According to Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’s opening narration, Earth’s population dwindled to only 4400 after a decade of zombies. Despite this, a handful of those 4400 still fight for the Umbrella corporation as employees.
In the first act, series heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) is ambushed roadside by a handful of gun-toting Umbrella thugs. This scene demands answers. How long did those employees wait in hiding? How did they avoid millions of zombies? Do they need company uniforms? Would it not make more sense to ditch the uniforms? Does Umbrella still offer overtime pay? Health care? What do you do with your paycheck if everything is closed?
Six movies into this lagging, dreary, loud, obnoxious film franchise, such questions seem moot. The cinematic sins of Resident Evil fill a room. This last one (hopefully) pours on needless action scenes and reckless stupidity in a way that makes this near plotless conclusion (again, hopefully) seem almost quaint.
Resident Evil became a lot like Saw as it progressed, marching from one gory, explosive battle to the next. Death is predicated by momentary silence, stuck between repetitive reveals of scorched cities. Each kill splatters more blood than the last, maybe an additional scream too. At one point, a bunch of hopefuls state their intent to follow the main cast. Yes, they die. No one cares.
If Final Chapter gives audiences anything, it’s peak anti-corporate, anti-wealth paranoia, a preposterous post-recession bit of fiction. Alice bemoans the rich who wait out the apocalypse in comfort and battles a domineering CEO who believes in his ability to do god’s bidding. The only thing to survive the release of Umbrealla’s T-Virus was corporate power structure, an America-tough ideal that, in Resident Evil’s lore, outlasted the cockroach.
Even though Final Chapter is repulsively dense, blockbusters of its ilk have their action. The explosions, the fire, the blood. Here, a group of mismatched characters build a catapult, slinging barrels of gas onto a zombie horde thousands deep. That part the audience can see. The rest, from hand-to-hand brawls to shoot-outs, come with such frantic editing, piecing shots together is impossible. Final Chapter lacks any staging or comprehensible choreography. It insists on loud noises and bright lights, the same jumbled mass of images that sent Resident Evil toward a cinematic dumpster. A consistent end then for this overlong franchise.
Mastered in 4K, it’s rare Final Chapter has an opportunity to show off resolution. Much of the film lingers underground in low light. Any chance for fidelity fades quickly with the loss of light. With a chance, especially in the opening scenes, facial detail and spectacular views of destroyed American landmarks display excellent sharpness.
Don’t underestimate Final Chapter; the format is invaluable in keeping shadows intact. Superb density avoids excessive crush, keeping depth high even with limited light. In a bunker early on, Alice peeks around using only her flashlight, the environment still clearly resolved without loss of detail.
Color mirrors the previous films, draped in unfavorable yellows and splashes of intense blues when underground. Not much to see, although the added color space gives the hues punch. Same with other HDR effects, from retina-searing sunlight to fireballs. Explosions greatly benefit.
The challenge for the Blu-ray isn’t Sony’s impeccable encoding or resolution. It’s quite striking in terms of fidelity and brightness, free from noise. Long shots of computer generated cities reveal stunning details, sans flicker or other anomaly. Muted as Final Chapter is, the blues and yellows still work in the film’s favor.
Problems ensue with crush. Underground scenes lose a tremendous amount of detail to the shadows. More than, “the UHD does it better,” in this case, scenes feel restricted by the overpowering black levels. While dense, depth is lost while the disc struggles to find footing. Crush looks worse than it should, as if enhanced in attempt to create depth/contrast. This is a failed attempt if so.
It’s loud. The Atmos offering on the UHD (DTS-HD 7.1 on Blu-ray) hits immediately with the score, catching all of the low-end. Soon, Alice battles a flying creature, sweeping through and above the soundfield with sharp consideration of the soundstage.
Scene-to-scene, Final Chapter doesn’t cease to make use of its mix. Bullets (and a nail gun) separate into the space as they fire, and moaning zombies begin to surround the cast with frequency. A late instance has the undead banging on a truck, which from the inside is an eerie bit of sound design. Same goes for an attack by a group of Cerberus.
Final Chapter’s major bonus is a pop-up feature playing alongside the film, adding about a half hour as Jovovich and director Paul Anderson discuss the film in various vignettes. That’s fine, although access to these is restricted unless viewing the entire film. The rest of the anemic extras send the series off with minimal weight. Stunts and Weaponary (9:03) comes conveniently self-explanatory, with Explore the Hive detailing the set and reuse of the location. For a finale, Resident Evil’s women earn their due in The Bad Ass Trinity (6:32).
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