Christ, this fucking franchise.
Do we even need the history lesson? OK, fine. The first Resident Evil movie came out — believe it or not — 15 years ago. Despite being directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, one of the top five worst genre film directors (along with Uwe Boll, Len Wiseman, Roland Emmerich, and the guy who sits on the bench outside my local pho restaurant and shouts at trashcans), it was surprisingly entertaining and holds up reasonably well. Based on the Capcom video game series of the same name, it created a whole new character — the amnesiac badass Alice (Milla Jovovich) — but planted her in (mostly) the same universe as the games, where the evil Umbrella Corporation has set loose a virus that turns people into zombies. Using various other characters from the games, as well as other original ones, it follows Alice’s quest to fight zombies and Umbrella throughout the series. In each one there’s a devastating new threat, she faces down some sort of Umbrella-created monster, and then the journey continues.
The good news is that, mercifully, it appears that The Final Chapter actually is the final chapter. The entire franchise has been a series of increasingly bananas escapades, and it’s good to see that it might — hopefully — have finally worn out its welcome. I barely remember the specifics of the previous entries, despite reviewing a few of them and seeing all of them. Just know that there are mutant dogs, zombies, chainsaws, clones, mind control, monsters that walk, monsters that fly, monsters that swim, characters dying and resurrecting, and a whole bunch of other goofy shit. It’s zombie movie mad libs, and it’s gone on for six goddamn movies. They have all, by and large, been garbage, saved only barely by the ass-kicking charisma of Jovovich, the ridiculous mustache-twirling sneers of its two major baddies, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen). Those two are clearly having a ball, speaking like a sleepy-drunk Nicolas Cage and chomping on scenery left and right. But there’s always been sort of a goofy charm to the franchise, like that ugliest dog competition where you’re like “aw, that’s so sweet but yeah that thing is fuckin’ ugly.”
Sadly, that charm is largely absent from this latest entry, and it may well be the worst of this fetid lot as a result. Jovovich barely talks, and she just looks tired. Her character has been through some shit, so that’s understandable, but that’s not what I mean. I mean that she looks exhausted by the whole shtick, and she just wants to get it over with. She barely even speaks in this one, and the wicked sense of playfulness that always twinkled in her eyes is gone. The whole film is a dreary slog, filmed in grays and blues and dirty browns. Anderson never understood that, despite being a world without much life left, he doesn’t have to make the film itself look lifeless, and The Final Chapter is just utterly, unimaginatively drab.
It’s also boring as hell, which is really hard to achieve when a film is essentially a nonstop chase sequence. The forces of evil are all returning to Raccoon City, where it all began, with armored vehicles and an army of the undead. Jovovich shoots and punches and kicks her way there, meets some allies, then descends back into The Hive, where it all started. She learns new truths about herself and Umbrella, and it just doesn’t fucking matter. It’s exhausting, and not because the action is so exciting. It’s exhausting because there’s no passion behind any of it. It’s a dreary, disjointed mess that largely wastes its secondary talents — Ali Larter, who’s been along for the ride for three films as Claire Redfield, has little to do, and new castmate Ruby Rose is utterly squandered (I’m totally in the bag for Rose as an action star after her turn in the latest xXx sequel).
You go into a Resident Evil movie expecting it to be bad. But — and I know not all moviegoers get this particular idiosyncrasy that’s somewhat unique to genre film fans — you also expect them to be enjoyably bad. There’s a real value to the “so bad it’s funny” brand of sci-fi/action film, and in the right state of mind (I mean drunk), it can be a good time. This is not the case with The Final Chapter. There’s no fun to be had, no matter how much bourbon you dump in your face in the parking lot. It’s a joyless, jittery mess of a movie. It feels like it was made for no purpose other than to simply make another movie. It’s a dumb, deplorable dumping ground, a pile of shit with some of its past characters inartfully jammed into it, and their performances echo that sentiment. It sucks. All it’ll get you is 106 minutes of checking your watch while the four other people in the theater sneak looks at you, the asshole sitting there alone stinking of whiskey. Well, I guess your mileage may vary on the last part, but either way, there are better ways to spend your time.