Saturday, January 28, 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Notable Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, William Levy, Iain Glen, Lee Joon-gi, Rola, Ever Gabo Anderson, Fraser James

For the record, I have never been a huge Resident Evil fan. The video games, yes, but the movie franchise has always left me feeling a bit perplexed and often underwhelmed (to put it mildly.) By the time that the fourth and fifth entries had rolled around, I was feeling almost irritated by Paul W.S. Anderson’s nonsensical writing and overzealous Matrix inspired bullshit action set pieces. Needless to say, going into Resident Evil: The Final Chapter I was feeling a bit down on the whole thing.

Perhaps this why I didn’t think it was all that terrible.

Don’t mistake this surprise enjoyment of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter as a statement that this film is good. It’s not. It’s just better than the last few entries into this series. It fixes some of the issues I had with the series previously, but it also adds some new problems into the mix that cannot be overlooked. However, in the end, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is at least a fun and energetic action film ride that’s worth the watch for fans…even if it’s still kind of an overarching mess.

Alice (Jovovich) is the lone survivor of the massive attack on Washington D.C. She’s been betrayed though by Wesker (Roberts) and left for dead, but a surprise re-appearance by The Red Queen (Anderson) leads her back to Raccoon City to find a cure that can save the world.

Alice, Claire, and the rest of the slaughter fodder.
While I have criticized Paul W.S. Anderson in the past for his reliance on just making entries of this series knock offs of better science fiction action movies (Aliens, Escape from New York, The Road Warrior, The Matrix, etc.), for The Final Chapter he uses a new influence that actually helps out the film: Mad Max: Fury Road. This is not meant to make a comparison to the two films artistically because Anderson could only ever dream of being a director as good as Miller, but the ideas he steals helps out this film immensely. Instead of spending copious amounts of time trying to justify characters, plots, and silly concepts, The Final Chapter just runs. It runs as fast as it can for as long as it can before collapsing in heap of rumble that litters its cinematic landscape. It uses the ruins of cities and deserts (pulling back to the things that made the third film Extinction one of the better sequels in this series) to give the film a dirty and chaotic look and then the film just runs. This energetic outlook doesn’t give the audience nearly enough time to really dig into the bullshit plot holes that are left gaping by its attempted “fixes” of silly writing from previous entries and it’s a blessing. Granted, it creates its own problems in the end which I’ll talk about next, but for what it’s worth, the look, chaotic tone, and energetic sprint of this film does work to keep the audience hooked and drags them along for the ride. It’s entertaining and that’s what the last couple of Resident Evil films forgot to bring to the table.

Of course, the other film series that The Final Chapter attempts to replicate is the Bourne franchise. Instead of the slick, slow motion plagued, Matrix style action that has arrived in the last couple of entries, this film decides to embrace the shaky cam and kinetic ultra-editing to try and parallel the more chaotic and energetic tone of the pacing and visuals. This approach, of course, is the bane of my existence as an action fan. There are some fun action sequences to be had, but this style of editing and in your face camera work makes each scene an uncompromising piece of unwatchable drivel. Anderson is still a decent enough director to occasionally make it work, but the overall frantic shit show that arrives in the editing is enough to make me pull out my hair. If he combined some of the action style of direction of the last couple with the pacing and visuals of this one, The Final Chapter could have easily been the best entry of the series, but as is, this approach undermines a lot of the enjoyment that this film could give its audience.

Unfortunately, it’s not one of my reviews of a Resident Evil movie if I didn’t bitch about Anderson’s writing and, for this portion, I’ll try to keep it limited so I don’t spend the next six or seven paragraphs just ripping this film. In a sort of hilarious manner and to keep up the speed and energy of its tone and pace, The Final Chapter tries to make plot progressions as convenient as possible. This includes a variety of silly moments, from convenient ammo and gasoline supplies, the existence of an airborne T-virus killer at all, and the arrival of some familiar faces courtesy of Anderson’s very convenient running theme that includes clones. However, in its attempts to change up the pace and tone it also abandons a ton of continuity with the rest of the franchise – including who invented the T-Virus and the Red Queen (and who the Red Queen is based on) and conveniently wiping away the ending of the fifth entry as referring to everything as a trap and still taking away her telekinetic powers. Not that I’m complaining too much about the last part as Anderson wrote his franchise into a corner that he never would have the budget for so it’s probably a blessing. Still, it’s not surprising that the film ignores entire continuity plots and/or character beats for the sake of a sequel as they’ve done it before a multitude of times, but for fans of the franchise it is irritating. Keep that in mind.

The only thing scarier than this horde of zombies is the editing.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the kind of film that fans of the series will enjoy. It has a great pace, some entertaining set pieces, and a wonderful running theme about religion and some fun subtext that really adds a great layer to an otherwise irritatingly written movie that includes a holy trinity of Alice. I kid you not.  If it wasn’t for the horrific editing and the focus on kinetic leap cuts that will see a single jump have a dozen different angles in rapid fire succession, this could have easily been either the second best or best film of the franchise. That doesn’t say a whole lot as the series has never been great or even all that good, but for fans it could have meant a lot. As is, it’s a solid send off for the series. It’s a film plagued by some very big issues, but it remains entertaining. Isn’t that all that we ask for from a Resident Evil film?

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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