The Milla Jovovich Resident Evil Franchise: A Retrospective

As a virus slowly wipes out mankind in real life, I figure now seems apt to cover a series of movies about a virus that wipes out mankind. You’re welcome. The absolutely gorgeous Milla Jovovich stars as Alice, our protagonist in all 6 live action films. So let’s take a look as the Resident Evil franchise from beginning to end.

Resident Evil (2002)

Plot: Based on the popular video game, Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez star as the leaders of a commando team who must break into “the hive,” a vast underground genetics laboratory operated by the powerful Umbrella Corporation. There, a deadly virus has been unleashed, killing the lab’s personnel and resurrecting them as the evil Un-dead. The team has just three hours to shut down the lab’s supercomputer and close the facility before the virus threatens to overrun the Earth.

I haven’t been much of a videogame person for some time, but I did play the original Resident Evil on my Playstation many moons ago so I’m not going to be comparing these movies to the games but just judging them as standalone fare.

It’s been a few years since I watched the first Resident Evil movie and even at the time I remember thinking it was a fun zombie killing romp but really nothing special. After watching it again I stand by that opinion as this is a movie where you will essentially feel nothing.

There are a few jump scares and it does get a little nightmarish but if you’ll pardon the pun it lacks bite. A zombie movie needs buckets of gore and although this has its moments there is a distinct lack of dripping intestines and goo which I feel is necessary for the zombie genre. I think my favourite moment has to be the laser wall sequence as several team members are effectively (and creatively) disposed of.

Although the dialogue isn’t bad it’s not all that memorable either but the talented cast do the best with what they can; Milla makes Alice immediately sympathetic despite the fact we know nothing about her. Her eyes radiate an innocence and kindness and when she sees someone in peril she will never leave them to die. She also can take care of herself and rarely needs to be rescued.

Michelle Rodriguez is the same as she is in every other movie, but her tough girl act certainly feels real and I have no doubt that she could kick my ass within seconds.

The zombie dogs are the creepiest creatures of the entire movie and they still look fantastic; the Nemesis mutant creature not so much as it is clearly CG although to be fair I’ve seen worse.

Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson provide the score which is really just a migraine inducing assault on the senses and not something I would ever listen to outside of the movie.

Overall, Resident Evil is disposable entertainment that does exactly what you’d expect it to; Milla Jovovich makes for an appealing lead and there are some imaginative set-pieces making this fun Saturday night fare that you’ll have forgotten by Sunday morning.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Plot: A deadly virus from a secret Umbrella Corporation laboratory underneath Raccoon City is exposed to the world. Umbrella seals off the city to contain the virus, creating a ghost town where everyone trapped inside turns into a mutant zombie. Alice (Milla Jovovich), a survivor from Umbrella’s secret lab, meets former Umbrella security officer Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and mercenary Carlos Oliviera (Oded Fehr). Together, they search for a scientist’s (Jared Harris) daughter an in exchange he will help them escape the city.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse generally got terrible reviews when it came out but I’ve always enjoyed it and consider it a vast improvement over the first movie. There is a greater sense of scale to the action and the fact that’s filmed right here in Toronto is even better. I can’t believe I live in Racoon City… and there’s a mini apocalypse going on right now… but where are the zombies?

This entry introduces us to fan favourite Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) who really looks the part and gets to kick plenty of ass while looking good doing it.

Alice (Milla) has transformed into a total badass warrior woman at one point saving the day by crashing through the window of a church on a motorbike then killing several mutated creatures.

This is just an all-out action movie and it’s some of the fastest 90 minutes you’ll see rarely stopping for breath. There is little in the way of horror and it lacks the creepy atmosphere of the games; I still wish they would up the gore factor but it’s not without its moments.

It’s all ridiculous stuff and the final fight scene between Alice and Nemesis is just a bunch of blurry camera movements so you can never see what’s happening. Still it’s awesome seeing Nathan Philips Square used for a final battle sequence.

The supporting cast includes Mike Epps, Oded Fehr (The Mummy movies), Iain Glen and the great Jared Harris. Major Cain (Thomas Kretschmann) makes for a suitably evil corporate asshole who doesn’t seem to care about human life and he’s just a hateful bastard. He gets what he deserves though which is pretty satisfying.

The music is better this time around giving us a full-on orchestra which helps to amp up the plentiful action scenes.

Overall, Resident Evil: Apocalypse has an impressive sense of scale and it’s practically constant action making for a fun watch; it’s total nonsense but I still have a soft spot for it.

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Plot: Captured by the Umbrella Corp., Alice (Milla Jovovich) receives genetic alterations that leave her with superhuman abilities. Hiding out in the Nevada desert, she joins forces with former cohorts Carlos (Oded Fehr) and L.J. (Mike Epps) as well as new survivors Claire (Ali Larter), K-Mart (Spencer Locke) and Nurse Betty (Ashanti) to eradicate the virus that threatens to turn every human on Earth into a zombie.

I like Resident Evil: Extinction mostly because the setting is the desert which immediately makes it appealing; seeing Las Vegas 5 years after the apocalypse is quite haunting and the film really has an end of the world feel.

Milla Jovovich is back as Alice and other returning cast members include Oded Fehr as Carlos, Mike Epps as L.J. and Iain Glen as the pointlessly evil Dr. Isaacs. Maybe I was looking at my phone (which could well be the case) but what exactly do he and Umbrella want to accomplish? The majority of mankind is gone with only a few stragglers left but they want to clone Alice because of her blood and they want to domesticate the zombies to do jobs? What jobs? Also, how are all the tracking software and satellites still operational? Does the internet still work after the world has ended? I guess Umbrella are wealthy enough that they have their own servers to finance these things… ah whatever; there is no point in trying to overthink this bollocks.

The only real standout scene features zombie birds attacking our small band of survivors but I couldn’t help but feel it’s a wasted opportunity. I would have liked a bit more of an explanation (or any explanation whatsoever) about Jill Valentine’s whereabouts as she was pretty much the main character of the last movie.  She doesn’t even get a mention now. What happened to the little girl they rescued at the end of Apocalypse as well? This is almost a standalone feature and you don’t even have to have watched the first two to know what’s going on… I’ve seen them and I still don’t know what’s going on.

As much as I love Milla, Alice isn’t much of a character here and there are little stakes because if she dies there are like a million other clones of her to take her place. She has little in the way of personality but she is least still sympathetic and badass.

New cast members include Lynden Ashby from Mortal Kombat who deserved a better role than he got; the same can be said for Ashanti who doesn’t have much to do but the best addition is Ali Larter as Claire. She has that tough but vulnerable look on her face and her mission is to keep a busload of kids safe from harm which is a hard thing to do in a world full of the undead.

The music is very reminiscent of Terminator 2 which is no bad thing; if you’re going to knock off something it might as well be one of the greatest music scores of all time.

The visual effects are nicely done although I find the zombies in these movies are just very bland; The Walking Dead did them much better.

Once again it’s around 90 minutes long and it moves along at a decent pace so it at least doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Overall, Extinction is quite a frustrating watch as it doesn’t connect enough with the previous movie but it has some entertaining moments and the desert setting is always a plus.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Plot: In a world overrun with the walking dead, Alice (Milla Jovovich) continues her battle against Umbrella Corp., rounding up survivors along the way. Joined by an old friend, Alice and her group set out for a rumored safe haven in Los Angeles. Instead of sanctuary, they find the city overrun with zombies, and a trap about to spring.

Afterlife is the fourth entry in the Resident Evil franchise and is every bit as hollow and forgettable as the rest. It is at least slickly made and the action is nicely done but there is a lot more CG fuckery this time around.

It opens with Alice delivering on her promise from the end of Extinction when she said she was going to hunt down Umbrella and take them out; that she does with multiple clones of herself which is so utterly ridiculous I do struggle to keep going. After the opening sequence thankfully, there is only one Alice and she flies around in a plane looking for a sanctuary known as Arcadia.

On her travels she manages to locate Claire (Ali Larter) who has conveniently lost her memory so now we have another character who has no idea who she is. When they discover that there is nothing in Alaska resembling Arcadia they fly off to L.A. and meet up with a group of survivors who are holding up in an abandoned prison.

It’s quite reminiscent of Season 3 of The Walking Dead… but not as good. We’re introduced to a whole bunch of new characters that we never give a shit about although I do like Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield. Will Kim Coates ever play someone who isn’t an asshole? Anytime he shows up in a movie you know he’s going to be either a villain or just a jerk. In this he ends up being both.

Luther (Boris Kodjoe) is pretty cool but the rest of the new cast are just zombie fodder. Shawn Roberts hams it up as the evil Umbrella leader Albert Wesker who is clearly channeling Agent Smith from the Matrix movies.

Gravity apparently is no longer a problem after the apocalypse as Alice can now move like no other human but she is spliced with the T-Virus which gives her special skills… and the entire concept is bobbins so really if you’ve watched this many movies from the series then things like logic don’t matter.

TomandAndy provide the noisy music score which works for this type of movie but it’s not one I’d listen to outside of it.

Overall, not much stands out about this movie and it’s utterly preposterous but if you’ve liked the other movies then you’ll probably have a blast with this too. Milla and Ali Larter aren’t hard to look at either so that helps.

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Plot: As Umbrella Corp.’s deadly T-virus continues to turn the world’s population into legions of flesh-eating zombies, Alice (Milla Jovovich), the human race’s last hope, awakes deep within Umbrella’s secret operations facility. The further she delves into the complex, the more of her mysterious past is unveiled. Her global hunt for those responsible for the outbreak leads to a mind-blowing revelation; Aided by friends old and new, Alice fights to escape from a world on the edge of oblivion.

I can say without any shadow of a doubt that this is the worst entry in the franchise mostly because for the first half of the movie I have absolutely no bloody clue what was going on.

It starts off where Afterlife ended with Alice and co. on the ship with all of those attack choppers heading towards them. After an almost endless slow motion sequence all in reverse (which admittedly was pretty cool) Alice gets blown off the ship and lands in the water; then it cuts to what seems very like the opening scene of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake as Alice is now all of a sudden living an ideal life with her husband Carlos and their daughter when zombies appear and ruin everything.

Then Michelle Rodriquez shows up but she’s a clone or a simulation in this test environment and then Alice wakes up in the Hive testing facility and… WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?!?!?!

All of a sudden Ada Wong finally makes an appearance but is wasted in a rather pointless role; there are just too many other characters in this movie and I didn’t care about any of them. Where are Claire and Chris now?  Oh finally Jill Valentine has returned but she has an evil robot spider on her chest which controls her to work for Umbrella. Those bastards…

It’s just a 90-minute baffling action scene that never lets up but we do actually need some quieter moments to have us give at least a partial shit about someone. How much slow motion can one movie have? How about ALL of it! The action scenes are so frustrating with all the slow motion that there is zero excitement or thrills.

I’ll admit it is stylish and the many visual effects are well done and the addition of Kevin Durand as a rare good guy is awesome but I really find this just an exhausting watch.

The music score is one of the series’ best with a catchy little theme playing during one of the many action scenes; I just finished watching the movie 30 minutes ago and I’ve already forgotten which scene it was.

Overall, Resident Evil: Retribution is a soulless unrelenting noise and it’s easily the worst entry in the franchise. Let’s hope The Final Chapter is better…

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Plot: The T-virus unleashed by the evil Umbrella Corp. has spread to every corner of the globe, infesting the planet with zombies, demons and monsters. Alice (Milla Jovovich), a former Umbrella employee turned rogue warrior, joins her friends on a last-chance mission to storm the company’s headquarters located deep underneath what used to be Raccoon City. But the Red Queen (Ever Anderson) knows that Alice is coming, and the final battle will determine if the rest of mankind lives or dies.

And so we come to The Final Chapter of the Resident Evil movies and I haven’t been so happy to finish watching a franchise for quite some time. It’s had several entertaining moments but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find this series a bit of a slog.

The Final Chapter is a step up from Retribution and it’s certainly a fast-paced watch but as with the other movies there is no heart to it – just Alice running, jumping and killing zombies. I mean, that’s fine as it’s what we’ve come to expect from this vacuous series but this does at least provide us with some answers; we finally find out why Umbrella wanted to wipe out mankind (which I won’t go into here) and we discover Alice’s real identity which didn’t come as much of a shock.

The highlight as always is Iain Glenn as Dr. Isaacs (and there are 3 versions of him I think in this one) and he manages to elevate it with his mere presence.

It’s too bad Wentworth Miller only showed up for the one movie and was never spoken of again but around the time of these movies I think he was involved with Legends of Tomorrow, so he probably wanted to focus on that instead. Claire is back and we get the usual new cast members (including Ruby Rose who has the best death of the entire series!) but we know few of them will make it to the end credits.

The story takes it all back to where it started – The Hive where the potential antidote to the T-Virus has been kept so Alice and her new crew decide it’s time to end this once and for all.

I do like the post-apocalyptic visuals of the movie and those tanks are pretty badass too. The action is mostly just a frenetic mess so any time there’s a fight it’s all quick cuts and shaky cam but I was only half paying attention anyway as I just wanted it to end.

Paul Haslinger did the score and this was another solid orchestral soundtrack which worked well for the on-screen chaos.

The visual effects are still impressive for the most part and as I said it’s never boring; it flows better than Retribution and you do feel like there are actual stakes as mankind is down to a select few survivors.

Overall, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter wraps everything up relatively well but still leaving it open in case they decide to do a new one. You’ll feel nothing from beginning to end but if for some reason you thought this franchise was good then you’ll probably be quite happy with how it ended. Thankfully, I believe Netflix is doing a TV adaptation of the videogame instead so let’s hope they go more for the survival horror route rather than the mindless action one.