Ranked: ‘Resident Evil’ Films
by Daniel Rester
With the release of the video game remake of Resident Evil 3 this year and the recent talks of casting for a Resident Evil film reboot, there has been a lot of talk revolving around the series lately. This made me decide to go back and watch the films that have been released already. There are six of them in total, all written by Paul W.S. Anderson and four of them directed by him as well. Milla Jovovich stars as the protagonist Alice, who was invented just for the movies.
Video game movies have struggled in various ways over the years. The Resident Evil series, however, made bank at the box office and has some fans despite getting mixed reviews critically. The films have little to do with the much better game series, but they have their moments. Here’s how I rank them compared to each other.
6. Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
The fifth film, Resident Evil: Retribution, is borderline experimental in how plotless and chaotic it is. I’m not sure what Anderson was thinking with his writing and directing this time. We follow Alice as she and others make their way through different Umbrella training simulations and try to escape the company’s facility in Russia. And that’s about it. There’s little to no story or character progression this time around. After the creative shown-in-reverse opening credits, the film just becomes a string of noisy and cartoonish action sequences that bring in a bunch of one-note characters; Leon Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Ada Wong (Li Bingbing) from the games finally make appearances, but they are completely wasted. Some moments are dazzling and unintentionally hilarious, but it’s mostly a loud and boring mess that wants to be Aliens (1986) at times but fails. It’s easily the worst of the series. Grade: D+
5. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Anderson returned to helm Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth film, after sitting the second and third ones out directing-wise. It wastes no time in wiping away with the clones and superpowers introduced in the third film, which would be good except that Alice still moves and fights like a damn superhero the whole time. Anderson is also in love with slo-mo and 3D effects this time around as Alice searches for “Arcadia,” a safe haven mentioned in the third film. Most of this one feels like forgettable filler as Alice and others try to escape a building in Los Angeles. It’s okay throughout, but it gets too dumb in the third act when Wesker (Shawn Roberts) takes on Alice and two others in a Matrix (1999) ripoff fight; someone actually strategically kicks a piece of glass into a monster dog in order to kill it. This one does have Chris Redfield from the games though, with Wentworth Miller doing a fine enough job in the role. Grade: C-
4. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017)
Five years after the cliffhanger in Resident Evil: Retribution, the series finally delivered its last go-round with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Does it go out with a bang? Well, no, but it is serviceable and is certainly a step up from the fifth film. Anderson directs again as he tries to connect everything together and have it all make sense. This time we follow Alice as she tries to locate an airborne cure and bring Umbrella down once and for all. The Final Chapter has a few exciting action scenes, especially in a sequence involving a wind turbine, and Alice actually shows some more personality for once. Iain Glen is also entertaining as the evil Umbrella mastermind Alexander Isaacs. The third act has some interesting twists and emotional beats as well. These pieces that work fight against more-of-the-same bits and some of the most atrocious action editing in cinema history. Seriously, there are quick-cut scenes in this thing that are just nauseating. And Anderson again shows little care for continuity as the ending of Resident Evil: Retribution is tossed aside and the stuff with Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris) in Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) is just up and replaced by different T-virus origin elements. Maybe worst of all though, the film gives a middle finger to villain Wesker as he goes out like a bitch by being taken down by a door. A freakin’ door. Grade: C
3. Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the second entry, put Alexander Witt in the director’s chair. This time, Alice and others try to get out of Raccoon City as the T-virus escapes the HIVE and a monstrous being called the Nemesis hunts them down. The action got turned up for Apocalypse and the series never looked back, with the survival horror roots of the games faded into the background. That said, this one does a fine job of incorporating some of the characters and settings of the second and third games, especially in the case of the hulking Nemesis. A quick pace and blazing action scenes help keep it watchable enough. There are some really stupid moments, however, such as when Alice crashes through a window on a motorcycle and just happens to land on an enemy. The ending also feels tacked-on and illogical. Grade: C+
2. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Third film Resident Evil: Extinction jumps forward with the plot and paints America as a wasteland destroyed by the T-virus and zombies. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, the film takes a lot of influence from the Mad Max series and Day of the Dead (1985) with its atmosphere and ideas. In doing so, it provides quite a bit of fun as it expands the scale and scope of the series while delivering B-movie thrills. Two action scenes are really cool, with one involving murderous crows and the other involving an abandoned Las Vegas. Oded Fehr and Ali Larter also turn in a solid supporting performances as Carlos and Claire, respectively. Unfortunately some idiotic elements (Alice’s powers, the clones, etc.) were also introduced in this one and they would go on to plague the further sequels. Even so, Resident Evil: Extinction is pretty good. Grade: B-
1. Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil is no great film, but it’s solid and remains the high point in the series. As Alice and others go into a mysterious facility called the HIVE, they come face to face with hundreds of zombies and a dangerous computer system called the Red Queen. Anderson loosely adapted the video games for the film, introducing his own characters and story but keeping some visual nods to the games. It finds a decent balance with its horror and action, whereas the later films just became nonsensical action pieces with occasional zombies. Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez (as Rain) make for some badass female leads, the pace moves quickly, and the action is flashy and gory without being overly stylish (like it is in the later films). The laser hallway scene is a standout set piece as well. Grade: B-