Friday Night Lights, Camera, Action! – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)

Despite being a financially profitable action horror franchise for the better part of a decade and a half, Sony and writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson have decided to finally close up shop on the Resident Evil series with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. But can we really trust that it’s the final chapter? Part IV of the Friday the 13th series was entitled The Final Chapter, and yet the series has continued up to the present day with a 13th installment (spooky, I know) scheduled just in time for Halloween. 2010’s Saw 3D had the secondary title Saw: The Final Chapter, but Jigsaw’s legacy will supposedly push on with Saw: Legacy.

If one thing’s for certain, no franchise is truly over until the fans stop coming, and in spite of falling domestic numbers, Resident Evil has remained far too valuable an asset to ignore. Maybe Anderson and star Milla Jovovich have called it quits, but there’s nothing stopping future endeavors against the Umbrella Corporation. If we’re operating under the guise that this truly is the big finale, however, then with The Final Chapter, the Resident Evil saga goes out the way it came in – with a loud, incoherent bang.

It’s easy to say that if you’re a fan of the franchise, then you know what you’re in for, but in this case that statement only rings partially true. Is there a boatload of undead violence and some freaky creature bioweapons thrown in to satisfy the gamers looking for their favorite baddies? Sure, but there’s more – or less, if you prefer – to the picture than these basic tenets that have helped hold these films together. In fact, less might seem a more applicable term considering nearly every frame of this film suggests a rushed job.

Taking place three weeks after the events of Retribution, The Final Chapter challenges Alice (Jovovich) to destroy the T-Virus once and for all, along with the allegedly menacing Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen). With some unexpected help from The Red Queen (Ever Gabo Anderson), she must retrieve the anti-virus from Isaacs in a matter of two days before the rest of the human population is wiped out.

Clocking in at 107 minutes, this is the longest Resident Evil film to date, and it certainly feels that way. As well as unnecessarily filling us in on condensed information from the previous five movies, The Final Chapter wastes no time plunging us into what it expects us to call a narrative, but is rather a loose jumbling of scenes connected by Alice performing feats of physics defiance and objective stupidity – in other words, damn near every action set piece Anderson has written for this franchise. With a plot so light and so heavily dependent of violence to carry it forward, the film feels dreadfully overlong in spite of its attempts to inject pacing through roughshod editing.

To write carnage so thin and plagued with idiocy might normally suggest an ounce of self-awareness, but given the rest of Anderson’s screenwriting filmography, such bloodshed is merely part of the package. How else are we to comprehend why any human’s pair of eyes registering 24 frames a second could see this film’s editing was logical – the irony being the violence is so thoroughly incomprehensible that it sends your brain into a tizzy? And though, at points, it is barely visible thanks to a lighting designer who should either be rapped on the wrist or sent back to film school, the sound mixer makes sure they’ve earned their keep by sending every undead roar, every punch up to 11.

Perhaps the silliness is enough sometimes, but how can we excuse such laziness in this production? With so much time wasted on characters we couldn’t be bothered to hope life or death for and action sequences so mindless it seems they come a whole act earlier than they should have – just to give a couple of examples – how can we believe the crew took the time to give this franchise a proper exit? Recycled material can only carry a lifeless corpse so far, and to an extent, the fact that Anderson helped carry this franchise beyond even three films is nothing short of impressive.

The funny thing is, Anderson and Co. had the time to get The Final Chapter even halfway right; it could have been released back in 2014 until Sony decided to severely push it back. It would be understandable if Anderson and Jovovich were simply ready to close the curtains and move on. All things must come to an end, and it is hopefully with great pleasure that many filmgoers will help pronounce the Resident Evil franchise deceased. Nonetheless, those who have basked in its life deserved something, and even perhaps someone more devoted.

1.5/4

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