I remember being kind of ambivalent about the first Resident Evil movie. The action was good, but the story didn’t really hold together all that well. It seemed more complicated than it needed to be to justify the action scenes and less complicated than it needed to be to work as something that existed to do more than tie together the action scenes. It also (I think) started the trend of killing off Michelle Rodriguez’s character in every movie she’s in, and I’m still kind of annoyed about that despite the new trend of bringing dead Michelle Rodriguez characters back to life. I’ve seen the movie at least once since, and with the second movie to provide context it’s pretty obvious that some of the problem came from trying to set up the later movies but doing it in a way that made the set-up seem like unresolved plot points in the first movie.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the second movie, was the high point for me, and the only one I actually own on DVD and have seen more than once or twice. I think the main reason I like it is that it’s not really a zombie movie, it’s a cyberpunk movie. Umbrella isn’t just the company who made they bad guys, it is the bad guy, and its got a lot of weird tech that serves the story instead of just setting up the action scenes. Of course that doesn’t mean that the action in the second movie suffers. It gets better, and the action scenes in Apocalypse are big and epic and well-choreographed and just fucking gorgeous. Ok, maybe not the “first-person shooter” scenes, but the fact that those don’t break the movie and sometimes almost work is kind of a miracle. There are even some interesting supporting characters.
The third movie introduced Ali Larter and showed us the world after the zombie apocalypse, which was still kind of a novelty in those pre-Walking Dead days. I don’t remember that one doing much with the bigger Umbrella Corporation/Alice plot, but it was watchable enough for the zombie action even though it didn’t leave much of an impression. They should have probably stopped there, because I couldn’t even begin to tell you the plot of the 4th and 5th movies. I just remember bits and pieces: some ships, some Alice clones, Michelle Rodriguez came back, there was some kind of big complex with zombie simulators, and at the end of the last one Washington D.C. was overrun by monsters and Alice and the gang were being recruited by some guy (we’ll get to him later) to help humanity make its last stand.
The new movie opens with Alice wandering around the charred ruins of D.C., fighting a zombie thing, getting chased by some kind of dragon thing, and then stumbling into a room with inexplicably working electricity that allows the Red Queen (that creepy little computer girl) to pop up on the monitor. She tells Alice that there are only like 4,000 humans left and they’ll all be dead in 48 hours unless Alice gets to The Hive (the underground bunker under Raccoon City where the first movie took place) and releases an anti-virus that will kill everything with the T-virus. Alice questions whether she should believe the Red Queen but has nothing better to do and agrees so the Red Queen sets her watch with a 48-hour timer and sends her on her way.
A lot of things in this movie bugged me, but nothing more than the stupid timer, in part because it kept showing back up to remind me of how dumb it was. Umbrella isn’t going to nuke all the remaining human settlements or something in 48 hours. It’s never explicitly said, but it’s implied that they can only hold out against the zombies for another 48 hours, so it’s either kill the zombies or all the humans get eaten. Even if the Red Queen’s computer brain can make this prediction with perfect precision, the anti-virus is airborne, which means it’s not going instantly kill all zombies (they even point this out at the end of the movie). The point is, the 48-hour timer doesn’t really make sense and doesn’t serve any purpose other than to give Alice a completely unnecessary and arbitrary deadline. If they’d left it out, the movie would have been less dumb.
Anyway, after getting her pointless countdown clock reset, Alice starts toward Raccoon City, gets knocked out a couple of times so the countdown can (again arbitrarily) lose a few hours, and ends up in a tank (like a Tank Girl tank, not one of Umbrella Corp’s Naked Alice tanks) with that guy from Game of Thrones who sounds like David Bowie in Labyrinth when he talks. He’s leading a whole bunch of zombies back to Raccoon City for some reason I never quite figured out. It seemed like a very “underpants gnome” kind of plan. At least I remember him (his name is Isaacs, apparently), from the other movies and vaguely remember that he’s a bad guy even if I don’t remember the details. There’s also a cut scene where they show that this asshole is still around:
I remember this guy from the last movie (specifically the reveal that he was the one who’d brought Team Alice to D.C.), and it seemed like I was supposed to remember who he was, but I didn’t. I still have no memory of him in earlier movies or any real idea of his role in the franchise. IMDB tells that he was introduced in the 4th movie, so I guess he was. IMDB also tells me that his name is Albert Wexler, but I prefer to think of him as Douchey McSunglasses. Even without context, Douchey is thoroughly hatable in every possible way. Anyway, Douchey is down in The Hive protecting the anti-virus or something.
During this stretch, it became clear that the one thing that usually works in these movies, the cool action scenes, were going to suck. This time around, they decided to go with the “a bunch of random tight shots of weapons and people moving” style of film-making that makes it impossible to have any idea what’s actually happening. It also robs the movie of one of the franchise’s great strengths: the fact that Milla Jovovich (and/or her stunt double) looks really cool when she’s shooting guns, punching, flipping, kicking, and swinging pointy implements. The visuals lose a lot when you only see her shoulder and part of her chin and have no idea where they are in relation to the zombies.
Anyway, Alice escapes GOT-guy’s tank and gets to Raccoon City, where she meets up with Ali Larter and some other people and warns them that there’s an army of zombies coming. Rather than leading them to The Hive so they can get the thing that will kill all the zombies instantly, Alice decides to help the rag-tag band set up an elaborate death trap that will only kill some of the zombies (but burns some more time on the arbitrary countdown clock). This seems like a flawed plan to me, but there is a silver lining: One of the members of the rag-tag band is Ruby Rose! Holy shit! Am I going to get to see Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, and Ruby Rose kicking zombie ass? That’s something that’s very high on a list I didn’t even realize I had made. Maybe this movie’s finally picking up!
This movie was not finally picking up. After the extremely anti-climactic siege scene, Alice surrounds herself with a group who are going to help her get into The Hive. There’s Ali Larter, Ruby Rose, Ali Larter’s boyfriend Doc, Razor (aka “The Black Guy”), Mexican Brad Pitt, The Guy Who Looks Like Rick Grimes, and Random White Guy. Most of them don’t even get names, and it doesn’t really matter because all of them (including Ruby Rose, who I like to think decided she was better than this movie and demanded her character be killed immediately) die within the first 15 minutes of the team arriving at the Hive (Random White Guy dies before they even get there).
When they get to The Hive, the Red Queen warns Alice that there’s a traitor in their midst. Fifteen minutes later, the only people alive are Alice, Ali Larter, and Doc. Can you guess who the traitor is? Ali Larter, for her part, is really only there to occasionally remind the audience that since Alice has the T-virus, she’ll die when the anti-virus is released. This is obviously supposed to seem like a tough choice or something, but Alice seems ok with dying if it means taking EVERY FREAKING ZOMBIE IN THE WORLD with her. Really, Ali Larter’s the only one who seems to have a problem with it, and that’s just because she doesn’t have anything better to do while she’s waiting for the scene when she kills her traitor boyfriend.
From there on out there are some villain monologues, some franchise-wide plot reveals that might have been cool in a less shitty movie, and of course the final fight with the bad guy and the rush to release the anti-virus before the arbitrary timer reaches zero. The only really satisfying part of the whole sequence is when Douchey McSunglasses dies, and even that would’t be a particularly memorable death if Douchey wasn’t so punchable. Then there’s a completely unnecessary final scene that renders the whole half-ass Alice sacrifice plot moot and the veiled threat of more Resident Evil movies. Then it was over, and I kind of wished I’d went to see xXx: Return of Xander Cage instead.