Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ★★★★

Neveldine/Taylor editor Doobie White arguably wrests control of the Resident Evil franchise away from its faithful shepherd Paul W.S. Anderson in its final installment, replacing the director's erstwhile preference for a handful of jump scares peppered among more elegant long takes and geometrical composition in favor of a more traditional, initially frustrating series of telegraphed jump scares and erratic assemblage. But the great strength of these films is Anderson's interest in the underlying logic and aesthetic of video games (certainly more so than the plot of the source series), and this style fits with a first-person POV of many games as much as Anderson's other directorial efforts in the franchise capture the third-person, wide-angle view of others.

Anderson also branches out in his visual reference points; this film returns to the Hive, the generating locus of the series's horrors, and time and neglect have sent the ultramodern facility into a decay that vividly recalls the set design of Portal 2 (including a scene of a character being dumped into a small, transparent holding cube redolent of Chell's cell. The Hive material in the back half is where Anderson gradually reasserts his authority over White, reveling in corridors and long shots hauntingly angled to maximize the view of rotted bodies, blood-smeared glass, and the rows and rows of the world's well-preserved super-rich, tucked away in stasis to await the dawn of a cleansed world.

I admit upfront that this lacks the same staying power that Retribution did; that film marked the apex of the franchise's literal interpretation of video game replay, building the constant repetitions and recapitulations of the other movies into a nightmare world in which the zombies were far less scary than the sight of characters literally reprogrammed on a whim, part of a gigantic assembly line of clones whose established personalities could be wiped to set friends against each other for the enduring study and casual amusement of the Umbrella Corporation. Nothing in this film has the same heart-stopping power of Alice and her ad-hoc adopted daughter stumbling upon the conveyor belt of Alices and being bewildered and sickened.

What it does have, however, is a more desperate sense of camaraderie; if Retribution brought back the decently sized cast scattered throughout its predecessors, The Final Chapter keeps things lean, bringing back only Ali Larter's Claire from prior allies. Alice has been portrayed as the classic western wandering hero before, but here she is so by default, walking away from the unseen aftermath of the Retribution cliffhanger to a world with so few remaining humans that one calls into question the MacGuffin of her being sent to save the last few thousand souls from extinction. Alice's true backup in this film is me, myself, and I, rendered literally in a triumvirate of women who share the same essence but are each so different.

The union of these three marks the film's, if not the whole franchise's, true climax, the moment in which the endless resets of clones and copies finally synthesize to take down the ultimate foe, who is not some mutated zombie but both a religious fanatic and a corporate overlord. The feel good movie of 2017.