Back at the turn of the millennium, Hollywood started getting extra interested in adapting video games into movies since the kids seemed to love that stuff. There were a few video game flicks in the 90s, but they pretty much all stunk. The best one (if you can call it that) was Mortal Kombat— a dumb, dumb kung fu movie that kinda worked since the game was based on Enter The Dragon and initially designed for John Claude Van Damme. The young British whipper-snapper of a director responsible for MK’s success was Paul WS (not Thomas) Anderson. He eventually got the call to try his hand at making Resident Evil a movie after zombie godfather George A. Romero failed to get one made himself. The result was a decent zombie flick released right when the culture was ready to embrace the shuffling undead again. Then sequels followed. Many of them. Now almost 15 years after Anderson proved that maybe video game movies could be kind of OK, we’re getting Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and it’s just as dumb and fun as this big goofy franchise has become.
As is franchise tradition, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter kicks off with a big ol’ voiceover from Mila Jovovich desperately attempting to sum up the convoluted plot that got her to this sixth (and at least final in title) chapter. It doesn’t make much sense. But hey, that’s the Resident Evil way. Anderson might not have literally told the story from the games in his weirdo series, but he at least got the tone right: violent, silly, nonsensical, and packed with events even if they don’t always connect. Jovovich gamely brings us to date to the big loss of a battle at the ruins of the White House from the last movie. Now the new story starts, and the ridiculous series of events takes her back to the location from the first flick (awwww) to learn that there might be an airborne cure to that nasty mutant-zombie virus available, and she has a ticking 48-hour clock to set it loose. Will she do it? Who knows? The title suggest that she probably will though.
Anyhoo, that’s the set up. The execution involves the endless cast of characters from this apocalyptic soap opera. Many are from the games, many aren’t. None of them are humans. Mostly just souped-up movie character types who spit out garbled exposition and one liners before punching each other (or mutants or zombies) in the face. You know, everything you need from a Resident Evil joint. To say it doesn’t make much sense is no surprise. However, the big surprise is that somewhere over the last decade n’ a bit, Paul WS Anderson actually did come up with a way to end this endless narrative that actually sort of works. It still ain’t art, but the beauty of it is that no one pretends they are making anything than colourfully stupid pulp. When it’s the big, bold, expensive, and fun. That’s really all you need.
Sadly the ridiculousness is toned down slightly from last couple sequels. Anderson and Jovovich turned the series (which they became husband n’ wife while making) into a big bloody Looney Tunes cartoon that was adorably absurd. There’s still plenty of that here, it’s just not as insane. The action isn’t always leather-clad gun-fu with monsters. It’s a bit more grounded and a bit more gritty. Well, as grounded and gritty as a movie with a knife fight on a tank being chased by mutants can be anyways. This ain’t Jason Bourne. There’s no sense of real world stakes. It’s all a big glorious collection of B-movie tropes shoved together in a blender and branded with a popular game title. One fun thing is that Anderson piles on the Mad Max references again only this time they feel timely since George Miller resurrected that franchise since the last sequel. So Paul ain’t just dipping back to the 80s any more. He’s almost up to date.
Another undeniably fun element is of course Mila Jovovich. She’s genuinely a fantastic actress who rarely gets movies that gave her a chance to show off those skills. After making a grand entrance into film with The Fifth Element, Jovovich has been in B-movies ever since, and it’s always clear that she’s committed and having fun. This franchise has always been geared towards her movie star strengths and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is no exception. Jovovich gets a chance to emote and do winky-winky camp comedy, and kick all sorts of ass. She’s a fantastic action star, always has been, and while this series has it’s flaws she has never been one of them. It’s nice to see Jovovich get a curtain call for this billion dollar zombie franchise. She’s great, and that’s no surprise. Hopefully she’ll get more chances to strut her stuff through some B-movie mayhem with her hubby soon. They make magical trash together.
No other performer in the cast gets to be as good, which is no surprise. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is first and foremost an entertainment delivery system and there is plenty of glorious violence, humour, melodrama, and stupidity spread across the screen on a grand scale to make you giggle. Even though no single movie in this franchise has been particularly great, it’s kind of sad to see it go. The movies just kept getting bigger, dumber, and more fun as they went along. They were always delightful guilty pleasures to look forward to every few years. Now it’s over. C’est la vie. Like Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, I doubt this will truly be the end. Lord knows a new game far better than this movie is also available. It’s sure to make oodles of money. As long as Resident Evil series remains viable on the gaming market, you can be sure the producers who hold the movie rights will be in no rush to avoid making money with another dumb dumb zombie blockbuster. We’ll see what happens. For now, farewell Resident Evil movies. Thanks for all the stupid sillies and bloody entrails.