By Nicole Prieto | Staff Writer
Milla Jovovich returns as Alice in “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” the sixth installment of the action-packed, 15-year-old film franchise inspired by the video games of the same name. It has been nearly five years since we left Alice with a ragtag group of survivors in Washington, D.C., in “Retribution” — among them familiar game faces Leon S. Kennedy, Ada Wong and Jill Valentine. Alongside series villain Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), the small band prepared to take a last stand against the Red Queen’s mutant-zombie army.
“The Final Chapter” dovetails with the ending of the fifth film, but it only shows us the aftermath of the battle that killed everyone except Alice and Wesker. It turns out Wesker’s goal to save humanity was just a trap to send them all to slaughter. Oh, and that he never gave Alice her powers back like he claimed he did. The jerk. Miraculously, the un-super-powered Alice claws her way out of the rubble of what remains of D.C. In a shocking turn of events, she must now ally with the Red Queen (played by Jovovich’s oldest daughter, Ever Anderson) in a bid to save the last few thousand people left on the planet. She has 48 hours to retrieve an airborne cure that, if released aboveground, would kill everything infected with the T-virus — including Alice herself.
“The Final Chapter” tries to harken to the roots of the first two films’ less world-shattering charm by having Alice return to Raccoon City and what remains of the Hive. Unfortunately, it makes the mistake of its predecessor film by once again leaning on an endless barrage of blindsiding action scenes. (The easily startled beware: There is no dearth of cheap, predictable jump-scares throughout the film, and they are all obnoxiously loud.)
Watching Alice in close combat taking down Umbrella operatives while strung up like a piñata is awesome for a few moments. Watching her lead a blatantly pointless effort to hold off a tidal wave of zombies with homemade trebuchets — while atop of a decaying building with questionable foundational stability — comes off as silly in hindsight. But hey, at least we see her fighting alongside the suddenly returned Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who apparently has a boyfriend now.
Even within the films’ universe, “Retribution” is a messy, baffling enterprise that raises more questions than answers. While “The Final Chapter” is not a sterling improvement in terms of throwing in one action scene after another, it at least makes the effort to dial things down and give viewers some breathing room. Alice is afforded a few pensive moments about her life and what little she can recall before the events of the first movie. At the risk of skirting a retcon of the second film, we are given the backstory of the T-virus and a reason for why the Umbrella Corporation is even still a thing at the end of the world.
Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen), whose mutated body we last saw get diced via laser room in 2007’s “Extinction,” once again takes the spotlight as the film’s big bad. The explanation for his return? Simply put, “clones.” The “real” Isaacs that Alice apparently failed to kill is plotting to wipe out everyone on Earth in a biblical flood made up of the ravenous undead. The motivation comes off as paper thin and cliché but is believable for the film’s purposes.
Game fans may be distressed to know that, presumably, Leon, Ada and Jill have been dropped with hardly any mourning. Claire’s brother, Chris Redfield, also remains among the MIA. Nor does young Becky, Alice’s de facto daughter from the last movie, get a line of mention. As with Angela Ashford and K-Mart in prior films, Becky’s fate is explicitly unaddressed and uncared for; though, it is safe to write her off among the D.C. deceased. Alice and pseudo-motherhood were just never meant to be.
While the past is in the past, at least the present has its upsides. Ruby Rose of “Orange is the New Black” fame debuts as trope-savvy mechanic Abigail in Alice’s ever-shifting action team. Her character is, like most “Resident Evil” side characters, somewhat superfluous and at high risk of joining Alice’s latest band of disposable body-shields. But at least she is amusing to have around. When Alice’s group has to climb through the blades of an unpowered, giant air turbine to get to the other side of a passageway, Abigail is quick to point out how much of a terrible idea that is.
On that note, it is a wonder how the actors can keep straight faces as they blow through cheesy lines and accept horror tropes on their faces. But there are a few oddly cute moments meant to be a wink-and-a-nod to the audience. Alice, for instance, reflects how she feels like she has been doing all of this her whole life. For the audience, that rings true more than anything.
It has been 15 long years, and the “Resident Evil” movies have done the nigh impossible: remain a long-term success among video game-to-film adaptations. “The Final Chapter” rounds off over a decade of Alice kicking butt and taking game mainstays’ names. It is probably the best capstone possible to a series unashamed of dancing around retcons and dropping characters with in-universe impunity. The name of the game has always been mutant zombies and watching Jovovich doing impossible stunts in bullet-time. For that, it should be credited for giving us as much consistency.
“The Final Chapter” is, overall, riddled with curt explanations for why characters get resurrected, show up out of nowhere, change their motivations or get dropped like flies. Frustrating as they may be, they do serve the convenient purpose of not bogging the audience down in lore or making us do weird mental gymnastics to reconcile the prior films’ plots with the latest addition.
It is no secret that the “Resident Evil” movies hardly inspire a highbrowed movie-going experience. Take it from a writer who has re-watched all five prior films in several headache-inducing marathons: The trick is to just not care. A “Resident Evil” film that makes sense within its own metes and bounds is all fans can ask for. In that respect, “Final Chapter” delivers with a lot of bangs, stabbings and zombies galore. Give yourself permission to not think too hard about anything, and you are giving yourself two hours of fun, mindless entertainment.