Monday 6 February 2017

Resident Evil - The Final Chapter

The Clone Ranger

Resident Evil - The Final Chapter 

aka Resident Evil 6
2016  France/Germany/Canada/Australia
Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson 
UK cinema release print.

Warning: Big, major spoilers on this one.
Sorry, but they bring it on themselves.

I left off waiting to write a review of Resident Evil - The Final Chapter for a day after seeing it because, as a fan of the first five films (well, okay, the second was a bit ropey in the second half but the others were pretty good), I wanted to see if my disappointment would be tempered and I could find anything good to say about it. However, that didn’t really work because the crushing blows delivered to the franchise due to the poor story content are still haunting me the next day and I am now just very, very angry with the whole thing.

I’ve criticised film series’ before when they don’t stick to their guns and, instead, destroy their own fictional credibility due to sloppy ‘wet paint thinking’ and I think the writers and producers of these kinds of things should be more mindful of the history of their product and not treat their paying audience like they’re a bunch of half wits. Perhaps the dubious honour of the most devastatingly awful lack of story continuity in a modern film franchises belongs to the X-Men films... which are now so notoriously screwed by the absolutely insane lack of internal logic that the film-makers don’t even seem to be trying to explain away the whacking great holes in their films anymore. Indeed, with the X-Men, they seem to be just making it all a heck of a lot worse with each subsequent installment.

Perhaps a similar film series with as little respect for their audience would be the four pseudo-sequels that constitute the 1940s Universal Mummy movies... which are notoriously awful at both the time in which each movie is set and, indeed, the shifting locations which make certain resurrections of the title monster absolutely impossible. However, at least the writers in the 1940s had a certain set of expectations from their audience in that the films were only ever seen when they were released in the cinema and so it was a lot more difficult for audiences to remember the specific details of the previous movie in an age before television, which would be showing these things many years later, not to mention the birth of the VCR and the modern, digital age of home video viewing.

However, the people who write terrible continuity in modern times should be ashamed of themselves for trying to pull the wool over their audience’s eyes because we are, after all, living in an age of DVD, Blu Ray and digital downloads. People don’t forget very much for very long... especially when you have people passionate enough about watching a franchise that you are now up to, in the case of the Resident Evil films, the sixth in the series. That’s just plain wrong since your built in audience are going to be the first ones to spot these glaring inaccuracies.

Alas, that’s exactly the kind of ‘have your cake and eat it’ philosophy at work in Paul W. S. Andersons latest incarnation of the Resident Evil franchise and it’s such a shame that he’s decided to treat his audience like absolute idiots on this one... because the series had been pretty good up until now.

Okay, so the opening of this one starts off with the traditional ‘recap’ of the series but, in this case, it’s almost all new footage which completely changes the back story of certain elements of the previous five films so we can have a new set of reveals at the end of this one. This is wrong for so many reasons... the primary one being that, if you’ve worked so hard for five films to establish a continuity, why insult your audience’s intelligence by changing it for an end pay off that, frankly, is unbelievably obvious before this pseudo-recap is even over. How stupid is that?

Everything we know about the ‘Red Queen’ from the previous films is rendered useless within the first few minutes of this one and it’s a special blow to the second movie in the franchise, Resident Evil - Apocalypse, which had some of the usual suspects trying to rescue/extract the real life template for the Red Queen from Racoon City as their main goal. Here, we are given a completely new girl in the role of the Red Queen and, blow me down if it doesn’t look like a young Mila Jovovich, who stars as the series’ main protagonist Alice in all six movies. So one of the so-called end reveals that Alice was the real life template for the Red Queen, quite apart from rendering the second movie complete nonsense, is obvious right from the opening (and made even more obvious when you realise that husband and wife team, director Anderson and actress Jovovich, have cast their own daughter in the role of the Red Queen here).

And with all this, frankly unnecessary, change to a key element of the series, one wonders why the writer doesn’t think we’ll notice the hasty footprints left in the wet paint around the corner he really hadn’t actually written himself into... to be honest. This isn’t the film's only weakness, for sure, but it is a pretty major one. Especially when it uses characters, actors and other elements of the series as reference points in a storyline which has been altered, seemingly, to fit the current mood of the producers.

Bearing in mind, then, that the majority of the Resident Evil movies tend to leave themselves on a cliff hanger ending to be resolved in the next film, it’s somewhat annoying that the film decides to only refer to the resolution of the previous cliff hanger as an event off screen, rather than show it in what, I suspect, would have been a budget breaker of an opening sequence, truth be told.

In the last movie, Alice had been re-injected with the T-virus which gave her super powers and rescued by her enemies, as part of their specific mission to do so, in order to help them with the final showdown between the spawn of the T-virus and the last survivors of humanity. Here, we are immediately, after the dreadfully compromised ‘recap’, plunged into a story which takes place three weeks after Alice and her ‘friends’ have been wiped out by the battle they lost. What’s more, there’s a throwaway line that basically tells us that she wasn’t really re-injected with the T-virus after all... it was just another lie. At which point you have to then ask yourselves... why? Why would the fact that the villains of the piece go to all that trouble to rescue her and re-infect her with the virus so she can help them... be a lie? Why bother going through what they did in the last film. Okay, so that’s at least two films in the franchise now made effectively redundant and you have to ask, at this point early on in the proceedings, what the heck Paul W. S. Anderson thinks he is trying to do here.

And the film just carries on like this with lots of things that make no sense and also... and here’s the kicker... is about as dull as a bag of bones and barely fun at all. One of the things the previous Resident Evil films had in abundance was their light hearted sense of fun. Here, everything just seems to be dialled back and a bit of a drudge. The action sequences, including the return of the hounds who were conspicuously absent from one of the films and who seem like just an add on here, are all quite plodding, for the most part. I think a lot of that has to do with the editing, to be honest, which seems to be somewhat rapid fire in the worst places and, for me at least, make the action sequences somewhat hard to follow a lot of the time.

There are two good things about the movie that I could find.

The first is a very small action sequence where Alice springs a trap and fights her way out of it while swinging upside down. Honestly, it’s a good little scene and it’s such a pity that the pay off at the end of it, where she is electrocuted to unconsciousness by the security settings on the bike she tries to steal, is so obvious. It also makes the punchline moment to the next scene where she tries to steal a bike even more obvious but... you know what... if you already have a tricked out bike used to lure someone into a trap, why the hell would you not just let them try to steal the bike in the first place? Talk about going the long way around.

The other good thing about the movie is Paul Haslinger’s score. The ex-Tangerine Dream member is a newcomer to the franchise but, while it’s possibly not the best score the series has had, it more than holds its own with them and feels like it belongs in the same ‘shared world’, at the very least. Kind of a shame the film itself doesn’t live up to it but, what can you do?

And that’s the only two good things I have to say about the movie, to be honest. Other than there’s some nice, quite bleak set dressing in some sequences although, I would have to point out that the really interesting sets would maybe seem more at home in a Silent Hill movie than they perhaps do in a Resident Evil film. Apart from this, everything seems to be just a pointless, dull exercise in keeping a franchise going in the dullest way possible, with lots of “why didn’t they just...?” moments and never, really, an interesting minute. Such a shame because the films have usually had a surprise or two up their sleeve and, as I said before, at the very least been heaps of fun. This one, alas, isn’t and I don’t think I would even recommend it to long terms fans of the previous films, let alone those going in with no experience of the others.

I understand that this movie had some tragedies on set. One stuntwoman had to have an arm amputated after a stunt went wrong and another guy was crushed to death. These things happen sometimes in the pursuit of art and they are always very sad. Must have been very upsetting for the cast and crew to absorb, I’m sure. I hope their colleagues and friends on the movie will always remember them and honour the work they did here.

That being said, although the title of this movie obviously implies it was always intended to be the last, it’s such a shame that Resident Evil - The Final Chapter is such a franchise killer anyway. Especially since the series has now officially become the most successful, in terms of accumulated box office, series of films in history to be based on a computer game. It doesn’t stop this movie being such a bad one, however, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow. One pill makes you larger but this pill makes it small.

My reviews of the previous Resident Evil films can be found here, here and here.

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