When the Resident Evil film franchise comes out with another entry, it is often met with groans of, “another one?” As Resident Evil: The Final Chapter begins its initial run in theaters (having opened January 27th), there have undoubtedly have been plenty of these groans already – however, are they really justified? Sure, it could be argued that the film series has little substance, unnecessarily breaks away form the storylines put forward in the games, and often emphasizes action over atmosphere (contrary to the game series) – but despite some of these issues, I believe there is still a lot to be celebrated.
For those who have little exposure to Resident Evil, the films are based on Capcom’s video game series of the same name. The expansive game series popularized the survival horror genre and created a rich world with interesting characters that people continually wanted to come back to. To sum up the overall plot in a very general sense, Resident Evil tells the story of “a group of individuals who battle against the Umbrella Corporation as well as characters in relation to them who have developed the T-virus which, among other things, can transform humans in to zombies as well as mutate other creatures into horrifying monsters,” (source: Resident Evil Wikipedia). With the popularity and success of the games, it was only a matter of time before that was capitalized on through other forms of media, such as the eponymous film series.
While the films have been met with significant criticisms from critics and fans alike, I believe there are still many reasons to give them a shot – chief among them is the primary character of Alice (portrayed by Milla Jovovich). According to writer, Paul W.S. Anderson, Alice was initially meant to serve as an amalgam of the many powerful female characters throughout the game series. However, many of those characters eventually made their own appearances and Alice became a source of her own unique brand of badassery. As the films progress, Alice develops from simply a strong fighter to eventual superhero while discovering her origins as an experimental, human bioweapon. Alice is consistently shown to be tough, powerful, interesting and flawed all while injecting an unbridled sense of feminism into greater the zombie/action/horror genre.
Surrounding Alice, the Resident Evil films have brought together a uniquely diverse cast of characters and actors to portray them. As pointed out in a recent piece from Valerie Complex in Geek & Sundry (Here is Why the ‘Resident Evil’ Films Deserve a Second Look), the films consciously make a commitment to diversity, amassing a “talented and experienced group of actors includ[ing]: Mike Epps, Oded Fehr, Michelle Rodriguez, Lee Joon-gi, Ashanti, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bing Bing, Wentworth Miller, Ruby Rose, Ali Larter, Sienna Guillory, and Colin Salmon.”
On top of the important social points the films make and the interesting characters they include throughout their stories, I find that there is simply a coolness factor that contributes to my overall enjoyment of the franchise. The action is well done, and Milla Jovovich, who in real life is trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Tae Kwon-Do, does the majority of her own stunts. Also, as a fan of a good creature-feature now and then, I appreciate the efforts to bring to life the unique (and sometimes disturbing) creatures and mutations that the games have created.
The Resident Evil franchise will never be noted as ‘critically acclaimed’ and the films are far from Academy Award nominees, and I’m sure The Final Chapter won’t do much to change that overnight. However, I still believe there’s a lot to love and enjoy throughout the series and I, for one, am looking forward its final installment.