Blu-ray Review: Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

For the past 15 years the Resident Evil film franchise has rocked the worldwide box-office, allowing it to become the longest running action franchise with a female lead to date. Now I’ve been a fan of both the video games and the films from the start, and I’ve had no issues with how Anderson has chosen to adapt the core story of the games and give it his own spin on the big screen – in fact, it was smarter to do it that way. His biggest change was in the heroin department, choosing to create an entirely new protagonist for the films instead of choosing one of the many already created. That heroin is Alice, played by Milla Jovovich, who returns to the apocalypse one last time in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

Of course, in horror, having “The Final Chapter” in the title is as concrete as marshmallows; but this time I do believe it to be true, as the franchise – as fun as it’s been – has run its course. That said: I thoroughly enjoyed this final installment. I remember leaving Resident Evil: Retribution rather disappointed in the somewhat convoluted, often head-scratching story path the franchise took. It felt somewhat stagnant with its main feature being the addition of cloning in the world of Umbrella. It felt more like a gimmick to bring back stars like Michelle Rodriguez instead of actually furthering the story.

But in The Final Chapter, the cloning plot device comes into play once again; however, it works much better this time around. I’ve always viewed the Resident Evil franchise as chapters in a book, with each one telling a new tale that moves the story along, with each ending on a cliffhanger that will eventually lead to the inevitable conclusion. So after watching the first five again before this one, I can say that the fifth is still the weakest; but at least the cloning element pays off more in the bigger picture.

In a somewhat surprising move, the beginning of The Final Chapter all but negates the third act of Retribution. At the end of the fifth film, the main antagonist for the majority of the franchise, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), helps Alice and her counterparts escape certain doom in an until then inescapable Umbrella facility. He then brings them to Washington, where he gives Alice back her superhuman powers, and tells her that the Red Queen (the computer AI created by Umbrella Corp. to contain the T-Virus) has gone ultra-homicidal and is looking to wipe out the human race, and now he needs her help to bring down the legions of undead at their doorstep. The film ends with Alice, Wesker, Jill, Leon and Ada all looking out at the swarming undead.

But then this film starts with the White House decimated, Washington in shambles, and nobody but Alice around. She crawls out from the rubble, hears a fax machine, goes to investigate and finds out that the Red Queen actually needs her help to stop Wesker. In a few sentences we learn that Wesker tricked Alice into coming to Washington, never gave her her powers back, and basically just wanted her dead. Now none of this makes any sense, of course, because why wouldn’t he have just left her to rot in the Umbrella facility she was captured in if simply killing her was his endgame?

It’s just a gapping, illogical hole in the ongoing story we’ve been following for 15 years that you unfortunately just have to look past if you’re going to enjoy this movie. Don’t ask where Jill, Leon or Ada vanished to, because they’re never to be heard from again. Did they die? Well, that’s the most logical explanation, but it’s pretty bizarre to think that Jill just croaked off-screen when all is said and done – though that’s not the last missing character faux pas to be had this time out. The silver-lining to that cloud is that The Final Chapter is a huge improvement over Retribution, and right up there alongside Afterlife as my favourite in the franchise.

Everything comes full circle in this installment, with Alice having to return back to The Hive (the location of the original film) in order to release the antivirus into the atmosphere and destroy the T-virus once and for all. Getting into the Hive won’t be easy – especially with a crazed Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) on her trail. If you don’t remember Dr. Isaacs, he’s the antagonist from the third film who becomes infected with the T-virus, mutates, and is eventually killed by Alice. And that’s where the cloning element of this series finally pays off!

Yes, we now know that Umbrella employees were cloned time and time again to create scenarios of how an outbreak of the T-virus would play out if it were to be released into the world. These clones think and act human, and believe they’re the only version of themselves that exist. Now, to be fair, this aspect of the franchise likely wasn’t thought up back when the third film was made, but it works great here, as Glen plays the part of Isaacs superbly, and he’s a MUCH more fitting antagonist to Alice than Wesker is.

Alice won’t be going into The Hive alone, as she once again meets up with Claire upon entering Raccoon City. Now Claire literally vanished from the screen between the end of the fourth film and the beginning of the fifth film (the films ended and began on the same scene), and we now learn that she was captured by Umbrella (we’ll ignore that they had shoot to kill orders) and while being transported to The Hive, was able to escape and met up with a band of local survivors, or as I like to call them: fodder!

Now, I’m not sure if Anderson had no clue how to sort this out, but Chris Redfield is never brought up once. Claire is his sister, and Alice doesn’t even ask, “What about Chris?” No, Chris vanished into the ether, much like Jill, Leon and Ada…and to a lesser degree, K-Mart, who also survived being captured by Umbrella only to never be spoken of again.

Now, these movies aren’t supposed to be The Walking Dead in terms of long running, meaningful characters making up a group. No, this is Alice’s story about her taking on Umbrella while trying to help others survive along the way; but with that being said, there would be some much more meaningful deaths had they brought back certain characters instead of just constantly changing up the fodder wheel.

Now, vanishing important characters aside, it’s great to have Claire back, and we also get the kick-ass Ruby Rose on board this time as well, playing a young survivor and MacGyver-esque weaponsmith, Abigail. The three ladies play wonderful off one another, once again proving why this is the best leading-lady action franchise around.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is also the best looking of the franchise. Afterlife was beautiful as well, with wonderful use of 3D and surroundings; however, The Final Chapter is a step above. It’s just so atmospheric, creepy and allows for true tension to course through your veins. There are plenty of jump scares, but even though you know they’re coming, they often work quite well – mainly because everything looks so damn good.

Not only do the sets look the best they’ve ever looked, so do the undead. Back in 2002, everything was heavily reliant on CGI, but now there seems to be a greater focus on make-up and costumes, and it gives this apocalyptic fantasy world a much more realistic vibe than ever before.

The atmosphere and setting all help elevate this chapter on all fronts. The action is top tier, and while the edits in this installment are much more frantic than they’ve been in the past few films, it’s still great to see that Jovovich and the cast once again do the majority of their own stunts, allowing for close-ups during battles helping keep audiences engaged even more throughout the constant stream of action sequences.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is a worthy conclusion to the franchise and the story of Alice. The almost complete disregard of the third act of Resident Evil: Retribution really emphasizes how much of a misstep that whole scenario was back then. Luckily, that correction here actually makes this story and overall conclusion stronger, as I’m not sure where they would have gone had they stayed the course. While not without its flaws (I’m talking to you vanishing main characters…and don’t get me started on the countdown clock) The Final Chapter is the most intense, atmospheric Resident Evil yet.

The visual transfer of this film is top notch. The Blu-ray looks fantastic, with no muddy darks or washed out scenes at all, and this is a movie that can jump from dark to light and back again all in the same scenes. It’s truly expertly transferred and a joy to watch. The same can be said for the audio, which has loud, blasting music during action scenes, and also tension filled scenes that follow directly after. That’s been a trademark of this franchise, so fans should be used to it by now. The dialogue comes through loud and clear, without having to crank it up and down between battle scenes, which is a big plus.

On the special features front, there’s shockingly no straight-up commentaries; however, there is:

Retaliation Mode – this feature can be turned on while watching the film and it sees Paul W.S. Anderson and Mila Jovovich talk about key moments in the film, and discussing the franchise as a whole as well. This mode is a solid replacement for a commentary, at least.

Stunts & Weaponry – This feature focuses on all the stunts that take place, honing in mostly on some key fights and stunts, and how the cast work quite hard day in and day out to do things themselves.

Explore the Hive – This is a quick featurette that talks about going back to The Hive, and how we’re seeing it from a new perspective, while also revisiting a few iconic franchise locations as well.

The Bad Ass Trinity & The Women of Resident Evil – This piece talks about how Anderson has always looked to make the franchise about strong female characters, and the return of Jovovich, Larter and newcomer Ruby Rose.

There’s also a sneak peek at a new CGI film, Resident Evil: Vendetta.

Sony Pictures Presents Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Written & Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson. Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, Ever Anderson. Running time: Theatrical Cut: 106 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: May 16, 2017.

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