If there’s anything that the success of the Resident Evil franchise has proven, it’s that the slow and steady approach can indeed win the race.
Throughout the course of five films, the live-action movie series inspired by the hit game franchise has churned out one modestly performing film after another, each earning just enough to justify a sequel but never enough to be classified – either collectively or individually – as bona fide hits. It’s a strategy that has served the franchise well, and somewhere along the way Resident Evil became Hollywood’s most successful movie franchise based on a video game.
Now, nearly 15 years after the original Resident Evil hit theaters, the sci-fi horror saga reaches its bloody conclusion with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
Given the path the series took to get to this point, it probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the grand finale has everything you’d expect from a Resident Evil movie, and still falls short of its potential.
Jovavich still manages to make a convincing action hero in The Final Chapter.
Directed by franchise originator Paul WS Anderson, who directed the original 2002 film and the last two sequels, The Final Chapter has series star Milla Jovavich – whose character, Alice, has been the one constant throughout all six films – once again battling the diabolical machinations of the sinister Umbrella Corporation. This time around, Alice is forced to return to the underground facility where her horrific adventure began and recover the one thing that can protect the last human settlement on Earth from the creatures created by the deadly T-Virus unleashed in the first film.
Also returning for the series’ swan song is Heroes actress Ali Larter as fellow survivor Claire Redfield, Shawn Roberts as the manipulative villain Albert Wesker, and Game of Thrones actor Iain Glen as the sinister Umbrella Corporation executive Dr. Alexander Isaacs. Notable newcomers in the final installment include Orange is the New Black actress Ruby Rose and Merlin actor Eoin Macken as two members of a small group of survivors Alice encounters on her return to the post-apocalyptic remains of Raccoon City, where the events of the original Resident Evil unfolded.
As with most (if not all) of the films in the franchise, the story that propels The Final Chapter forward is frustratingly disjointed, and the narrative gets off to a shaky start by immediately jumping ahead to the aftermath of the massive battle teased in the final scene from 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution – cheating the audience on a much-anticipated sequence.
Fortunately, that fractured narrative is only a problem when the action slows down enough to think about what brought Alice to this point – and that doesn’t happen often. The Resident Evil movies have typically unfolded as a series of fast-paced, CG-driven set pieces filled with wirework and highly choreographed action, strung together with the bare minimum of narrative thread, and The Final Chapter is no exception. It relies far more on these tricks than the last two movies.
Even after five films, Jovavich still manages to make a convincing action hero in The Final Chapter, and the film makes a fairly convincing argument that there might not be a Resident Evil franchise without her serving as the unifying – and butt-kicking – thread that runs through it. Make no mistake: The Resident Evil games provide the foundation for the movie franchise, but Jovavich carries it.
Still, there’s an underlying sense that all of those battles with mutated monsters and physics-defying fight sequences are beginning to catch up to Jovavich’s Alice.
Each of the previous installments of the franchise featured one or two fantastic, standout sequences that made that particular chapter of Alice’s saga memorable – and given how much the films bled into each other narratively, these sequences often helped differentiate one film from the next. A set piece featuring a seemingly infinite number of Alice clones assaulting the Umbrella Corporation’s high-rise headquarters in Tokyo was one of the defining sequences in 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife, for example, while Alice’s battle with a pair of gigantic, axe-wielding behemoths on a New York City street was a centerpiece of 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution.
That sort of sequel-defining set piece is conspicuously absent from The Final Chapter, which relies too heavily on Jovavich’s character battling various CG creatures that are relatively indistinguishable from each other. Where many of the previous films had at least one, wild sequence that made up for the film’s flaws in other areas, The Final Chapter keeps its audience waiting for that moment and then ends without ever really providing it.
It provides everything you expect from a Resident Evil movie, but still falls short of its potential.
The same can be said for Larter’s character, who stole the spotlight from Jovavich’s Alice with some memorable sequences in the earlier films, only to be a forgotten character in The Final Chapter.
As the film’s primary villain, Glen is an appropriately cold and calculating antagonist, but all of the build-up to his winner-take-all confrontation with Jovavich’s Alice never pays off. If their brawl is indeed the final conflict in the franchise, it feels under-played and anticlimactic, particularly given how wild some of the prior films’ third-act showdowns have been.
It’s also unfortunate that The Final Chapter doesn’t bid a more formal farewell to some of its popular characters that appeared in past films – such as Sienna Guillory’s Jill Valentine, Wentworth Miller’s Chris Redfield, or Li Bingbing’s Ada Wong. After the previous two films spent so much time establishing their characters – in some cases right up until the final moments – their absence in The Final Chapter creates a void.
Although it lacks a memorable action sequence and some of the other elements that feel obligatory for a franchise-ending film, The Final Chapter still manages to sufficiently end the series. It hits most of the beats expected by fans of the franchise while wrapping up the over-arching story of Alice and the Umbrella Corporation.
Whether it actually turns out to be the final chapter in the franchise remains to be seen, but if that’s the case, The Final Chapter sends the Resident Evil franchise out on an appropriately modest – far from great – note, and that seems just about right. At this point, what more can we expect?