic landscape with a lot of life and death battles going on. Not so much new SF weirdness to groove on. The SF that is here is familiar, both for the Umbrella corp and for SF movies in general. Nothing quite like the pristine white lab-scape on the Arcadia barge. Nothing like the lines of hanging clones, waiting to be woken. Nothing like a trash heap full of dead Alices. Mostly, it’s just broken down landscape and zombies. Some bits of interesting bio-tech, but… they’re pretty much handwavium so certain events can unfold.
There’s the now-usual intro where they admit they promised you one thing at the end of the previous movie, then say, yeah, we had a lot of stuff happen off-stage, and this is what the characters are up to now.
Stop concussing Alice, please. There are other ways to end scenes than by knocking your heroine unconscious. Lazy!
I loathe Wesker. You all have gathered this by now. Though the actor has grown on me somewhat. An itty-bitty amount.
But guess what? I loathe Dr. Isaacs more. Not the fault of the actor — the character just sets my teeth on edge, which I suppose is what you want from a villain. No urbane evil here. Just unpleasant psychosis.
This movie is full of Wesker and Dr. Isaacs. You’ve been warned.
There was a major plot thread that just didn’t make sense to me, but it was part of the ticking clock and so I accepted it. But I wasn’t happy about it. Everyone’s going to die unless Alice does this one thing all the way across the world?
Overall, though, I enjoyed this movie, and will gladly add it to my collection. They did what needed to be done. Anderson connected the emotional dots in the right fashion and wrapped up the important loose ends in a way that feels cohesive… so I walked away happy.
Thanks for hanging out with me while I embarked on this rewatch and discovered that two of the six movies are flat-out bad. Two more have major issues. But the first and the final movies are entertaining as hell. For a show about a superheroine? I’ll take it.