REVIEW: Resident Evil Trilogy [2002, 2004, 2007]

“Project Alice is online”

**Contains Spoilers**

Paul WS Anderson has given us the newest trilogy of diminishing returns. I have never played the video game before and therefore went into the 2002 original Resident Evil containing little knowledge of the mythology. With that novice mentality, I found myself really enjoying the film. It gave me the background needed, the action and suspense expected, and a cliffhanger leaving me anticipating more. That continuation came but two years later with the subtitle Apocalypse. Here was a film that showed how the series’ origin story was a huge part to the main plot of the first. This entry featured a bare-bones story, namely the extraction of a scientist’s child from the infected Raccoon City, yet that was okay. The action was amped up, the characters more accessible, the acting vastly superior, and the ingenuity evolved. While lacking in plot, it excelled in action and effects, making it an equal, in my mind, to its predecessor. Its final twenty minutes was even devoted entirely to setting up the third piece to the puzzle. Here, though, is where the train derails hard. Extinction had a fantastic setup, yet instead of continuing right where we left off, we meet a caravan of survivors seeking gas and motoring cross-country. Nothing is progressed story-wise that we already did not know. Where the sparse plot didn’t matter in the second, it stuck out like a sore thumb with the latest installment.

At the center of everything lies Milla Jovovich. This is the role she will be known for. Sure, The Fifth Element began her career in action movies, but the Resident Evil trilogy is what made her a household name. Heck, the only other film she has really starred in since was Ultraviolet, pretty much using her in the exact same role as Alice here. You need to give her credit for the stunts as well as the ability to make herself better at her craft as the years went on. Starting as a mute in Dazed and Confused, she could barely speak the language. With Resident Evil, Jovovich found herself a lot more adept and believable as an English speaking character. Also, it showed that she could go through a range of emotions well enough to carry a film. From being an amnesiac to eventually a killing machine with telekinetic abilities, her evolution in the series definitely moved parallel with her skill set. She will never do Shakespeare, but for the roles that she has been choosing, I can’t think right now of someone I’d rather see cast.

It is her total blank slate in the first film, which makes it so endearing. We learn what the Umbrella Corporation is all about as she slowly remembers her role with them. It was a successful zombie movie, utilizing the jump scares and the hyperkinetic pace needed to keep you on the edge of your seat. All the characters were enjoyable to spend time with, we got zombified dogs, and a story that kept a bit of intrigue as to what everyone’s motives were, while also being intelligent enough to keep my full, undivided attention throughout. The demise of all the people involved was interesting and to have a film end badly for all was a nice breath of fresh air. Alice does wakes up at the end, alone in a ravaged city, but she is definitely not in a position to rest up or smile at her good fortune.

The transition into the second film is then seamless. We find that she didn’t just wake up, but in fact is an experiment let loose on a city that cannot be saved. Our two survivors from the original are now pitted against each other to see which is the better soldier, and therefore the more effective military weapon. This fight is the entire story, though, as far as the main mythology goes. Otherwise, we have Alice and her new band of warriors on the lookout for the virus’ creator’s daughter. In effect, then, the whole story could have been told in about twenty minutes—they go in and get the child, Alice and Nemesis fight, boom, the film is over. However, the tale is padded with huge action sequences and gory zombie carnage. With the addition of Mike Epps to the cast, we are also treated with some nice comic relief, missing somewhat from the first besides Michelle Rodriguez’s sarcastic quips. I never minded the simplicity of it all because it never tried to be more than what it was. I stuck with it until the conclusion and found myself even more excited for the third part. The setup had so much potential. Alice was fully formed, all her memory intact, and a new ability in telekinesis. With Nemesis gone and the zombies no match for her, we could finally get to see the showdown between her and the Corporation itself.

And with that, we are treated to Extinction. It starts off pretty good with a cloned Alice being put through tests in a mock-up version of the mansion from the first film. It gets intriguing to hear what the scientists have been up to and to learn that Alice is outside trying to find survivors and keep herself off the grid. Then we get the first sign of trouble, an action scene that has nothing to do with the plot. Let’s kill some hicks in the desert. If that wasn’t enough, we also get a twenty-minute fight between our survivors and crows—yes those pesky black birds, newly infected. Sure the payoff is great, but really we are now halfway through the film and all that has happened is Alice found her old friends. We already knew she had powers and that her blood was special and could mean everything to the project. At the end of the film, that is the exact same knowledge we are left with. Besides many deaths and what could be the beginnings of a complete trainwreck of a sequel, starring no one else but Jovovich, (you’ll understand when you see it), we learn absolutely nothing as far as mythology goes. I felt cheated and let down greatly because this film could have done so much more. Besides Oded Fehr reprising his role from the previous film, nothing is redeeming at all. Alice kicks some butt, sure, but the emotional weight the filmmakers want from the civilians and children being protected never comes to fruition.

So, in conclusion, the Resident Evil trilogy starts strong and ends with a disappointing whimper. The first had everything you could have wanted in a sci-fi/zombie/action flick. Scares, plot twists, and loads of violence and gore rounded out the successful entry. In came the second, lacking substance, but making up for it with flare. More characters, which never hurt the proceedings, more blood, more action, and more monsters can only mean non-stop enjoyment. And if the film doesn’t deserve an extra point or two for Sienna Guillory’s Jill Valentine, then you must have watched a different film from me. Next came the unfortunate failure of a third. What is less even than a bridge to the inevitable fourth, (will the box-office be enough to warrant it?), this last entry is a wasted opportunity to add to a nice little franchise. Hopefully a fourth film could redeem the series, but with its horrid setup, I highly doubt it. The only way I’d probably even check out a new attempt would be if Valentine comes back into the fold to help out. If anything, either way, so little happened that you could probably just skip over the third entry anyways, and never have to sit through it again.

Resident Evil 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
Resident Evil: Apocalypse 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
Resident Evil: Extinction 3/10 | ★

photography:
[1] Milla Jovovich as Alice in Screen Gems’ Resident Evil – 2002
[2] Sienna Guillory plays Jill Valentine in Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse, also starring Milla Jovovich and Oded Fehr – 2003
[3] Oded Fehr (left) and Milla Jovovich star in Screen Gems’ action/horror film RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. Photo by: Rolf Konow

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