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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Sarah Ward

The undead franchise supposedly comes to an end with an over-edited mess that offers up more of the same.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

In crafting cinematic stories, editing is crucial — and, it should tell a tale. The art of splicing and joining frames should stitch one image to the next, creating a moment. It should then knit more together, fashioning scenes and sequences. In the best hands, editing controls the narrative and sets the tone, while also making its very existence — its mission to insert sometimes pronounced, sometimes subtle seams — appear seamless. Barely letting 24 frames (or a second’s worth in common film projection standards) pass without cutting to the next, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter throws this idea out of the window, much to its detriment.

Taking the helm of the sixth instalment in the video game-to-screen Resident Evil franchise he first oversaw in 2002, marking his fourth time in the director’s chair but maintaining an unbroken run of writing the entire series’ scripts, filmmaker Paul W.S. Anderson (Pompeii) predicates what is being marketed as the last feature in the saga upon one belief: that jumping hurriedly from one image to the next can distract from, or even compensate for, a flimsy storyline. Alas, despite editor Doobie White’s (Momentum) best efforts in making the film’s cuts as overt and noticeable as possible, it can’t achieve that task. The frenzied visual assault, which is frequently bathed in darkness by regular Anderson cinematographer Glen MacPherson (The Three Musketeers), only sheds more light on Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’s many struggles. 

Unfortunately for irrepressible heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich, Zoolander 2), those troubles start as soon as the perfunctory but necessary prologue concludes, as she dispenses with a zombie in a desolate, derelict, sun-parched Washington D.C. Since its release in the first movie, the T-virus has become an apocalyptic force, with Alice ranking among the only 4472 humans that now remain. After receiving an uncharacteristic message of assistance from Umbrella Corporation artificial intelligence system The Red Queen (debutant Ever Anderson), she sets forth for their headquarters beneath Raccoon City. Her mission, which comes with a 48-hour deadline and often plays out with more than a few nods to Mad Max: Fury Road: find an airborne antivirus that can save the last survivors from extinction.

Alongside demonstrating destructive over-editing tendencies, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter largely answers two questions: How many times can the term “airborne antivirus” roll off the tongue of the film’s characters? And, how often can the surrounding dialogue spell out the plot? Both queries exemplify a feature that dare not take a moment’s pause, nor allow viewers to step back from the close-framed action, nor ponder anything it presents for even a second. Instead, it proves content to return its protagonist to her starting point, working her way through level-like obstacles involving the undead, ravenous dogs, enclosing walls, trapdoors and twists, while also throwing a few familiar faces — Ali Larter’s (The Diabolical) Claire Redfield, last seen in fourth effort Resident Evil: Afterlife; and Iain Glen’s (TV’s Game of Thrones) Dr. Isaacs, resurrected from the third film, Resident Evil: Extinction — into the mix.

The never-say-die determination that Jovovich brings to what has become her defining role has always been the most satisfying aspect of every Resident Evil incarnation, and Anderson knows it. As well as offering an apparent — but unlikely, realistically — swansong for the series, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is once more a showcase for its leading lady, with the latter taking precedence over the former. Still, stranded in a sea of quick, tight shots that further dampen the saga’s lack of genuine interest in character development, Jovovich’s Alice wears a distinctive sense of weariness as she battles her former employer and attempts to stop the zombie plague again. That’s understandable; both the actress and her most famous on-screen persona have stretched their quests far beyond engaging bounds, and viewer patience for chaotic cinema that is the Resident Evil franchise with it.

Rating: 1 ½ stars out of 5

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
France | Germany | Canada | Australia, 2016, 106 mins

Release date: 26 January
Distributor: Sony
Rated: MA

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Sarah Ward is a freelance film critic, arts and culture writer, and film festival organiser. She is the Australia-based critic for Screen International, a film reviewer and writer for ArtsHub, the weekend editor and a senior writer for Concrete Playground, a writer for the Goethe-Institut Australien’s Kino in Oz, and a contributor to SBS, Metro Magazine and Screen Education. Her work has been published by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Junkee, FilmInk, Birth.Movies.Death, Lumina, Senses of Cinema, Broadsheet, Televised Revolution, and the World Film Locations book series. She is also the editor of Trespass Magazine, a film and TV critic for ABC radio Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, and has worked with the Brisbane International Film Festival, Queensland Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival. Follow her on Twitter: @swardplay