Watching “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is like staring directly into the sun for two hours. For those who care about the wellbeing of their eyes, it’s unrecommendable. It may be one of the most inanely put together films in recent memory. Not a single action scene makes logical sense (nor a single one of the jump-scares works). Its characters barely qualify as such; they’re cannon fodder meant to be killed off to give the illusion of “tension.” None of the “Resident Evil” films prior to this have been particularly good, but they’re bearable. “The Final Chapter” pivots that.
Fans of the franchise will pay no mind to any of this. They’ve stuck with it this long because of those B-movies tones. They like them because they’re fun, and it’s impossible to argue against that. It’s important for them to understand, however, that “The Final Chapter” pays very little mind to what they may want out of the finale of the franchise. The film picks up three weeks after the finale of the previous film in the series, meaning that the cliffhanger “Retribution” ended with goes unanswered. In many ways, that sets the stage for what’s to come. What better way for director Paul W.S. Anderson (“Pompeii”) to clue his fans in on the kind of movie they’re about to watch than by gaslighting them?
That’s not even the worst of it: The prologue to “The Final Chapter” features Alice (Milla Jovovich, “Survivor”) speaking directly to the audience, explaining everything that has happened in the series so far. The problem is that this glorified “Previously on…” segment literally rewrites the franchise. It changes the continuity because nothing says, “This is what everything that has come before has led to,” like changing most of what has come before. In this way, “The Final Chapter” is barely the finale to the “Resident Evil” franchise. It’s the capper to another series entirely, with different characters and a different mythology.
For most of the movie, it’s unclear why Anderson would rob his fans of the possibility of closure and a rewarding ending to a series that they love. By the third act, it has become shockingly obvious. History was rewritten to force one final twist, and in all fairness, it’s a twist that might have worked had it actually been planned from the beginning. Instead, it was shoehorned in at the last moment, one last betrayal from Anderson to the fans that he claims to love.
If “The Final Chapter” is an insult to fans of “Resident Evil,” it’s completely insufferable to those who have been on the fence so far. It sells itself as an action-horror film, but it fails utterly on both those accounts. With the action, everything is cut so fast and so awkwardly that even fights that might have been cool are rendered completely unintelligible. This reaches its peak later in the movie, where every frame for a full second is a different shot. It is painful to watch. Action has to be legible to be exciting, and “The Final Chapter” is anything but.
The horror doesn’t fare any better. The opening act is a mess of poorly telegraphed jump scares that are just as likely to be random falling objects as they are to be actual zombies. Every two minutes, like clockwork, the sound falls out for a few moments before there’s an explosion of noise and rapid cuts. It would have been subtler if Anderson himself had shown up in the theater to scream directly into audience members’ ears, “You should be scared now!”
No matter its prospective audience, no matter its intentions, “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” fails. It fails to give fans the ending they deserve. It fails to provide anything for the undecided. The only thing anyone can hope it succeeds at is sticking with its titular promise: It better be “The Final Chapter” of this franchise.