“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” (2017) and the Case for Chaos
(Disclaimer #1: I haven’t played any of the Resident Evil games since 2, so much of the mythology and characters present in The Final Chapter is lost on me.)
(Disclaimer #2: I haven’t seen any of the Resident Evil movies since Apocalypse, so…see above.)
“Chaos reigns.” – Mutilated Fox, Antichrist
Maybe it was my nonexistent expectations.
Maybe it was the “special message” from Milla Jovovich and her director-husband Paul W.S. Anderson prior to the film, thanking my near-empty theater for coming to the movies (something the major studios don’t do nearly often enough, unless it’s to shill a tease of some big-budget summer blockbuster I have zero interest in).
Maybe, given how thoroughly fucked the United States has become since January 2o, it was just what the doctor ordered.
There’s a weird catharsis fueling Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (TFC hereafter), something I can only conclude is a matter of the right state of mind combined with choosing to see the film when I did.
There’s no way I should have liked this thing – tolerated, maybe, but not liked. Anyone who hacks through the jungles of a Jonny Numb review knows my observations can border on the pretentious and the over-analytical, but sometimes there’s something to be said for things that pummel our senses to tapioca, but leave us morbidly dazzled…and with a sense of hope. Remember the Green Place and how Max and Furiosa joined together to turn a negative into a positive? Huh?
For fuck’s sake, even I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Series mainstay Jovovich plays the indefatigable Alice, a mostly superhuman(?) concoction of the sinister Umbrella Corporation which, if the beginning is any indication, has laid waste to the world (at the very least, the U.S.) and rendered a bulk of its inhabitants zombies (in the Zack Snyder sense) or awful mutant-hybrid-something-or-others (the opening sequence features something that looks like an angry pterodactyl; near the end, a skinless hulk that looks like The Thing – in the John Carpenter sense – appears). She’s pursued by the demented Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen – Eye in the Sky), who leads the undead hordes in his souped-up, mechanized tank, but…wait a second, he’s also hanging out in “The Hive,” drinking bourbon! Also wandering this underground facility of sideshow science gone horribly – HORRIBLY! – wrong is the stoic Wesker (Shawn Roberts, who appeared in some latter-day zombie films, in the George Romero sense), who presides over the sadistic security gadgetry designed to kill off our motley band of heroes (who look like they just finished the world’s longest shift at Jiffy Lube).
In this action-crammed universe, names aren’t really important (although Ali Larter’s Claire Redfield – a game character I actually recognize – makes a return appearance), but Anderson should get credit for his well-integrated, Carpenter-style group. The world’s been decimated to an almost hilariously depressing degree (the opening shots of Washington, DC are properly chilling), and most of these rugged rogues don’t need much convincing to snap out of Belligerent Asshole Mode. Given the perfunctory nature of the dialog (after looking at a digital countdown clock, one character brilliantly states, “the clock’s ticking”), the ensemble conveys just enough through their actions and body language to make an impression, however fleeting. Ruby Rose’s Abigail is a bold standout, a petite gearhead with a never-say-die attitude until, well… (additionally, I’m very excited to see what she brings to John Wick 2).
Anderson’s directorial aesthetic is questionable at best, favoring scissor edits and excessive close-ups during the action scenes, and sprawling wide shots of leveled cities and desert wastelands. Favoring a color palette of dirt-browns and gun-metal grays, the film is like a bargain-bin variant on such post-apocalyptic efforts as The Book of Eli and especially Mad Max: Fury Road. The production design overall is as creative as the budget will allow, but the darkness of certain scenes – while successfully conveying a world where science, government, technology, and old-fashioned human compassion have failed – also comes across as a bit of desaturated compromise in the face of the Dreaded 3D Conversion (I saw it in 2D). Methinks this will play much better on home formats (even the HD trailer – see below – boasts sharper image detail).
For as much as Screen Gems has become the patron saint/punchline of Hollywood’s winter dumping ground, one can’t deny the perseverance of its cult heroines, and Jovovich’s Alice may be their most consistent. Whatever’s in the water cooler at the SG offices, Jovovich not only looks as ageless as studio-mate Kate Beckinsale, but is granted a character arc that allows for some welcome emotional catharsis at the end. She’s been doing the Furiosa thing since before Furiosa was a thing, and for her part, she does it well.
Perhaps there was something unconsciously nostalgic driving my feelings toward TFC, since, well over a decade ago, I sat in a similarly lonely theater watching another Screen Gems film mere days before another national tragedy (9/11): John Carpenter’s similarly silly-fun Ghosts of Mars. Later, when the film was released on DVD, its themes of unlikely characters banding together and defending their interplanetary outpost became unnervingly prescient when juxtaposed against an administration spearheading an irrational, ill-informed rush to war. Given further consideration, the absurd CG hordes of zombies in TFC are not unlike the current huddled masses, pounding the pavement with dissent. But Alice’s skeleton crew (defending an outpost that resembles a gutted Capitol Records) are also us, carrying a (literal) torch in the face of all the garbled noise and chattering teeth looking for any excuse to rend flesh.
Jonny Numb’s IMDb Rating: 6 out of 10