Yes, the movie is called “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” but don’t let that get your hopes up. After all, “Resident Evil: Extinction” (2007) was hyped as “the third and final installment of the ‘Resident Evil’ trilogy,” and that was three chapters ago. In fact, the last scene of this frenzied yet tedious post-apocalyptic farrago strongly suggests that the long-running, video game-inspired franchise could very easily continue. All that’s missing is a climatic close-up of lead player Milla Jovovich dropping all pretense and winking at the audience, then laughing out loud.
Actually, that might have been a welcome sight for those of us who have been following the franchise since 2002, when the first “Resident Evil” movie introduced Jovovich as Alice, the most resilient of the commandos sent to the Hive, an underground laboratory of the mysterious Umbrella Corporation, after the experimental T-virus transformed several of the facility’s researchers (and quite a few dogs) into flesh-eating zombies. A lot has happened to Alice since then — she has gained, lost and regained super powers, and witnessed the zombification of almost the entire human race — but very little of it has been cause for laughter, or even a wry smile.
Things continue to be grim in “The Final Chapter,” which finds Alice alone amid the ruins of a devastated Washington, D.C. (evidently, that big battle foretold at the end of 2012’s “Resident Evil: Retribution” didn’t turn out so well) and surprisingly receptive to a summons from her long-time foe, the Red Queen, an artificial intelligence program that manifests itself as the hologram of a little girl with the voice of an autocratic schoolmarm. The Red Queen wants Alice to return to the Hive to obtain a vial of “airborne antivirus” to counteract the T-virus and, while she’s in the neighborhood, lay the smackdown on Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glen), the evil Umbrella Corporation honcho who has figured out a way to benefit from wiping out most of humanity. Alice killed Dr. Isaacs a few movies ago but, evidently, he got better.
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The bad doctor is not the only thing that has been recycled here by writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson, who’s been involved with every film in the “Resident Evil” series and, not incidentally, is married to Milla Jovovich. In addition to repurposing situations, character types, and fight choreography from previous episodes, Anderson borrows freely from a host of other post-apocalyptic action-adventures — most notably, “Mad Max: Fury Road” — while charting Alice’s progress as she and a ragtag team of like-minded heroes (including series semi-regular Ali Larter) battle zombie hordes and Umbrella Corporation minions that stand in the way of their mission.
A few individual scenes of hand-to-hand and foot-to-face combat are undeniably exciting, and Jovovich once again impresses with her kinetic athleticism. Overall, however, the repetitiveness and occasional incoherence of the nonstop action leave the audience exhausted for all the wrong reasons. And it doesn’t help that the special effects — especially during the many, many fiery explosions — often appear at once expensive and unconvincing. Maybe it is time for everyone involved with the franchise to really, truly and absolutely call it a day