I’ve decided to go with a theme for this week’s entry of 31 for 31, so I’ll be covering the very divisive (live-action) Resident Evil movie franchise. The Resident Evil game series is one of my favorites and I seem to be one of the few fans that actually doesn’t hate the movies that have spawned because of it. I figured since the film franchise recently wrapped up its storyline with the sixth and final movie, now would be a great time to go back and see how each film holds up. So let’s check them out.
2002 | R | 1h 40m
I feel like the first Resident Evil movie got a lot of hate because it didn’t incorporate a ton of elements directly from the video games. It seemed like people just wanted a shot-for-shot recreation of the first game. I honestly feel if you don’t go in with that kind of attitude, Resident Evil isn’t that bad. My biggest issue with it is that not much actually happens as the entire movie takes place in an underground facility run by the Umbrella Corporation, known as the Hive, and revolves around a small group trying to escape. It feels more like a set up for the rest of the series than anything else. There are few standout moments. Some of them are pretty cheesy, but a couple are actually pretty cool. Perhaps my favorite scene in the entire movie franchise (the laser room) takes place in this movie. A couple other things worth noting are that Michelle Rodriguez is a badass and the score is kind of dope.
2004 | R | 1h 34m
The second film in the Resident Evil movie franchise, Apocalypse, has always been the one that I considered my favorite. After watching it again for this article, I’m not really sure why that is because it’s pretty bad. I think a lot of that comes down to it not holding up thanks to its sub-par special effects. Apocalypse does have a few things going for it though, as it opens up the world beyond the Hive by putting the cast in Resident Evil‘s famed Raccoon City and also introduces a few characters from the games including Jill Valentine, Carlos Oliveira, and Nemesis. This is also the movie where Milla Jovovich’s character, Alice, starts becoming the badass the series is known for. All that said, I don’t outright hate Apocalypse, but it certainly didn’t hold up to the memories I had of it.
Resident Evil: Extinction
2007 | R | 1h 34m
Of the few people that actually admit to watching Resident Evil movies, it seems that quite a few of them point to Extinction as their favorite film in the series. I wasn’t a huge fan of it when I first watched it, but it is far better than I remembered and I see why some point to it as the best. Extinction opens up the cinematic universe even more, showing how the T-Virus has completely ravaged the entire United States and turned it into a desert wasteland. It also introduced video game mainstays Claire Redfield and Albert Wesker for the first time in the film franchise. Extinction blends action and horror together very well, having some of the best examples of both genres in the series. It was nice to have the opposite reaction that I did for Apocalypse, as this one actually held up quite well and surpassed the memories I had of it.
Resident Evil: Afterlife
2010 | R | 1h 37m
Afterlife starts out with my favorite opening credit sequence of the movie series, but man oh man, it is all downhill from there. The entire movie revolves around Alice and friends trying to reach a mysterious place called Arcadia and nearly every scene and dialog sequence is a cringe-worthy mess. They relied way too heavily on 3D effects and when you’re watching in 2D it just comes off as cheesy and out of place. Also, the amount of slow-motion going on is completely absurd. On top of all that, Afterlife tries way too hard to incorporate more aspects of the video games and most just don’t make much sense in the cinematic universe. Speaking of the games, we get introduced to Chris Redfield for the first time in the films and the casting of Wentworth Miller to play the part boggles my mind each time I see him. Needless to say, Afterlife is bad and easily my pick for the worst movie in the franchise.
Resident Evil: Retribution
2012 | R | 1h 35m
It may not be saying much, but the first 20 minutes of Retribution are better than the entirety of Afterlife. This time around Alice is trapped in yet another underground Umbrella facility and must find a way to escape. There is quite a bit of fan service in Retribution as they finally decided to add video game fan favorites Leon Kennedy, Barry Burton, and Ada Wong into the mix. Actress Michelle Rodriguez (among others) also makes her return to the series, which was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, Retribution still exhibits some of the same problems that plagued Afterlife. While not nearly as prevalent this time around, the reliance on 3D effects and slow motion still pop up a little too often. The dialog is also still as bad as ever, but I will say that it’s more on par with some of the campiness of the games making it at least kind of funny. All told, Retribution isn’t amazing by any means, but it has a B-Movie feel and plenty of nods to the games, which make it a mostly enjoyable watch.
The Final Chapter
2016 | R | 1h 47m
The Final Chapter is the only movie on this list that I watched for the first time when preparing to write this article, so all of these thoughts are my initial feelings. I also had a hell of time getting my hands on this movie, as it was pretty much impossible to find for rental. I actually had to buy it just so I could make sure I had access to all six films, but I digress.
As far as the movie goes, I was kind of disappointed right out of the gate. As Retribution ended we got a pretty cool scene with Alice, Wesker, Leon, Ada, and Jill all standing atop the White House looking out over the hordes of the undead. I thought we might get those five teaming up for the next installment, but nope, that wasn’t the case. In fact, Jill, Leon, and Ada don’t even make an appearance in The Final Chapter. Instead, Alice makes her way back to the Hive to try and stop Wesker and Umbrella once and for all. It’s pretty much what I’ve come to expect from a Resident Evil movie – decent action scenes and some pretty bad dialog. I will say that it was an interesting way to end this nearly 15 year story arc and was a fine way for the series to go out. Although, it definitely felt like they left the door open to make further movies in this world, so I wouldn’t be all that surprised if we do see another sequel. If you’ve watched the rest of the Resident Evil movies, there’s really no reason not to check out The Final Chapter, but if you’ve never been a fan, I don’t see this changing your mind.