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Thursday
Jan262017

Resident Evil ...Again.

by Brian Zitzelman

One of the strangest things about Oscar month is that the movies that open during it are usually the opposite of prestige. Tomorrow sees the release of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, the allegedly last installment of this long-running franchise. With more than a decade's worth of subpar critical reviews, it's nonetheless more notable than it might seem upon first glance.  

Superhero movies aside, R-rated action franchises haven't especially been booming in the twenty-first century, or even in the post Arnold/Stallone/Willis dominated run of the 80s to mid-90s...

Yet here we have the sixth chapter in a blood-soaked, gun-toting series that also happens to feature a female in the lead; one Milla Jovovich. Since the 2002 release of Resident Evil, a more horror-infused entry that scripted itself closer to its video game roots, this dystopian romp has consistently made between $40 and  $60 million domestically. That isn't the greatest of shakes, yet overseas grosses have bumped that beyond $100 million, and for the last two outings well above $200 million.

The Resident Evil narrative is a strange thing, more in line with the traditional scary movie world, where characters come and go, while continuity grows increasingly labyrinthine. Characters have been brainwashed, cloned, turned evil and about everything else. Through it all has been Jovovich as Alice, playing out variations of the same plot; battle biologically created monsters and don't get killed. Jovovich has always been a unique cinematic presence, gaining steam as a fixture of sci-fi accented works after Luc Besson's 1997 hit The Fifth Element. Waif-ish in physique, Jovovich is ruthless in demeanor, never winking an eye amidst various attacks by computer-concocted baddies or wooden acting. Jovovich's Alice needs no saving, even after seemingly died. 

For four of the sixth Resident Evil pictures, it has been Paul W.S. Anderson at the helm. With a spotty filmography of big-budget schlock (Pompeii, Alien vs. Predator), Anderson also happens to be married to Jovovich, the pair having met making the first Evil outing. Interestingly, the other long-running female-led action franchise has been Underworld, by the - until recently - married pair of Len Wiseman and Kate Beckinsale. Curious that both Hollywood run-and-gun blockbusters starring women feature such a scenario.

Cool Girls don't look at explosions their backlighting. Kate & Milla in the 2017 outings of their long running franchises

Even with the gargantuan success of The Hunger Games adaptations, studios seem hesitant to follow the money and give heroines a chance. The cinematic landscape may not miss the quality of these works, though it's damn sure going to have a hole in what they represent.  

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Reader Comments (7)

Brian Zitzelman: The first couple films might have minor tonal similarities to the first five released games (Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Resident Evil 0), but, even there, the mythology and character is wildly off. Some of Resident Evil's characters are MUCH goofier than Paul W.S. Anderson was willing to skirt. "That was too close. You were almost a Jill Sandwich." Actual line of dialogue, straight from the original game. And, if the R.E. franchise gets a reboot, I'd want a version of that scene to show up.

January 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I unabashedly love the first movie - it's goofy and scary and fun, everything a video-game movie should be. I had to stop watching the series by the third one I think though -- they just flew off a cliff. But you made me kind of want to give the series another try!

I think Milla deserves more work -- she can be a terrific actress when given the chance.

January 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJason

These movies are beyond awful and I have no idea why people keep going to them. Usually when a bad movie makes money, say a Michael Bay movie or something, I can at least sort of see the appeal but these movies aren't even remotely well made and feel like they should be going direct to DVD.

January 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMJS

I love this series. I am not afraid to admit it. They are terrible films as a whole (the best maybe rise to mediocre) and I don't care. My brother and I go see them when they open and laugh our asses off.They're nothing like the games and everything like the games, in that these are brand new plots with characters barely resembling the source material, but the absurdity of this universe and its pointless level of destruction even within the zombie genre is spot on.

January 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Jason -- agreed on Milla. She's a good actress and she's even a good musician (i loved her debut album). but her career is just so nothingmuch.

January 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel, I assumed I was the only one who remembered that album.

January 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Zitzelman

Sorry, I love this franchise, despite and because of all its faults. Yeah, it's a cinematic trainwreck most of the time, but... it features so many iconic, brilliant moments that it is amazing it could be so good and so bad at the same time. Plus, Milla, OWNS the role.

January 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

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