4 out of 5
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
‘What the shit is this shit?’ I admittedly thought, several times, about a third of the way through Resident Evil 6’s hour and forty minute-ish runtime. Who are these people? Where are we? What in the hecka heck is happening?
These are, y’know, important movie questions. And perhaps my movie-watching habits be damned, but when I suspect that I’m partially to blame for these questions – I am often multi-tasking during movie watching, half on the computer or gaming while a flick plays – then, even if it’s a film I may not necessarily be enjoying, I feel I should be giving it enough attention to be able to effectively speak to it. I wasn’t not enjoying Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, but my confusion was frustrating, given that I pretty felt like the series was shaping up pretty well with the last couple entries. Anyhow, when I find myself in this position, I rewind the movie to a point where I no longer had those questions. …Which effectively meant rewatching the film from the start.
I’m not going to claim that Resident Evil 6 is a ‘good’ movie. Only the first one, I feel, can broach that, with the subsequent flicks embracing their B qualities to greater or lesser extent. It’s also not all that complicated, boiling down to Milla, zombies, fights, viruses, and saving the day. But: it’s also like 18 movies’ worth of Milla, zombies, fights, viruses and saving the days smash cut into one, and while that wouldn’t work as a standalone flick, it’s a hilariously ‘let’s go to 11’ approach for a series that I guarantee no one expected to go on for this long, and one that shows off Anderson’s overlooked skills as a consummate movie man, knowing exactly what his audience needs to get by. And Resident Evil needed to end, but it also needed a world-ending apocalypse – a legit one that expanded beyond the single settings of our previous films – and it also needed to not suffer the Trilogy-treatment or ‘part one’ / ‘part two’ bloat that other franchises money-grabbingly gave in to. Resident Evils are one and done; Resident Evils are bite-sized, and contain the elements mentioned above. Which amounts to a movie you can’t half-watch decently because it’s shorn down to everything you need to see to make that all-hands-in structure make sense.
Any given action sequence in the flick is a good example of this. I remember when watching AVP in the theater that I was pissed off that Anderson had fallen in with the shaky cam crowd; that the fight scenes were unwatchable messes. Later, when viewing it at home, the dialogue wasn’t any improved – it’s a sinfully cheesy movie – but I realized that it wasn’t exactly shaky cam so much as very fluid editing. The fight scenes were actually pretty good. Because Paul had switched to 3D rigs and summarily used longer cuts and a heckuva lotta slo-mo in the last two films, it’s easy to forget he’d once incorporated this style, but it is back in full dang force, here, only with more experience under his belt, he (and editor Doobie White) can comfortably chop up the scenes so that they move almost faster than we can follow. But you can follow, and I’d say it’s actually damned impressive: we’re whipped through the fight as though we’re in it, the cuts intuitively shifting us from punch to punch and leaving us breathless. It’s jarring when you’re not expecting it, and yes, blink-and-you-miss blows and dodges are the name of the game, but once I got into it, I loved it, and was amazed at, again, how fluid the sequences actually were.
Now: imagine each fight scene is followed by a brief breather or dialogue moment that walks us / moves us to the next setting, and then compress an entire movie’s worth of setup into some type of montage, and then another fight scene. That’s your movie. Thus: sure, Milla’s wandering through a wasteland, turn away, now she’s in a Death Race sequence, turn away, now she’s in a castle defense sequence, turn away, corridor creeper, etc. etc. If we’re being honest, we don’t need the full fleshed out version of these sequences, and Paul knows that too, so handfuls of setup can be assumed and Milla can set up a whole slew of traps for that castle within, like, seconds, and form bonds with characters who are offed moments later and we get it. We also buy it due to Milla’s dedication to her role, well backed up by the returning Ali Larter and fantastic scene chewing by Iain Glen. Tomandandy’s mostly disposable scores are exchanged for the work of Paul Haslinger, who doesn’t exactly make music that jumps out, but it feels more organic to the flick, and Glen MacPherson’s cinematography is at its best in this entry, chilled out on the super-real gradients of his other RE efforts and giving us something that feels wonderfully apocalyptically gritty and grimy.
That RE: 5 promised a direct sequel is a bit of a misleading lark: 6 humorously ditches all that and shunts us past the aftermath of some huge battle for an Alice solo mission, tasked by a ‘I really wanted to save humanity this whole time tee hee’ red queen (played by Milla’s and Paul’s real life daughter), which has heading back to the Hive to fetch a last-chance cure. It’s initially disappointing that we’re sort of starting over in that sense, but in truth, every single movie has done that: the previous one promises a tune-in-next-time cliffhanger, and then we start fresh. The Final Chapter ultimately succeeds by embracing what’s worked before and then amping it up with fantastic fight choreography, a no-fat editing style, and an insane all-hands-in sense of scope that gives us plenty of payoff.