Could ‘the world’s most profitable video game movie franchise™’ really be coming to an end? If vehement claims from the cast and, well, the title are to be believed, perhaps this truly is Alice’s (Jovovich) last ride – that is, until a reboot is announced in short order.
Picking up three weeks after the conclusion of Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice has been betrayed by arch-villain Wesker (Roberts) – shocking, we know – and is on her own again. The artificial intelligence construct Red Queen (Ever Gabo Anderson), hitherto malevolent, appears to help Alice, with the promise that an antivirus lies in wait for her at the Hive, deep beneath Raccoon City. Pursued by Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Glen), the evil head of the Umbrella Corporation, Alice sets off to return to where it all began. Along the way, she reunites with ally Claire Redfield (Larter), who has joined forces with a ragtag bunch of survivors including Doc (Macken), Abigail (Rose), Christian (Levy), Cobalt (Rola) and Razor (James). As hordes of vicious zombies stand in their way, Alice and her cohorts make a desperate last stand for humanity.
The Resident Evil films have never been critical darlings, and The Final Chapter has its problems: the post-apocalyptic aesthetic is largely generic, the supporting characters are insufficiently distinctive, and the combination of rapid-fire editing and shaky-cam renders the action sequences incomprehensible.
Much to this reviewer’s surprise and given the abovementioned shortcomings, The Final Chapter is enjoyable – if barely so. Given five earlier films’ worth of back-story, the film’s prologue does a fine job of setting things up for the uninitiated, detailing the origins of the T-virus. Regardless of how seriously one takes director Anderson’s claims of finality, there is the sense that things have come full circle. The first film’s signature set-piece is revisited and after the visual monotony of the wastelands that fill The Final Chapter’s first half, it’s fun to head back into the sleek, futuristic Hive. Best of all, this film possesses a welcome tactility to the action – there are somewhat-unconvincing digitally-generated creatures, but the visual effects work is an improvement on the previous instalment, and it doesn’t feel like this was entirely shot against a giant green screen.
Jovovich has the action heroine thing down pat, and is sufficiently believable holding her own against gnashing zombies and Umbrella Corp goons kitted out in tactical gear. She looks cool astride that BMW Motorrad and is taking things just seriously enough. Alice gets substantial character development and gets answers to questions she’s had since the events of the first film. Some may call it nepotism, but there is a poetry in Anderson casting his and Jovovich’s daughter Ever Gabo in the role of the Red Queen. The film reveals a connection that Alice and the Red Queen have shared all along, giving the casting a wink-and-nod aptness.
Glen, who last appeared in Resident Evil: Extinction, reprises his role of Dr. Isaacs with entertaining aplomb. It’s the same over-the-top élan with which he portrayed the villain in another video game movie, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Glen plays the part with so much relish, one expects ketchup and mustard to enter from stage left. Unfortunately, Roberts’ Wesker is given comparatively little to do, and spends most of the film pacing about the Hive’s control room, glowering at monitors showing Alice’s progress.
If there was one positive thing about Retribution, it was that key characters from the games like Leon S. Kennedy and Ada Wong showed up, with Chris Redfield returning from Afterlife. They’re completely absent here. The plucky band of survivors with whom Alice allies are largely unmemorable. xXx: Return of Xander Cage made far better use of Ruby Rose, who has three action movies out in quick succession this year – look out for her in John Wick: Chapter 2. The inclusion of Japanese media personality Rola as Cobalt and South Korean actor/singer Lee Joon-gi as Isaacs’ henchman Commander Chu is a blatant bid of international appeal.
The Final Chapter’s frenetic pace and senseless strobe-like editing might be numbing to some viewers, but for others, this will be a satisfying conclusion (?) to an oftentimes mediocre franchise. Setting our expectations appropriately low, we were pleased that there’s a semblance of a plot, however generic, and that given the title, it’s harder for Anderson and co. to get away with the shameless cliff-hanger endings he’s employed in the past. Then again, there was a Friday the 13th film subtitled ‘The Final Chapter’, and there have been eight more movies in that franchise since then.
Summary: There’s more disregard for continuity and the action sequences are horrendously edited, but The Final Chapter has enough forward momentum and entertaining moments for it to pass muster as a diversion.
RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars