Foreword: I’ve dabbled in the “Resident Evil” video games enough to know that these movies are VERY loose adaptations. There is a lot of fanservice, familiar monsters, recognizable names and even a handful of the characters, but the story, setting and protagonist are all inventions of writer-director Paul W.S Anderson. I’m aware of all of this, but I have no personal connection to the source material, so I’m fine with these films forging their own path. With that said, I don’t really have a personal connection to the movies either, as they are very much one-and-done experiences. I usually watch them when they are first released in theaters and have only ever revisited any of them in order to write my critiques. Yet even though evidence suggests that I am kinder towards this series than most critics- both amateur or professional, the “Resident Evil” films have been shocking financial successes. Bizarrely, despite the quality consistently dropping, the box office grosses only seemed to rise higher and higher. What makes this franchise so successful? It can’t just be the popularity of the games, as most video adaptations are either financial disappointments or outright flops, even when they’re better reviewed than “Resident Evil” or are based on more popular video games. Maybe throughout the course of this journey we shall be able to discover their appeal. I’ve decided to omit the animated films for now, as they do not belong in this continuity and probably will get their own page.
RESIDENT EVIL (2002)
I feel like “Resident Evil” should be sticky with my love, as the entire movie seems designed to satisfy my needs. The story surrounds an elite squad of soldiers attempting to escape from an underground compound that is filled with zombies and an assortment of monsters. Yet the real threat is the Red Queen, a homicidal AI defense system that is determined to protect humanity from this outbreak by containing and eliminating all potential carriers- such as our protagonists. It’s directed by Paul W.S Anderson, a stylish filmmaker whose films I enjoy- oh wait, let me rephrase this. It’s directed by Paul W.S Anderson, a stylish filmmaker whose films I enjoyed back in 2002- when he had only made “Mortal Kombat”, “Event Horizon” and “Soldier”, all of which would turn out to be his best works. Everything about “Resident Evil” sounded cool and everything about “Resident Evil” even looks cool. Nearly every scene is impressive from a visual standpoint, as this was produced before Anderson was seduced by the dark side of CGI. Back then, he had an eye for memorable art direction and set design. This was during a time when he had real sets built, used makeup effects for the zombies and seemed marginally interested in making f@cking movies, instead of these 90 minute “Lets Play” videos calling themselves movies…and yet part me DESPISES “Resident Evil”, because it’s far too bland for a film that contains all of these interesting elements. It’s not bad at all, but it’s very disappointing. So what went wrong?
“Resident Evil” feels like it’s in a hurry to get itself over with, moving at such a fast pace that there wasn’t time for any of its content to really register with me. The narrative never slows down or stops for a breather, which means it becomes exhausting long before the ending. I’ve said this many times before, but ‘slow paced does not mean boring, fast paced does not mean entertaining’ and even though zombies, machines and other monsters are seemingly spending every minute trying to kill our heroes, “Resident Evil” is kind of boring. It needs more suspense, more atmosphere, more characters whom we can actually tell apart from the rest to engage its audience. The acting isn’t bad, but the casting director selected performers who all look alike, so it becomes disorienting when one dies and we’re expected to care…when I wasn’t even sure who had just perished. But even if everyone was distinct, it wouldn’t matter as “Resident Evil” is in too much of a hurry to give anyone a personality. It doesn’t help that all of the dialogue is exposition. Milla Jovovich (Alice) was ideal casting in hindsight, as she’s sexy, strikes cool poses without trying too hard and does have the right kind of screen presence to be an action heroine. The movie doesn’t give her much to do as an actress, but she fits with the films visual style and arguably even enhances it. “Resident Evil” is a mediocre movie, whereas many of the sequels would be more entertaining, albeit less cinematic (the sequels feel like you’re watching someone else play video games). I consider the first entry of this franchise to be an almost transitional film for Anderson, but not necessarily for the better. I see traces of what made his style appealing to begin with in “Resident Evil”, but I also see the signs of the problems that would plague his later works….From a technical perspective, “Resident Evil” is nice to look at for awhile, but even though the sets, cinematography and effects are striking, imaginative and polished, the pacing never gives them room to breathe, so the mind can’t process it all. “Resident Evil” is a marginally entertaining, thoroughly disposable action thriller that wasted a lot of potential.
DISCARDED MATERIAL (the original review)
–Note from Author: It was fine for its day, but as of 2017, I found this review to be too lengthy, snarky and silly, with some sloppy sentence structuring.
I’ve followed Paul W.S Anderson’s career, both as a producer and director, and I’ve noticed something about him: People really hate this guy, sometimes just as much as Uwe Boll (“House of the Dead”). This has always confused me, as his movies seemed passable compared to the other dreck calling themselves ‘video game adaptations’. But somewhere along the line I realized why people hate him. It’s not that he’s a bad director, it’s that he has a misguided vision for his adaptations. His worst facet is that he takes all of his movies in the wrong directions. Example, my favorite movie of his is “Mortal Kombat”, but he turned what should have been an R-rated gorefest (like the games) into a moderately violent PG-13 movie. But then again, maybe that’s not his fault. The studios could’ve been a bitch in that regard. But sadly, that doesn’t stop my argument. “Alien Vs Predator” should’ve borrowed its tone from “Alien” or “Predator”, but instead felt like a (once again) PG-13 arcade game. Admittedly, that might be the point, but its catering to the younger audience alienated the true fans. All it did was make us appreciate “Alien 3” that much more, even though (as usual), it wasn’t a terrible film. “Death Race” was good fun, but most of its action was muddled under poor hand held camera work (seems to be the trend these days) and it missed the point of “Death Race 2000”. “Event Horizon” was one of those ‘almost good’ movies, ruined by its cheesy action oriented ending. I don’t even remember “Soldier”. But when it comes to poor directing choices, “Resident Evil” takes the cake. The games it was based on were very atmospheric horror games. So how does Anderson do it? Make it an MTV-style action film, the complete opposite of what the games were. That, people, is why Anderson leaves bad tastes in mouths. It’s not that he’s a bad director, it’s that he doesn’t give the fans what they want.
Now let’s briefly discuss what he does well here. The pacing is relentless, the set design is awesome, the action is cool, the cinematography is good enough and there are some really intense scenes. I loved when Alice (the hotness known as Milla Jovovich) wanders off on her own, is attacked, escapes, only to run into bigger threats. It is pretty startling. As expected, the problem with it lies within the script.Let’s see….what don’t I like? Oh, how about that like 70% of the dialogue is exposition (explaining shit), 25% of the dialogue are commands, and the rest is just weak (I did like the “You’re all going to die down here” line from the Red Queen though). Characters are introduced with no buildup, little characterization and no depth. In fact, I couldn’t even tell most of these fools apart. The hotness known as Milla Jovovich plays Alice, and we like her because she’s the hotness known as Milla Jovovich. Two characters include Matt (Mabius), a cop, and Spencer (Purefoy), Alice’s apparent husband. We only recognize them because they dress differently. Other than that, there are only two other characters that we remember. One is….Well, One (Salmon), the leader of the group. This dude is sheer badass and we root for him from the beginning….and he’s also one of the first to die. Go figure. The only other one we can differentiate is Rain, played by Michelle Rodriguez, who for her role here, I have trouble differentiating from any other role she’s played. When the film tries to wrangle some emotional resonance out of these characters, we are baffled that it’s even trying. Either you’ll have the soap operatic subplot with Matt, or Alice will suddenly shed tears for a dead character who she barely knows and the camera WILL LINGER ON IT. Then to make matters worse, the film teases us by sparing characters, and THEN KILLING THEM OFF FOR THE HELL OF IT. Well, that was annoying. In its intent to entertain us, “Resident Evil” ends up annoying us….or at least me.
The plot manages to be both simple and complex (which is kind of cool). An Umbrella (the evil corporation of the day) facility is locked down and the workers are killed off when a virus infects them all and the Red Queen, a super computer defense mechanism, retaliates by killing everyone. We get a stupid scene where a woman tries to fit through barely open elevator doors when it gets stuck, when that is obviously impossible. For her stupidity, the elevator turns on and she suffers an off-screen death. That is the prologue. Then Alice wakes up in a Mansion, but before she can figure out what’s going on, she runs into Matt, and then Special Forces guys bust in. Apparently Alice is a soldier. The mission: Break into the hive (the facility), shut down Red Queen and find out what happened. Along the way they run into the enigmatic Spencer, who has a history with Alice. They succeed in their mission, although many are killed in the process. But they soon learn that Red Queen was actually containing hordes of zombies, zombie dogs and much more. They must fight for survival. The ideas here tend to be better than the actual movie.
I guess the acting is pretty good. The hotness known as Milla Jovovich (Alice) is…hot, and has presence as the heroine, even though I didn’t buy her as a martial artist. She’s a pretty good actress. Michelle Rodriguez (Rain) is actually a tough gal with limited (but competent) acting skills. I didn’t like her here though as she over-sells her ‘toughness’. Eric Mabius (Matt) does fine. James Purefoy (Spencer) is interesting. Too bad he’s never properly developed. Colin Salmon (One) was my favorite. Too bad he doesn’t last long. “Resident Evil” is an entertaining film, but it is far from being a good one. As I said, besides having bland characters, the actors are often hard to distinguish. The dialogue sucks, and some of the characterizations didn’t work. For example, there is a villain among them, who set off the virus in the opening scene. Throughout the movie, he/she is very helpful. But when their memories come back, they suddenly become evil. But most of all, “Resident Evil” should’ve been a HORROR film, not an MTV action film with Sci-Fi elements. But I can’t deny that the film is moderately entertaining. At the absolute least, it’s forgettable fun.
Violence: Rated R. Some violent moments. Not that gory though.
Nudity: Jovovich gets naked at times, but we never see anything explicit. Actually, if you freeze frame, you might.
Overall: “Resident Evil” tries its best to entertain, and it did for some, and kind of does for me. But it’s a shameful mess at the same time. Like most of Anderson’s films, it’s mediocre. Odd that it’s also probably his most famous, while being one of his weaker films. It would be followed up “Resident Evil: Apocalypse“, which actually does try to be more of a horror film, but somehow managing to suck for it, as well as “Resident Evil: Extinction“, which I think I might prefer more than this.
RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (2004)
At first glance, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” seems like it was made more out of contractual obligation than creative inspiration, as all the warning signs are there. Paul W.S Anderson might’ve wrote and produced the sequel, but he stepped down as director so he could pursue the more high profile “Alien Vs Predator” and he replaced himself with…well, the guy who’s directing “Resident Evil: Apocalypse”. I remember that when I first saw this, I had assumed they had slashed the budget and rushed through the production, as it looked cheaper, suffered from even sloppier storytelling, worse acting and lacked the high energy of the first “Resident Evil”- all signs that no one wanted to make this. Now I look at “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” and realize that I was wrong, as they actually increased the budget, tried to make a more faithful adaptation of the video game, escalated the stakes and even attempted to craft a real survival horror flick, without losing its action-oriented base. This is the odd duckling of the “Resident Evil” film series, as it’s stylistically different from the others and I respect ‘guy who’s directing “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” (less commonly known as Alexander Witt) for attempting to do his own thing…Unfortunately, he’s not a very good director and his cinematographer and editor are even worse, so “Apocalypse” ended up amounting to nothing more than a failed experiment. I do find myself wondering if the fan backlash against this is the reason why the subsequent sequels played it safe, especially once Anderson resumed control as the director. I don’t know, but either way, this sucked.
While I appreciate Witt’s attempts to craft moody atmosphere and suspense, the pacing is just wrong, with the build up either being prematurely cut off or drawn out for too long. It doesn’t help that the tone is all over the place thanks to some uncontrolled performances and misguided attempts at comedy. Mike Epps (L.J) is a bizarrely out-of-place stereotype, whose antics are supposed to be funny, but instead they’re obnoxious and distracting. But to be fair, a lot of the performances can be described as campy, particularly Sienna Guillory as Jill. Apparently she’s mimicking the body language and mannerisms of her video game counterpart, but there is a reason why you’re not supposed to completely emulate another medium when it comes to things like body language and mannerisms: They look f@cking stupid when performed in reality. She oversold her ‘tough chick’ persona and unfortunately, she’s contagious as Milla Jovovich starts hamming it up in a similarly bad way whenever they share the screen together. Maybe Guillory had the right idea and over-acting was the best way to sell us on the crummy dialogue, but the director should’ve encouraged everyone to have more fun with the material, or at least toned Guillory down so there would be a balance amongst the performances. I had difficulty taking so many scenes seriously because of her, which killed all of the potential for tension. Admittedly, the tone would’ve likely been problematic anyway, as the more absurd action set pieces don’t mesh with the dreary visual style. The costumes are lifted straight from the video games, but once again, they look silly when surrounded by these bleak aesthetics. They’d fit more comfortably in a more colorful environment, something Anderson himself would correct in a few of the later sequels. The action sucks because the camerawork is too shaky, the editing too disorienting and the lighting too dark. Perhaps the sets didn’t look very good and they couldn’t afford to fix them, but the cinematographer only seemed to draw attention to how bad they looked. Everything just seems…fake, staged in such a way to make you feel like you’re watching actors on a set, not characters existing in their world. The fog, for example, should be creepy, but I always felt like I could almost see the fog machine nearby. I never was able to shake off the feeling that the end of the set was about to drift into frame, even though it never did. Yet other scenes are so murkily lit that you can barely see anything at all, so my eyes were constantly battling with the screen. There is some good stuff, like how I can actually tell all of the characters apart from each-other…I shouldn’t have to praise that, but that’s something “Apocalypse” has over its predecessor…Nemesis has a pretty cool design and I like that they used practical effects to bring him to life, especially as the bodysuit and prosthetics were nicely done. “Apocalypse” tries, but the filmmakers were too incompetent to bring their ambitions to life. Instead, they created a self destructive film, where the editing, cinematography, writing, acting and direction are at war with each-other. Even the sound design sucks, as those zombie growls are so laughably cheesy. “Apocalypse” was bad enough to kill the franchise, but it didn’t…It ended up making MORE money than the first one and in the United States, is currently the 2nd highest grossing “Resident Evil” flick behind “Afterlife“. To Paul W.S Anderson’s credit, he didn’t continue the decrease in quality, even though he probably could’ve gotten away with reduced budgets and rushed deadlines. Instead, most of the following sequels would boast better production values and 2-4 years would separate each release. For a long time, “Apocalypse” seemed like it would be the worst entry in the franchise…
DISCARDED MATERIAL (the original review)
-Note from Author: While I like my original review for “Apocalypse” more than my original review for the first movie, it’s still too smug and sloppy for my current tastes. I’m happier with the above re-write.
I remember when “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” came out and fans were shocked at how bad it was. But more shockingly than that, I was surprised at how bad it was, and I didn’t even like the first film. The film opens with a summation of “Resident Evil”. Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the narrator, and she awakens in a zombie-overrun raccoon city. But for now, the Government realizes they can do nothing about containing the virus. So everyone is locked in, including Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), LJ (Mike Epps) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), among a few other important characters. Alice eventually meets with the group. Their salvation becomes hopeful when they are contacted by Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris), who states he can smuggle them out of town if they save his daughter, Angie (Sophie Vavasseur). So they have to find his daughter to survive, but the Government doesn’t want that and they send out a new creature known as Nemesis to stop them.
I will give “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” some credit for feeling more like a survival horror flick, making it a more faithful adaptation to the source material, if only in tone. The pacing is choppy, but at least it’s not exhausting. Some of the action is slick, and the characters, while caricatures, can be differentiated from each-other. But most of all, I loved what they did with Nemesis. The design is truly frightening and its action sequences are the highlights of the film. Whenever he was on screen, things become edgier, more suspenseful, and more exciting. To make matters even cooler, he isn’t a CGI effect. Yay! It’s also nice that unlike the original, the dialogue isn’t comprised of only exposition. We’re not talking “Pulp Fiction” here in terms of quality, but it gives the characters a little bit of personality.
Unfortunately, Alexander Witt isn’t a good director. “Resident Evil” wasn’t a good movie, mainly because it tried too hard to entertain us. It moved as such a fast pace with so much action, that it ran out of steam pretty quickly, and made us wish that it would slow down and flesh out its characters a bit more. This sequel stages everything so awkwardly, draining the set pieces of their excitement and suspense. The cinematographer might be to blame, as the sets often looked cheap, while the lighting was too murky. The city is boring to look at and the attempts at style are out-of-place with the intended mood.Whereas the first tried too hard to be fun, this one tries too hard to be cool. Actors exaggerate their mannerisms, which are supposed to make them seem badass, but I just rolled my eyes at all silly they looked. Just look at Jill Valentine, the way she dresses and acts. Her delivery is so over-the-top to the point of being campy. Other scenes will have characters doing something ’cool’ in slow motion (by the way, the slo-mo here sucks), but it just looks tacky. The worst scene is when Jill and Alice sort of have a stare-off, as if trying to out-cool each other. We then get some lame line like: “I’m good, but not that good.”. Seriously? Someone would say that? It’s an embarrassing scene, as it feels like the actresses are trying to upstage each-other, but it becomes a contest of who is the worst.
Some of the directing choices were stupid, such as the zombie growls (cheesy), or the blurry closeups (just looks bad), and the crappy zoom-ins (distracting). The costumes, while lifted from the game, just don’t seem right. They feel like bad Italian movie costumes of what they think Americans would wear in this situation. Other things simply don’t make sense. Who would walk around in a graveyard when DEAD PEOPLE ARE COMING TO LIFE. Even Alice says something about that if there were zombies nearby, they would’ve seen them. Well, bitch, you were wrong, and walking around in the graveyard was just stupid. Finally, why was the token black guy here again? He wasn’t funny, but he certainly was unbelievably annoying. I’m sorry, but if I saw two topless undead hookers, I’m not going to take time to oggle them. Once again, I’m reminded of a bad Italian zombie film. Other nonsensical things include Alice driving a motorcycle through a Church’s stained-glass window and knowing exactly where to land, and how a bunch of zombie children can sneak up on someone when the zombies are always growling in the movie. Come on, writer, can you at least try?
The acting is on and off. Milla Jovovich (Alice) has a few off moments, and I really don’t like her scream, but she handles herself pretty well. She comes across as badass and cool without necessarily acting badass or cool….Well, except that one scene. I can’t say the same thing about Sienna Guillory(Jill). She’s a decent actress, with a few good moments, but her attempts to seem ‘tough’ ends up coming across as kind of goofy. Speaking of goofy, Mike Epps (L.J) is an offensive stereotype who will get on your nerves. Oded Fehr (Carlos) is pretty cool, and I wish he was in the movie more. I like Thomas Kretschmann (Cain) in films like “King Kong” or “Wanted”, but his one-dimensional villain role was pretty boring. Jared Harris (Dr. Ashford) is impressive in his limited screentime. Keep an eye out for Zack Ward (Nicholai), who has become a Uwe Boll regular (“Bloodrayne II: Deliverance”). “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” is pretty crappy, a step down from its already weak predecessor and nearly a franchise killer, but I’ve seen worse.
Violence: Not much…oddly.
Nudity: Zombie hooker breasts.
Overall: If you liked the first one, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” is worth watching, I guess…..It’s still not as good, if the first was even good.
RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (2007)
“Resident Evil: Extinction” is my favorite entry in the “Resident Evil” franchise, probably because it’s the only one not in a hurry to get itself over with. The pacing is a lot steadier, allowing the atmosphere to seep into the viewing experience, drawing attention to the impressive makeup effects, the cool looking costumes and the “Mad Max”-esque production design. You can practically feel the heat, dust and smell the decay, as they are part of the world building on display here. The director does a solid job at building up suspense, making the (surprisingly inspired) action set pieces just as intense as they are fun. The editing and cinematography are a cut above the rest, while CGI is used sparingly, for maximum impact. The cast does a great job at establishing their personalities and relationship dynamics, despite limited time to do so. I was immediately drawn into their repertoire and “Extinction” was the first time I had made a positive connection to the characters, primarily because it’s the only one that relies on the actors’ talents to carry their scenes. Iain Glen (Dr. Isaacs) is a formidable foe, but is also interesting because you’re not entirely sure what route his character will take and I found myself even enjoying Mike Epps (L.J). He’s less of an offensive, dated stereotype and more of an actual human being, with his comedic relief moments feeling a lot more natural. Milla Jovovich (Alice) gets to do a little bit more as an actress, but above everything, she looks really f@cking cool in every single shot (I love her new attire). “Extinction” had a very strong first half and…and then “Extinction” kind of f@cks up.
The script does tend to traverse across idiotic territory, such as how the doctor plans on finding the cure by…cloning Alice and putting her through death traps? Huh? How is that supposed to make sense? Maybe he went to the same medical school as those doctors from “The Maze Runner“. Alice gaining psychic powers seems a bit too farfetched as well, although at least they’re used for some great action scenes. There is also that tired ole cliché where someone gets bitten by a zombie, but tries to keep it a secret even though he or she has to know what the outcome of that will be. But the worst part of “Extinction” is that as soon as the cast is introduced, most of them are promptly killed off. They give us sturdy characterizations, but didn’t do anything with them. ‘Wasted Potential’ could be the tagline of this franchise, but whereas most of the entries squandered wild ideas, “Extinction” nearly stumbled upon being a legitimately good zombie flick. It’s difficult to write interesting characters and I suspect they were tossed aside because Paul W.S Anderson felt that the only characters who should matter are the ones who came from the video games. Or maybe the cast was just allowed to improvise, breathing life into roles which were intended to be generic victim fodder. “Extinction” could’ve been exceptional as you see some greatness within the visuals and scenarios, but it eventually descends into a shallow, silly actioner- entertaining for sure, but not particularly memorable. Unfortunately, Paul W.S Anderson must not have liked this one, as he chose to direct the remainder of the movies himself, embraced CGI as his lord and savior and dropped nearly every story-thread from “Extinction”- the clones, psychic powers and desert landscape are all lost at the beginning of the next sequel. Nevertheless, “Extinction” was pretty enjoyable, so I can’t be all that angry even if it could’ve been better.
DISCARDED MATERIAL (the original review)
–Note from Author: I found my original writing to be a somewhat boring read and even my new version was difficult to write, as it’s neither good or bad.
“Resident Evil: Extinction” catches us off guard by recreating the opening scene from the first movie, where Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up and tries to escape the compound, only to suddenly be slain. We learn that she is a clone, and Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) of the Umbrella Corporation is using her blood in an attempt to find a cure. The world has been overtaken by zombies, lakes have dried up and everything became a big desert…Okay, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but whatever. The real Alice hunts for survivors and kicks zombie asses, when she comes across a diary that indicates Alaska was spared from the infection. She comes across a caravan of survivors, led by Claire (Ali Carter). Carlos (Oded Fehr) and LJ (Mike Epps), survivors of the second film, are there as well. Alice decides to help them and convinces them to go to Alaska, as supplies are running short. But Dr. Isaacs has finally tracked her down and wants her blood, and will stop at nothing to get it.
Whereas “Resident Evil” moved at such a fast pace that the narrative was unable to catch its breath, “Resident Evil: Extinction” slows down a bit so that we can absorb its “Mad Max”-esque atmosphere. You can practically feel the heat and smell the decay (great zombie makeup). It also manages to be the scariest in the series, although that’s not saying a lot. There are a few cool horror moments, such as when the zombified birds attack the caravan and the action was slick thanks to the excellent camerawork and editing. Unfortunately, the must frustrating thing about “Resident Evil: Extinction” is that it could’ve been so much more. There are some plot holes (the helicopter bit provides some), some mistakes (how can so many zombies fit in that small container?) and some idiotic clichés (someone gets bit but tries too hide it). Storywise, I think “Resident Evil: Extinction” is pretty dumb…But to be fair, a lot of the stupidity found in the story can be traced back to “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” (like the whole Alice having powers scenario). But I felt the movie would’ve made more of an impact if it fleshed out its characters. The sad thing is that the cast do a great job at establishing their characterizations, but before we can make a connection to them, an action scene disrupts everything and they die…The acting is probably the best to be found in this franchise. Milla Jovovich (Alice) is as hot and badass as ever, but gets to stretch a little bit. Oded Fehr (Carlos) gets the funniest parts. Ali Larter (Claire) does what she has to do well enough. Iain Glen (Dr. Isaacs) is cool as the villain while Mike Epps(LJ) is toned down (thank God) this time around. I liked “Resident Evil: Extinction”. It had the best horror, atmosphere, action and characters in the whole series. Yes, here are moments of idiocy that sneak in there, but to me, the biggest sin was it’s failure to explore its characters. They deserved better, but the cast definitely elevated the material.
Violence: It’s pretty harsh at times…I’d say its gorier than its predecessor, but probably not as gruesome as the first.
Nudity: A little bit.
Overall: “Resident Evil: Extinction” is the only one of the series that I truly enjoyed, but I wouldn’t call it good…Worth watching if you liked the original and/or zombie films in general.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010)
“Resident Evil: Afterlife” is the shallowest and most pointless entry within this franchise, for nothing of consequence really occurs throughout its runningtime. Its reason for existing seems to be to hastily remove the cliffhangers found in “Extinction” and to introduce Wesker (Shawn Roberts) as the main antagonist. The plot is so minimal that it can literally be summed up as “Alice (Milla Jovovich) continues to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, assisting other survivors and butting heads with the nefarious Umbrella Corporation”. Even the remainder of the sequels added other dynamics to the formula, whether it be a homicidal computer system, an entire city fighting for survival, the development of psychic powers, or Nemesis. “Afterlife” definitely lacks the imagination of its predecessors, as I can’t think of a single cool idea, although this also means less frustration because if it did stumble across an interesting possibility, it probably would’ve been wasted. The characters are mostly bland and disposable, their only function being to provide the audience with some brutal death scenes. The only exceptions are Alice, who continues to be a static character and Claire (Ali Larter), the dullest of the re-occurring characters. She has lost her memory though, because…reasons? She’s revealed to have a brother, Chris (Wentworth Miller), whose existence I keep forgetting about. The acting is mediocre for the most part, although Shawn Roberts is hilariously terrible as Wesker. You might enjoy his over-the-top, clumsy performance and in the long run…I kind of did too…But it’s impossible to take him seriously. There are some eye brow raising moments as well, such as how buildings can be seen smoldering in the cityscape, despite the fall of humanity having occurred years ago. “Afterlife” is pretty dumb that way.
This might almost seem like a negative review, but do you know what? I kind of like “Afterlife”, even if it’s the most braindead and forgettable of the “Resident Evil” movies. The film puts all of its energy into designing really cool monstrosities, who participate in very stylish, smoothly choreographed, beautifully shot and edited action scenes. It helps that this was produced during an era where hyperactive editing and shaky camerawork were dominating the genre, so “Afterlife” was a pleasant alternative. Paul W.S Anderson had yet to be seduced to the dark side of CGI, although you can tell that the temptation was already there, so he puts more effort in building tension and delivering some effective horror set pieces. The pacing is mostly balanced, neither in too much of a hurry nor leisurely taking its time, so I was never impatient or exhausted. The 3-D was where “Afterlife” truly comes..er, to life and I swear I did not make this pun intentionally…I believe “Afterlife” boasted one of the best uses of this gimmick, as it’s more interactive, with projectiles, gore and debris constantly flying in the direction of the audience. I had a blast with this when I saw it in theaters and much of the overall experience is lost in 2-D. Unfortunately, Anderson struggles with the established tone, as the first two acts are somewhat grounded and gritty. “Somewhat” being the key word here…but the finale is silly and over-stylized, with seemingly everyone having superhuman abilities. “Afterlife” might be devoid of substance, but I was still enjoying myself up until that point, where even the 3-D started to become too cheesy. The third act is where it starts to feel like you’re watching someone else play a video game, not experiencing a movie. I rated this a 2.5/4 back in 2010, because I did enjoy myself, even if it doesn’t need to exist. If “Afterlife” was removed from the continuity in its entirety, very little would change for the overarching ‘story’. But I still had fun and this is my second favorite “Resident Evil” flick, behind “Extinction“.
DISCARDED MATERIAL (the original review)
-Note from Author: This critique was OK, but my opinion on the movie changed enough to justify a new review.
It has been no secret that I am not a fan of these “Resident Evil” movies. By all accounts, I should be. I mean, they have action, gore, zombies and hot chicks who know kung fu. That should be the greatest thing ever, but for me, it hasn’t been. The first “Resident Evil” was a film in the most basic sense: When people talk, it’s exposition and characters exist to be nothing more than plot devices. It tried so hard to be simple and entertaining that for me, it ran out of steam quickly. “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” took the series in the right direction but it was also the worst in the series. Rarely do you see a theatrical film with that kind of budget reek of incompetence. The series reached its highest point with “Resident Evil: Extinction”, only because it had a good director. But even then, it was so frustrating because I felt a great movie could’ve bloomed from it. But once again, it just wanted to be dumb entertainment, although to its credit, it worked as such. “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is the newest in the series and the first horror film of the decade to truly embrace 3D.
The T-Virus broke out and the world was thrown into the apocalypse, leaving a handful of survivors. Alice (Milla Jovovich), our superpowered heroine and her newly acquired clones bust into an Umbrella facility in Japan to kill Wesker (Shawn Roberts), because he’s evil. This goes badly and Wesker escapes and the clones are all killed, making that a pointless plot device. Nevertheless, Wesker injects the real Alice with something, causing her to lose her rigged powers. I guess that’s okay, because Alice was becoming a bit too powerful by this point, although that also makes the previous films unnecessary. Sometime later, she tries to find the survivors of the previous film, but only finds Claire (Ali Larter), whose memory has been wiped. They discover a group of survivors in LA and Alice devises a way to rescue them. Fight scenes ensue.
3D and horror should have a passionate relationship, but I’ve yet to see a movie fully realize it. For once, the 3D here was awesome. Boasting the same technology from “Avatar”, Anderson milks every shot for what it’s worth. It both immerses the audience in the experience while throwing a lot of the gimmicky effects right at us. There is plenty of grisly violence and slick action. The visual effects are great and there are some new creatures that were wonderfully designed (that giant). What I love about it is that you see everything here. Horror films these days have a knack of either using hyperactive editing or shaky camerawork in crappy attempts at evoking tension (all they evoke from me is a headache). “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is full of cool imagery that is never hidden from us, and I appreciated that. Unfortunately, Anderson shows his knack for betraying his own established tone.
Throughout the film, there are different kinds of styles present. The first act, for example, is mostly action packed. But it also offered a decent dose of intensity and edginess. After that, it goes into more of a horror mode. The horror is diverse, sometimes being claustrophobic and sometimes being epic. Anderson manages to keep us on the edge of our seats with a few good jump scares and keeps the tension high. He doesn’t really screw up until the ending. Wow, I’ve never seen a final act implode so blatantly. The horror edge is gone and what follows is one silly situation after another, with hard music and “Matrix” wannabe action sequences. For some reason, various characters suddenly become too strong and the films villain (whom they’ve been hyping up like crazy) is defeated way too easily and stupidly. Apparently he can dodge bullets but can’t dodge a guy running into him. Wesker is a lame villain, which contrasts to the video game character, whom I hear is very popular among fans. He’s just a one dimensional cartoon, in contrast to the better realized villains of the previous films (to be fair, they were all played by better actors). It also doesn’t help that the film has run out of steam by this point. If it wants to keep going, it better have something worth it. But the final battle was bland. ‘Claire Vs the Giant’ was far more exciting.
The acting is a weak point as well. The characters aren’t worth much and sometimes they redeem their roles. Milla Jovovich (Alice) turns in the same performance as she did in the past few films, but she does it well. Shawn Roberts (Wesker) does bad…I’m sorry, I found the guy to be unintentionally hilarious. You know, I’ve been hard on females trying too hard to act tough in this franchise, but guys can do it too. Roberts is way too intense in the role, trying to evoke menace and ‘cool’ while just being amusing. He also gets the films most gratuitous 3D effect (throwing the shades). Ali Larter (Claire) also falls into the ‘trying to act tough’ trap, but she does okay in the long run. The rest of the cast is pretty standard, but special mention needs to go to Boris Kodjoe (Luther) for being really cool while Wentworth Miller (Chris) looks like Channing Tatum, but with less talent. Was it just me or was his character never really explained either? Actually, the problem with the acting in general is that everyone tries too hard to act tough or cool (a major problem with the 2nd film), while most can’t pull it off.
Don’t get me wrong, “Resident Evil: Afterlife” is pretty stupid. There are plot holes, unanswered questions (where are most of the clones? Why are fires still burning in the background?), absurd plot devices, and silly action sequences. But for once, Anderson convinced me to sit back and enjoy it all. I loved the 3D aspect and thought that the action sequences were really cool while the zombie attacks were hardcore. Ugh, too bad the ending sucked. I did find myself wondering, however, what happened to the Lickers? I kind of miss those guys…
Violence: Rated R. Oddly, the violence on people is low. But the violence on monsters is high.
Overall: If you liked the other films, check it out for sure, especially if you can in 3D. I suspect though that the effect will be lost on 2D. With the 3D, I enjoyed it on a 3/4 star level. But it probably is a 2/4 star movie. So my rating will be in the middle.
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012)
I reviewed “Resident Evil: Retribution” when it was released in 2012 and am satisfied with my writing, so you can read that HERE. But to summarize my opinions, “Retribution” is stylistically and tonally similar to “Afterlife“, but has the distinction of being the most expensive of the “Resident Evil” films, costing approximately $65,000,000 to produce. The problem for me is that the aesthetics look too polished and too digital, so much that it might as well be a video game. Despite introducing more of the iconic video game characters (Leon, Ada Wong), the characterizations are flat, their costuming is often silly and the cast is given very little to do…But “Retribution” moves quickly and offers plenty of over-the-top, smoothly choreographed action scenes and should’ve been just as entertaining as “Afterlife“. For many, I suppose it even was, yet I found this to be an irritating experience because Paul W.S Anderson stumbled across his coolest idea yet- ‘good’ and ‘evil’ clones of deceased characters from the past- and did even less with it than the little he did with all of his past cool ideas. It was neat seeing Michelle Rodriguez, Oded Fehr and Colin Salmon reprise their roles, but I kind of wanted them to do a little more…Maybe say a few more lines, show a few more emotions, HAVE A PURPOSE WITHIN THIS F@CKING STORY. “Afterlife” was easy entertainment because of its simplicity, but “Retribution” has this convoluted plot that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m still not sure why Umbrella is cloning Alice and putting the clones through these scenarios where they experience the beginnings of the T-virus apocalypse. I’m still not sure why Anderson brought back all of these deceased characters, if they are only going to be human props, standing around in the background. “Retribution” isn’t devoid of entertainment value, but whatever enjoyment I can get out of it is upstaged by the frustration I feel whenever I think about the movie…which admittedly is not very often.
RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (2017)
Humanity has been nearly wiped out thanks to the scourge of the T-virus, but the bad-ass, T-virus enhanced Alice (Milla Jovovich) learns that an anti-virus exists and can possibly cleanse the Earth. This will bring her with one final battle with the nefarious Umbrella Corporation, particularly her old nemesis Wesker (Shawn Roberts), who is revealed to be working for a past foe (From “Resident Evil 3: Extinction“): Doctor Isaacs (Ian Glen). WHAT THE F@CK HAPPENED HERE?! The “Resident Evil” movie franchise has always been pretty disposable, but at least the vast majority of them have been consistently mildly entertaining. The filmmakers knew how absurd their content was, so just decided to play it up to almost campy levels, making the movies pretty difficult to criticize. You either enjoy their brand of fun, or you don’t. But “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” comes along and decides to end the series on its worst note, maintaining all of the stupidity of its predecessors, but offering no entertainment value in exchange. Actually, scratch that. This entry is even MORE idiotic than the previous films, as it blatantly betrays their established continuity, while still relying a lot on call-backs, drawing more attention to these discrepancies. Remember how “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” revealed who created the T-virus, and how his daughter influenced the Red Queen program that gave our heroes so much trouble in the original film? The opening of “The Final Chapter” changes the entire back-story, although this wasn’t the retcon that annoyed me the most. Doctor Isaacs (Iain Glen) was the antagonist of “Resident Evil 3“, but we discover that he was a clone and the original Isaacs informs us that clones don’t realize that they’re clones. Fine, but why was he taking orders from Wesker back then, when this movie flips their order of authority around? Ugh. I’m used to the “Resident Evil” movies ending on cliffhangers that offer a lot of new possibilities for the upcoming sequel, only for the filmmakers to change their minds and unceremoniously drop those storythreads before they can even begin. So I wasn’t too annoyed when it’s revealed that the shaky alliance which closed “Resident Evil: Retribution” was tossed aside before the events of “The Final Chapter“. Apparently Wesker made Alice ‘think’ she got her powers back, which seems like a stupid explanation as to why she’s not wielding any of those abilities, but whatever. I still think it would’ve been cool if she somehow got them back for the finale, as it would provide more closure to the story, but whatever again. Strangely, Alice seems a lot weaker in this movie, as she’s constantly being put on the defensive against everyone she encounters. Even a random mook ends up beating her up in a hand-to-hand fight, yet at least she still can fight. What the f@ck happened to Wesker? He’s ‘removed’ from the story in such a mundane, anti-climactic way and he never displays any of the super human abilities that made him so dangerous in the previous flicks, nor does he ever transform. WHAT THE F@CK HAPPENED!? He moved faster than the eye could even see in the last one and yet he’s tossed aside for Dr. Isaacs, who doesn’t seem anywhere near as impressive in his action scenes! At one point, it’s implied Dr. Isaacs transformed into the beast from “Resident Evil 3” to slay a bunch of unruly henchmen (notice their ears?). But he never transforms on-screen, even when his life depends on it. Does everyone have the T-virus now and this is why nobody seems as strong as they used to be? Because now everybody is at the same level? I don’t know, it’s unclear, just like everything else in “The Final Chapter“.
The movie can’t even maintain its own logic, as the Red Queen insists that Alice must release the anti-virus within a certain time period, or humanity will be completely wiped out. Yet the ending reveals that the anti-virus will take years to spread throughout the entire planet, so…Huh? I think the Red Queen was implying that Umbrella would kill the remainder of humans, but if so, they worded the purpose of her mission very poorly and I might just be trying to fill in these giant holes. Alice has become such a static character that she’s more of a prop than a person, with Milla Jovovich turning in an acceptable-but-phoned in performance. Fine, these movies have never cared for its characters anyway. But why did her supporting cast all have to be so bland and interchangeable? Why couldn’t they have just compiled the prominent heroes/survivors of the series, such as Jill, Leon, Ada Wong, Chris and…who else is alive at this point? I don’t remember, but at least their presence would’ve given some weight to the deaths, while also providing fanservice for those who play the games. If the likes of Jill and Chris were in peril, I might’ve even been interested in what was going on, because I wouldn’t be sure who the victim fodder was. At the absolute least, I would remember their names! I don’t think a few of these so called ‘characters’ even had names! Strangely, “The Final Chapter” does accidentally create a marginally intriguing character. He is one of those antagonistic naysayers, but as annoying as he is, he starts to redeem himself when he displays some awesome sword slinging skills. He is then unceremoniously ‘removed’ from the conflict, even though less important characters are still around and he’s supposed to be a suspected traitor. Why even bother with the red herring, if you’re just going to ki- ah, f@ck it. “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” sucks too much in too many areas for me to linger on this one point. Claire (Ali Larter) is back, presumably because someone behind-the-scenes is fond of her, but she’s just…kind of there…
You might fire back that no on watches “Resident Evil” for this foreign entity known as…logic…and you’re right. All of these movies have been dumb, but their redemption has always been the stylish action set pieces and grotesque monster designs. I will admit that the creatures here looked pretty cool and the CGI used to bring them to life seemed solid, but “The Final Chapter” is so badly shot and edited that even the action sucked. There are like…two or three really stunning shots, because the trailer has to sell us on something, but the remainder of the cinematography was bad. The lighting is always so dark, possibly because they wanted a grittier, dirtier movie, but what’s the point when you can’t f@cking see anything? Sometimes the beams of flashlights or the flashing lights will draw your attention from the darkness, but then you’re just being blinded by these lights, making it EVEN MORE DIFFICULT TO SEE! The camera is almost always too close to the action, which isn’t even impressive from a choreography or concept standpoint, because Paul W.S Anderson is ripping off his own ideas. Remember that shot from “Afterlife“, when Clair runs up the wall to flip behind the giant, hammer wielding monster? “The Final Chapter” re-uses that stunt, except without the slow motion and good lighting. Maybe my eyes could’ve adjusted to the darkness, but the editing is so spastic and tight that they never seem to linger on a shot for more than two seconds. Characters will die and you will have difficulty telling who just perished because it goes by so fast and you can only figure out it later, when you realize that person is missing. The production values don’t really look cheap, but they seemed less eye catching than “Afterlife” and “Retribution“. This is because they slashed the budget for some reason, even though generally the final chapters’ tend to be more extravagant and this franchise has been inexplicably financially successful. Maybe the cast and crew were demoralized by the behind-the-scenes accidents, which even included a (real life) death. Who knows, but “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is a shitty movie that even sucks as an entry in a franchise that many consider to be shit. It’s even worse than “Underworld: Blood Wars“! Did I like anything? Iain Glen turns in a great performance and gets a lot of screen-time, so he did elevate the entire project on his own. While I didn’t like how Wesker has suddenly become a glorified henchman, Glen is obviously the better actor, so I can see why his character got the focus. I guess Anderson deserves some props for continuously switching up the visual styles for all of these films, even if “The Final Chapter” is pretty ugly to look at. Unlike the Underworld franchise, the “Resident Evil” series never really ran out of energy or imagination, but its problem was that it could never properly harness them- wasting a lot of compelling ideas in the process. “The Final Chapter” is the heart attack that results from a reckless use of that energy. It proved fatal for my interest in this franchise, which I hope stays dead.
The first three “Resident Evil” flicks- “Resident Evil“, “Apocalypse” and “Extinction“- resemble real movies that happen to be based on video games, whereas the last three “Resident Evil” flicks- “Afterlife“, “Retribution” and “The Final Chapter” resemble live-action video games. That sounds kind of derogatory and to an extent it really is, but it can be argued that 1-3 are mediocre examples of cinema, while 4-6 are among the better examples of ‘live action video games’. It is mostly a matter of tastes, so there are those who will believe that the sequels eventually started to improve until the fun outweighed the badness and there are those who believe they gradually deteriorated into the lowest common denominator. I have mixed feelings either way, especially because I hated “The Final Chapter” and found there to be no entertainment value within it…which didn’t stop it from becoming the highest grossing film of the entire franchise…This series was never really that good to begin with though, so it makes sense that the sequels would embrace another braindead formula in an attempt to distract you from the lack of quality. So why are the “Resident Evil” films so successful? They might be middling-to-bad, but I think Paul W.S Anderson is tapping into our desire for basic entertainment. They function in an identical way to the “Transformers” or “Fast and the Furious” franchises, giving us sex appeal, attitude, thrills and absurd spectacle, which is enough to lure us into the theaters. The “Resident Evil” movies have become the worlds’ guilty pleasure and it helps that they don’t cost too much to make either. I do believe that we are about to pay the price though, as “The Final Chapter” being a hit- despite the production controversies and slashed budget- tells the industry that they don’t need to try harder to get you to purchase their product. Despite the title, I highly doubt this is the last we’ve seen of the franchise, although it’s possible it signaled the end of the continuity. But don’t be surprised if it’s rushed through production, armed with a minimal budget and sucky in general, because $312,000,000 worth of people just proved they are willing to consume garbage if the trailer looks cool enough. I also believe that the franchise may have ruined the careers of those most closely associated with it, despite all of this money being made, as neither Anderson or Jovovich have produced a real hit outside of “Resident Evil” sequels in YEARS. I think audiences are willing to gobble up “Resident Evil“, but acknowledge that these movies are garbage, so are wary of the (real life) couple. I’m expecting them to return to the franchise eventually, if only out of desperation. But do you know what? I don’t think I’d mind too much if that happened. These flicks might only be disposable entertainment at best, but even I can’t resist the sight of hot babes slaying monsters and zombies…So even if I’m practically flogging myself in the process, I will probably continue to give these films a single viewing on the big screen…And let’s face it, you probably will too.