So after watching every instalment of the ‘Resident Evil’ franchise in preparation for ‘The Final Chapter’ I have quickly come to the simple conclusion that I hate myself. To sit through all five of these movies one has to be the most narcissistic and self-loathing person imaginable, as subjecting yourself to this franchise should be classed as a form of torture. For people who haven’t seen them it must be easy to think that they are not worth getting worked up about. They are films that promise mindless action and Mila Jovovich in skin-tight outfits, what do you expect from them? But for those who are unfamiliar with the series, you cannot begin to imagine the incompetence of this franchise.
The first ‘Resident Evil’ was released in 2002, the same year we saw ‘Minority Report’ Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’. I bring this up because upon watching ‘Resident Evil’ one would be forgiven for thinking competent filmmaking must have been forbidden that year. Almost every single aspect of the film feels broken. The editing is some of the worst and most incoherent I’ve ever witnessed in a movie. The movie asks us to sympathise with Jovovich’s character despite the fact that we know literally nothing about her. Her character is a blank slate and her performance is very much the same, expressing so little emotion that it almost defies belief. The visual effects are also apocalyptically terrible, and I understand that this is the early 2000s but then I would direct you the three films I mentioned earlier. Talented directors have worked around their constraints, but Paul W S Anderson (the lesser Paul Anderson) seems to revel in them.
The sequel ‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’ is, despite it seeming literally impossible, manages to be even worse than the first one. With Paul W S Anderson stepping out of the director’s chair to be replaced by Alexander Witt in his directorial debut. While Witt is marginally a more competent director than Anderson (shown by the fact that he went on to be a second-unit director for ‘Skyfall’ and Casino Royale’) he still falls far from the mark. Once more the action scenes are hacked to death with awful editing, lack of innovation and a general ugliness to the way they look. Anderson’s screenplay stands as the worst aspect of the movie though, with the plot not only being repetitive of the original to the point where it feels like a remake, but is so infuriatingly lacking in creativity or imagination. It feels like a pointless movie, one that has no purpose to exist and we are only at the second of a six film franchise.
Onto number three, ‘Resident Evil: Extinction’. By this point I found myself wondering why the Umbrella Corporation (the main antagonist of the series) was still conducting their evil research when all of humanity had been annihilated. In fact let’s talk about the Umbrella Corporation as an interesting, complex and empathetic villain. They’re not, they are so simplistically evil that it feels unintentionally hilarious. What is even more laughable is how after two films I still know next to nothing about the franchise’s main character other than the fact she is played by Mila Jovovich (I think the character has a name but I can’t remember it). This time Russell Mulcahy, who directed ‘Highlander’, but on the downside he also directed ‘Highlander 2’. As for his work here, it falls somewhere between the two. While I would not call it truly terrible it is nothing to get excited about, it does its job. In fact on the whole this instalment actually improves upon the previous two, with a screenplay that actually has cohesion unlike the previous entries. However it incorporates so many tired clichés that it becomes hard to take it seriously, and everything is so blatantly predictable.
Unlike the first three, ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife’ was not screened in advance for critics (any film that does that is bound to be great, right?). But what it does have in common with the previous instalment is how blatantly it rips off other films. While one could call it a homage each call back is treated too seriously for me to believe it was intentionally trying to make the audience recall it. The biggest effect these borrowed elements have is that they made me wish I was watching the far superior movies they were referencing. From John Carpenter to George Romero, no horror director is safe from having their work plagiarised by Paul W S Anderson, who makes his long awaited return to the director’s chair. In essence the film is just a strong of unimaginative and poorly directed action scenes connected by some sort of “plot”. The most baffling thing about it is that even if you were a fan of the series I find it hard to believe any fan could tolerate the fourth ‘Resident Evil’. Within the first ten minutes the film undoes all of the continuity from the first one, placing the story back at square one so it can just do the same thing as the others all over again. More and more the franchise has gone from being simply a bad movie to a complete exercise in futility, and there is still one more to go.
Mercifully I have now arrived at the fifth film. What is there to say about this instalment that has not been said about the others and therefore applies this one as well? There is such a lack of characterisation, no sense of structure or cohesiveness. The dialogue is horrendously awful and I feel like even if it was endearing the actors would not be able to convince me of it for a second due to how terrible they are. It recycles so many elements both from its previous instalments and other films (with the opening sequence essentially being a shot for shot recreation of the opening to Zack Snyder’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’). The editing is embarrassingly bad and all you are left with are hollow action sequences draped in some of the worst CGI enhancements I have witnessed in a mainstream film.
So, anyone looking forward to ‘The Final Chapter’?