Best thing: Zombie dogs and Milla Jovovich's awesome roundhouse to take them down.
Worst thing: Annoying flashback sequences which reveal a completely uninspired 'twist'.
I feel there would have been much more tension if the movie had followed the basic plot of the game. The moment we start the film we are told all about the evil Umbrella Corporation, but in the film we begin with a kind of haunted mansion setting and only later realise that biological weapons research underground is responsible. Admittedly fans of the game would know it was coming, but for dramatic tension it's a pretty neat structure.
The dialogue is stilted. And it's bizarre that the armed security for a secret facility decide to respond to a potential viral outbreak by taking a local police officer and two employees with amnesia straight into their top secret research labs without gas masks. But the most confusing thing for me is perhaps the mechanism which floods the mansion above with nerve gas to render the occupants (i.e. employees on the security staff) unconscious. Who's crazy idea was that?
The first Resident Evil movie is incredibly dumb, but it has enough charm that I was willing to return for the sequel. The Marilyn Manson music is awesome and the world of Resident Evil has a lot of potential in spite of all the issues. Like with so many Paul WS Anderson movies, the strong filmmaking which gave us Event Horizon seems to be lurking in the background promising something more. Annoyingly, while the film ends on a high, it felt less like a careful build-up and more like the film took way too long to find its footing.
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Best thing: Milla Jovovich takes down a long-tongued monster by aiming a motorcycle at it, sending both flying in the air and then shooting the tank of the runaway motorbike to produce a glorious mid-air fireball. That being said, perhaps the best thing is that we are introduced to characters who we can actually care about and will continue to do so in the third movie (which I have long considered the best in this series). We have a latino umbrella soldier with a heart of gold, a black character with an inflated sense of style who is often joking around, and then there's Jill Valentine the revealingly dressed (suspended?) police officer who has impossibly perfect aim with a gun.
Worst thing: The filmmakers keep using a sort of time lapse effect on shots of random hordes of shambling zombies in the street and it looks quite bad. Much of the film looks quite tacky but that's possibly the example that most annoyed me. Also, while much of the action is pretty cool, the main battle with Nemesis is mainly done through quick cuts which make the fight awkward to see (probably because Nemesis is a guy in a bulky suit who would struggle with fight choreography).
Resident Evil Apocalypse tries to increase the scope of the series and has some spectacular action sequences, yet it feels cheaper than the first movie.
When I first saw this film in the cinema I thought the ending was very confusing. This time it makes more sense, but it's a lot to expect us to swallow in such a short time.
Apocalypse looks cheap, feels naff and so the attempts to bring some fun to the series with some fun new characters are let down by stilted dialogue and mostly lame action sequences.
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Best thing: While this film has the best zombie make-up of the movie series so far, the best part was the clear reference to Hitchcock's The Birds. A huge swarm of infected crows settle around the survivors' vehicles before mercilessly dive bombing in order to peck at the human victims. Brilliant sequence and a surprising complement to the references to Mad Max and Day Of The Dead.
Worst thing: Unfortunately while the costume for the final villain is awesome, the visual effects work used for their special abilities looked very unconvincing. It's unfortunate that these distractingly fake-looking tentacles detract from a cool final showdown.
Yeah sure, Resident Evil: Extinction pulls ideas from other movies from Mad Max to The Birds and even lifts one scene pretty much directly from Day Of The Dead. But how is that a bad thing?
With Russell Mulcahy on board I feel he brings some real class to this series. Mulcahy doesn’t make award-winning films, but he does genre films very well. Highlander and Razorback are both on the more awesome side of trashy and I feel he pulls out that same magic here.
In spite of a few points where lines are delivered a bit flat and despite sharing some of the awkwardness of the previous two entries, I think Extinction is a genuinely great zombie movie in its own right. The character interactions are more interesting, each sequence is varied and fun, there's good use of the Nervada desert setting and there's a clear continuity with the prior films (leading to the most compelling climax of any of any Resident Evil movie).
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Best thing: I thought the zombie dogs that split themselves in half were very cool. (I also like the giant zombie with an absurdly huge axe, though he has no reason to be there.)
Worst thing: The flatly delivered monologues in the first half are incredibly dull. And after WS Anderson undoes everything exciting about the climax of Extinction we don't get a decent action scene until we reach the third half. The pacing is utterly horrendous and the monologues demonstrate the biggest problem. Too much talk, not enough fun.
Less "after life" and more "bored to death". I don't find this as offensively terrible as I did the first time around, but it just isn't remotely exciting enough because the pacing is so bad and the drama falls flat. And it annoys me so much that Resident Evil Afterlife squanders the clone army and Alice's superpowers set up in the previous film.
Also frankly Wesker is a terrible villain and his action sequences are boring.
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
Best thing: The music. Isn’t that theme song just amazing?
Worst thing: No consistency in characters, no real stakes, but perhaps the worst thing is the complete failure to capitalise on anything good. I'll discuss that further in the review so here I'll just go with Wesker's accent. I mean seriously, where the hell is he supposed to be from? He seemed to be American before, but now it seems like he's trying to sound English. The hell? (Is this to parallel his oddly fluid accent in the various games?)
Old characters are coming back as clones, so perhaps there's some question of whether they'll remember their old lives or share traits from before. Wasn't a clone army of Alice's really helpful before?
No, it just means the same actors get to guest star. There's no relevance to the plot.
Okay then, so an Alice is regularly being reborn in a peaceful suburban neighbourhood where she gets to have a happy life with her love interest from a previous film. That must have raise some important character-building issues for our heroine right?
Nah, it just gives her a little girl to look after because WS Anderson wants to rip off Aliens.
Oh alright then, but Umbrella have replicas of various cities which are regularly populated with people and subjected to the virus. That's got to be a game-changer, right?
Not really. It just gives us more locations for fight scenes. It's not even clear what Umbrella gains by re-enacting a zombie outbreak over and over again when there are no unaffected cities on the surface.
Okay, but this time Wesker isn't working with Umbrella. Does that change things around at all?
Not really. The appearance of Ada Wong in the movies for the first time is pretty cool (like in the games, she works for Wesker), but without Leon Kennedy to flirt with and seeing as her crazy stunts aren't that different from what Alice does every five minutes, this isn't really the same character we loved in the games.
As per usual Resident Evil: Retribution does nothing terribly new and continues to take the Resident Evil series nowhere. Okay, so the Russian zombies with guns and a tank are cool and the concept of the underground test areas is cool too, but I need some over-arching stakes to make me genuinely care about the outcome of this braindead action flick. Mind you, knowing in advance that there would be no actual plot and just an array of fairly uninvolving action sequences, made this rather more enjoyable this time around.