*. There were many times during the previous Resident Evil films when I thought they didn’t make sense. In both minor and major ways. This is the first movie in the series though that I thought downright stupid, and stupid right from the start.
*. In the opening act an army of Alices (clones of Milla Jovovich’s character) take out the Tokyo HQ of the Umbrella Corporation. This is done in a spectacular, cartoonish way, where many of the Alices are treated as expendable. Then the “real” Alice gets the drop on the Umbrella CEO Wesker but is injected with a formula that takes away her super powers. Alice is always letting people get the drop on her. She’s really dim in this regard. Apparently she also didn’t keep any clones in reserve, which was poor planning to say the least. But Wesker’s formula seems to be only partially successful as it erases Alice’s psychokinetic abilities but still leaves her as a super-ninja warrior in the rest of the movie.
*. Seriously, I don’t think you could take any three-minute section of this movie and not find something in it to make you shake your head in disbelief. Alice crash lands her plane on the roof of a prison building and everyone just stands in the way and has to duck or dive at the last moment to avoid being run over. Then a guy catches her plane with a cable and holds it back from sliding over the edge of the building with the strength of his brawny arms alone! Please believe me when I say this stupidity is not a rare occurence. The whole movie is this dumb. It even looks dumb. How do they keep all those torches lit on the upper floors of the dining hall in the prison? How do they reach them?
*. At the end of the film, when they get to the Arcadia, Claire lets everyone know that the whole thing is a trap. Which they then walk straight into when a door slides open (sliding shut immediately behind them). But then, it’s not a trap. It’s just the next level they have to play in the game. It’s that kind of movie.
*. I think Paul W. S. Anderson had originally envisioned a Resident Evil trilogy, but by the second movie that plan had probably already fallen apart. In any event, at this point I had the distinct sense that he was just making stuff up as he went along. I felt like he might not have finished writing what he had scheduled for each day’s shooting until the night before. I know that sounds crazy, but the plot has that much of a slapdash feel to it.
*. For example, at the end of Resident Evil: Extinction we’re told that Alice’s blood is the cure for the virus, casting her in Charlton Heston’s role in The Omega Man. But at the beginning of this film Wesker “cures” her so that this is no longer in play. What one thought would be a major plot point is casually disposed of and we’re off doing something else. But then at the end we’re told that Alice’s blood still has some magical property that makes it of value. There’s no attempt at consistency.
*. I mentioned in my notes on the first three instalments that I quite liked Milla Jovovich in this role. That good feeling changed with this movie. I know I’m making too much out of it, but at the end of the opening scene, when Wesker takes away her super strength and she thanks him for making her human and (as he is about to kill her) putting her out of her misery, I couldn’t help thinking that this was Jovovich begging to be released from this franchise. In the rest of the movie her personality seems to change quite a bit from the first three films, and I don’t mean she’s become more human. I think Jovovich wanted to play the part as more of a wise-cracking action hero but it doesn’t work. For one thing she doesn’t crack wise (“My name is Alice” is her only tag line.) I think she just seems tired and cranky here.
*. The commentary has some great stuff on it. I already talked a bit about the opening act, where a bunch of Alice clones attack the Tokyo HQ. There’s almost no dialogue here, but just a lot of Alices jumping, running, shooting, and swinging swords. Here is what Anderson has to say: “She [Milla] really put a lot of thought into this. If you go back and watch the movie you pretty much see every single clone she plays she plays in a slightly different way, and she had worked out characters for each one of them. Different mannerisms, a different approach that each clone would have to danger, they would move in a slightly different way, and she had it all mapped out, she knew exactly which clone she was playing, because she was really trying to differentiate them as much as possible.”
*. Really? Really?! I mean, I know she was your wife at the time, but . . . really?! What differences can Anderson be talking about? All the clones do is run, jump, and shoot.
*. Robarts Library is the main library at the University of Toronto. It’s a slab of brutalist architecture that students dubbed Fort Book (though I think it was supposed to look like a swan). Anyway, I spent many hours there as an undergrad, and it’s the inspiration for the prison building here. Producer Robert Kulzer: “It’s really interesting how the architecture of Toronto has influenced the architectural style of the Resident Evil movies, and how closely connected at least in my imagination the Umbrella Corporation and Toronto architecture are.” I was living in the future . . . thirty years ago! Also Anderson: “Educational establishments in Toronto seem to love concrete and they have this rather scary institutional feel. I don’t know if it’s somewhere I would choose to go for my higher education.” I think he’s talking about the new campus, which is all pretty ugly. The older buildings on the east campus are nicer.
*. To my (partial) amazement, the CGI isn’t getting better. For some reason the zombies (even the dogs!) now have heads that split apart and blossom into starfish-shaped things when they get angry. They look sort of like the creatures from John Carpenter’s The Thing, nearly thirty years earlier. Only the practical effects in that movie looked better than the crappy CGI here. Actually, they look better in the video game as well (where the creatures are known as Majini).
*. Speaking of the video games, they also strike me as scarier than this film series. On the commentary tracks Anderson and others talk about doing things in order to make the movies scary (like the use of 3D here, which is supposedly scary because it’s “more immersive”) but I don’t recall a single creepy or suspenseful scene in the entire franchise. Or, for that matter, any jump scares. These really aren’t horror films. They’re just straight-up action flicks.
*. Despite having the flavour of a pure serial — that is, episodic with no clear resolution or end in sight — the other movies did at least provide some sense of closure. Here we get a cliffhanger as the indestructible minions of the Umbrella Corp. are coming in for the kill. Remarkably this was not in the original script and was only added because the producers insisted on a “signature” pull-back shot. Even more remarkably, how does this organization keep going, years after the end of the world? They can’t be making money because there’s no longer a functioning economy. So what is their purpose? Are they in competition with anyone? In Resident Evil: The Final Chapter we’ll find out about their Wannsee Conference plotting “orchestrated apocalypse,” but I don’t see much sign of orchestration in all of this.
*. I know I really shouldn’t be asking questions like these, but does anything about this movie make sense?