If there’s one unifying factor in the “Resident Evil” series, it’s that you don’t get to see the coolest things it has to offer. In the worst example, the series’ third movie, “Extinction,” ends on a cliffhanger with dozens of Alice clones preparing to go to war, but the first 10 minutes of the next movie, “Afterlife,” are dedicated to extinguishing that plot point. This leaves room for the series to bring us all the ham–fisted exposition it can think of and extend its least remarkable stunts with slow motion.
“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” continues that tradition and takes it to the extreme.
Ten years after the evil Umbrella corporation released the zombie–creating T–virus, which ravaged humanity, Alice (Milla Jovovich) learns of an anti–virus under the corporation’s control — but also that in two days, the last outposts of humanity will be wiped out. She returns to Raccoon City, where the series began, reuniting with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). With a handful of allies, they assault Umbrella’s underground base to claim the anti-virus from arch-villains Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen).
The previous installment, “Retribution,” ended with Alice and company about to engage an undead army on the steps of the Capital building in an epic-looking final confrontation — “epic-looking” because it’s never shown. After a too-long prologue, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” opens on a disoriented Alice wandering through the wreckage of this unseen battle. The movie spends the next 10 minutes or so walking the plot all the way from “Retribution’s” end to “The Final Chapter’s” true beginning.
What’s the point of continuity at all if this is what you do with it? What’s the point of having a cliffhanger if the next movie is going to start on solid ground? What’s the point of explaining a new plot right after throwing the old one out?
As it continues, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” begins to leave not only the scenes between movies to the imagination, but its own scenes as well. This movie is packed with action that appears to be spectacular — “appears to be,” because it can’t be followed. In the spirit of the “Jason Bourne” series, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” relies on handheld camerawork and fast editing to add frenzy to its action scenes, but takes it too far.
A lot of movies take this too far. “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” takes this way, way too far.
There can’t be a single action shot in this movie that lasts more than half a second. I can’t wait to get a digital copy so I can measure with certainty, but it must get up to around a dozen cuts per second in some scenes. It’s often said that this series wasn’t meant for the critics, and that’s fine, but I wonder — is it meant for humans? Because several scenes in this movie approach the point of becoming physically impossible to watch because they’re cutting faster than the eye can keep up with.
Comparing it to something like the “Bourne” movies or “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which make their complicated action scenes meticulously easy to follow, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” could conceivably be praised as a satire — if, that is, the target of its derision is good editing. It could be praised for its style — if, that is, the style they were going for is “completely unintelligible.”
In any other chapter, the editing would help disguise the otherwise tame action, but “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” from what can be deciphered of it, has fantastic action. It’s got incredible, intense choreography. It’s got fire raining down upon the zombie horde. Writer/director/producer Paul W.S. Anderson has finally made a movie that I really want to see.
Too bad you don’t get to see it.
For more, check out Knopp’s movie blog at reelentropy.com.