It should be relatively clear to anyone who suffered through the utter abominations that were Resident Evil: Afterlife and Resident Evil: Retribution that Paul W.S. Anderson’s less-than-tangible grip on reality has further faded and is proof that the Resident Evil film series is ultimately a failed disasterpiece, his magnum opus of mediocrity. Even films in the series that are relatively decent (the first two) are middling at best, and with Retribution and now the Final Chapter, Anderson has proven that his ties to reality have almost certainly been permanently severed. They’re terrible films through and through and even worse adaptations of the games, trading brooding atmosphere and intricate plotting with blaring noises, silly jump scares and what appears to be a bowl full of random character names that he plucks out and shoves in films at random. Playing Jake and Sherry’s endless QTEs in the mostly-dreadful RE6 was more entertaining than the final three films in the RE saga. Retribution was a colossal dumpster fire of a film whose entire plot was a vehicle designed to get actors back who were previously killed off in the series; thankfully no such gimmick is employed here. It can also be said that while The Final Chapter is again in 3D, it doesn’t employ the cheap “things flying at the screen” gimmicky 3D effects of its predecessor, to its credit. In all honesty, the film is a masterpiece compared to Retribution, but that speaks more to how insultingly bad that film was than to any purported quality that lies herein. Spoilers to follow.
As with the past few films in this series, The Final Chapter opens with a lengthy narration in which the events of the previous films are re-capped, because Paul W.S. Anderson somehow believes anyone but fans of the series (or fellow hate-watchers) will be sitting in a theater for this thing. Alice (the always-gorgeous Milla Jovovich) wakes up in a destroyed Washington DC after having met Wesker there at the end of the last film, where he gives her back her T-Virus superpowers and tells her she is the final hope against the hordes of zombies and the evil Umbrella corporation. Retribution ends with the camera flying out away from the destroyed White House, wherein our heroes were going to make their final sta… what happened to the battle?! This film starts with Washington D.C. empty but for Alice, no zombies, no other heroes, no superpowers. It’s almost as if Anderson can’t even remember the events in his own films, and perhaps he thinks they are as terrible as the rest of us do and can’t bring himself to ever watch them again. That not withstanding, the audience is robbed of what could and should have been an awesome battle scene, instead being treated to Alice fighting some giant flying monster for… reasons.
The Final Chapter focuses generous portions of its runtime having Alice and her band of cannon fodder skulking around in the darkness being stalked by various creatures, and this is where the movie is most-effective; only the light of a flashlight shows the way forward, with creaking and groaning noises going on around them. A random growl or roar coming from behind them that forces them to swing around. Anderson does create a certain amount of atmosphere in the film and actually manages to inject the slightest bit of tension, but this is literally its only positive aspect. The music is a garbled monstrosity of metal and techno jammed into a blender and made into a frothy mess of noise and screeching that drowns out the film. It is the musical equivalent of directionlessness, and composer Paul Haslinger seems as content to bombard the audience with audible garbage as Anderson is to bombard us with visual.
This review could spend some time lamenting how terrible the plot of the film is, but honestly there’s little point. This person’s a clone of that, this is retconned from that. Anderson himself probably doesn’t have any idea how any of this is supposed to logically work or exist within its own universe and abide by its own rules since so much of this feels like he drank a gallon of moonshine and scrawled it out in the throes of alcohol poisoning. The entire story of these films has devolved into utter and complete nonsense since Extinction, wherein the Umbrella Corporation apparently has maintained a vast technological infrastructure with thousands of soldiers and limitless equipment despite the fact that zombies and the T-Virus have swept over the world and destroyed everything.
All of this is immaterial, however, since there’s absolutely no chance anyone can understand what is happening on the screen. It plays out as if it were cut together by a crack addict muttering to himself on the subway; in all of the action scenes, no shot lasts for more than a half a second (if that) and it is maddening. Epileptics should avoid the film entirely because it will cause seizures from the constant flickering of broken or dimming lights mixed with the fervor of the edits. Is Alice winning any of her fights? What does this or that creature look like? No idea, because it all moves way too quickly to even register, and this is compounded by 3D effects which have severely darkened the image. The end result is a film that is so unwatchable it feels like Anderson is stabbing an ice pick into your eyesockets by the time the whole affair comes to its silly, ridiculous conclusion. The theater should have posted nausea warnings for audiences who might walk into this thing on a full stomach. Doobie White, the film’s editor, is probably suffering from vertigo and paranoid hallucinations after cutting it together. It is visual chaos, and the fact that some $60 million was spent on this film- much of it appearing to be for production design and visual effects- it is a crime that no shot actually holds long enough for anyone to (try to) appreciate it.
At the very least, the hope was that The Final Chapter might do something, somehow to salvage the Resident Evil film franchise and name, but instead Anderson doubled down on daring the audience to watch something that is nigh unwatchable; it is Greengrass shaky cam on steroids and meth fused with some Hud-from-Cloverfield camera movements for a true visual insult. It is a foul, dirty mess of a film that would probably be a smash hit if you were blind and put it on mute. An utter unmitigated disaster. Let’s pray that Milla Jovovich actually attempts to do something interesting in her career now instead of starring in her husband’s neo-apocalyptic zombie bondage fetishes. Two out of Ten Stars.