final chapters can be okay

I like quite a few movie franchises. Some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films are good. Some of the X-Men movies, too, (although the last couple not so much). I’ve enjoyed some of the Fast & Furious movies, as I’ve talked about before.

But when a new Resident Evil movie comes out, I really feel, “Okay, this is my franchise.”

The current one, which probably is “The Final Chapter,” as the title claims, has many aspects — some good and some bad.

1) It’s a very satisfying ending (with the door slightly open for more). This never happens in the superhero franchises, where the urge to keep the franchise generating cash outweighs any other considerations, you know, like telling a good story.

2) It includes two big revelations, one about the protagonist (Alice) and one about the antagonist (the Umbrella Corporation). They are satisfying, and I would imagine that Paul W. S. Anderson (writer, director, co-producer) has had them both in mind since at least the third movie (this is number six).

In fact, I was expecting one of those revelations to show up in the last movie, but obviously Anderson thought it was better to delay it until this one. I think that was a good decision.

I didn’t feel at all let down when it came, by the way. Sometimes when there’s a Big Reveal which you’ve been expecting for a while, it can be a disappointment when it finally arrives, but sometimes it can come as a welcome affirmation that you’re in tune with the story.

The other reveal, about the Umbrella Corporation, was a surprise, but it explains a lot that didn’t completely make sense before. (And it reveals — no spoilers — that there’s something in the world today which alarms Anderson almost as much as huge, multinational corporations.)

4) The Red Queen, the homicidal supercomputer that runs the huge underground complex called the Hive (where the whole story began, so it’s come full circle), has a major role in the plot. This may be related to the fact that she’s performed, as a hologram avatar, by Ever Gabo Anderson, who happens to be the daughter of Paul Anderson and series star Milla Jovovich.

And, yes, at a key moment she utters the Red Queen’s signature line, “You’re all going to die down here.” As I remember it, she almost throws it away, finishing a statement, turning away, then turning back to add, “Oh, and by the way…”

5) Iain Glenn, the best villain in the franchise, is back. Ali Larter, as Claire Redfield, the best of Alice’s partners, is back. Yay.

(By “partner,” I mean that, within the wide range of interesting women these movies always have, there is always another tough, competent woman for Alice to work with. In addition to how good both actresses are, Claire has always been a particularly good complement to Alice since she’s very much a leader, and Alice is much more a lone wolf.)

6) The fight scenes are definitely a step back from the best, though. Fast edits, shaky-cam, no idea what’s going on. Anderson has always favored fast cuts, but this is way beyond the earlier movies. This may be the first episode in the franchise where the dialogue scenes are way better than the fight scenes.

7) Some of the non-fight visuals are striking, though. Anderson is a master of the use of 3D to put the audience right inside claustrophobic interiors with the characters. Confined spaces, preferably underground, are his favorite settings. There is also a wonderful, almost medieval, sequence with gasoline and fire deployed as a weapon.

Here are some links:

1) This is a sentence I never thought I’d read in the New York Times:

Because their director, Paul W. S. Anderson, is an exceptional talent in action cinema, and because their star, Milla Jovovich, is a charismatic, exceptional and very credibly kinetic action performer, the movies in the “Resident Evil” franchise, of which this is the sixth, have always been a terrific time.

Wow. I guess it’s true, to paraphrase the movie Chinatown, that politicians, video game movies, and ugly buildings all become respectable if they last long enough.

2) From Slate, about video game franchises:

Where did Resident Evil go right where… so many others went wrong? The answer is Alice, whose rage and passion drives Resident Evil further than any female-led survival horror or science fiction action series before it. She’s a compassionate, wily heroine whose fury, once kindled, never lets up.

3) And here’s Ms. Jovovich, reminiscing about all six movies, including that the moment her husband fell in love with her might well have been when she sat him down and demanded that he give her back all the action scenes and stunts that had been hers when she’d signed on with the movie, but which had later been mysteriously given to Michelle Rodriguez instead.

One of the pleasures of the series is that Milla does virtually all of her own stunts, and she’s not giving up even one of them without a fight. 🙂

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