Resident Evil has never had too much luck once it has moved away from video games. Except for a couple of projects (but only a couple), the Capcom brand has been mistreated by directors and actors of all kinds, with films never truly living up to expectations or replicating the authentic atmosphere of the horror video games par excellence.
In 2001, the US company Screen Gems acquired the distribution rights of the brand, hiring Paul W. S. Anderson as the director and screenwriter of the first film in the series (later released in 2002). With six films in total, the films of the original series starring Alice (a character created for the cinema and never seen in the video game saga, played by Milla Jovovich) have always taken the more playful side of the story, peppering everything with biological weapons. Umbrella Corporation and the usual zombie apocalypse.
Recently, the series’ reboot has also been attempted, with a film whose goal was to distinguish itself considerably from the film saga directed by Anderson, relying on a strong horror component and taking a cue from the first and second chapters of the videogame saga.
Directed by Johannes Roberts and titled Resident Evil Welcome to Raccoon City, the live-action project dated 2021 was certainly more careful in trying not to betray the essence of the saga (primarily by telling the stories of Claire Redfield and her older brother Chris, as we explained in our review) for a B-movie after all appreciable but certainly far from being acclaimed by the historical fans of the saga.
Welcome to New Raccoon City: Resident Evil
With the Resident Evil series, Netflix has decided to jump into the crowd by proposing an even more ambitious project set years after Raccoon City’s events and with an (almost) brand new cast of characters. It’s just a pity that, without turning around too much, the first four episodes we were able to preview are what we never wanted to see in a product dedicated to the survival horror saga par excellence.
We are in 2036: fourteen years after the release of “Joy”, a product that was supposed to alleviate the suffering of the population but instead caused so much pain to upset the whole world forever, Jade Wesker (Ella Balinska) struggles for survival in a world overwhelmed by the living dead thirsty for blood.
As Jade tries to make her way through a hostile world, where the only survivors fight for territory, her mind goes back to the past – more precisely to New Raccoon City – where her father, Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick), manages the shady business. Of Umbrella Corporation, in a much more serious and dangerous way than Jade and her twin sister Billie (Siena Agudong) could ever imagine.
The Resident Evil series is set almost thirty years after the discovery of the T-Virus and the events of the Raccoon City that we have all come to love in the Capcom video game series.
The Netflix show unfolds on two different timelines, telling the background of a story that is not too convoluted and that only remotely winks at what made Biohazard truly immortal, but with a whole series of errors, narrative blunders and directorial choices that they make it chilling, but not in the way you think.
The four episodes (of eight) that we could see are written by Andrew Dabb, who was already involved in the making of Supernatural, so he is not a person who has never had anything to do with TV series.
This is because, unfortunately, Resident Evil seems like a product made not only by those who have never played even five minutes of any chapter of the video game series but also by those who have never seen a TV show. And it is frankly worrying, given the importance of the brand brought to the screen in a live-action product characterised by an almost embarrassing lack.
Zombies are the least of the problems in Resident Evil
Being the canonical series of Capcom video games, historical fans will ask themselves more than legitimate questions, especially how it was possible to get to New Raccoon City: the answer is incredibly obvious, making the events of the Wesker family seem even more bizarre and out of focus.
The double narrative line, on paper a good idea, is handled in the banalest way possible: the script seems to have been written by someone who has never seen a movie or a series about zombies, just as the direction also appears completely ridiculous: even the action sequences appear sloppy and meaningless, so much so that Resident Evil’s worst flaw is undoubtedly that of embracing disconcerting choices and sudden changes of tone without reason.
The events set in 2036 are simply an ugly and botched version of The Walking Dead, with the “adult” Jade intent on killing dozens of zombies and very few scary BOWs for the sheer sake of it.
In 2022, however, one has the feeling of watching any teen drama without art or part, waiting for the inevitable – and at this point quite obvious – a moment of rupture that will inevitably lead to the new invasion of the undead. Therefore, it is really difficult – not to say impossible – to find positive aspects in a work that not only does not seem to be in any way respectful of the source material but that, for its part, is not even able to please those who horror splatter has been chewing on it for generations.
The Netflix series seems to oscillate between the B-series product and the naked and raw action, winking at a handful of similar products but getting lost in the chaos of stylistic incompleteness.
Absurd how even from a directorial and visual point of view, such a low point has been reached: Netflix does not seem to have taken into consideration the importance of a brand like Biohazard’s, staging a poor CGI combined with bare locations and without any minimum of originality, in addition to almost completely amateur acting (except Reddick, an actor of a certain stature here clearly not at ease).
What remains, then? The first four episodes of the Resident Evil series offend the original material (on Amazon, you can refresh your memory) to the point of being embarrassing and unable to thrill even the savviest fan. An anonymous staging unable to build tension, with the zombies placed there to make colour in a context (or rather, two) in which everything seems to be left to chance, and with protagonists towards whom it is impossible to feel the empathy of any kind.
If Welcome to Raccoon City, net of its obvious production limits, tried at least to be respectful of the source material; in the case of the Netflix show, we have instead a product that ends up totally out of the way and with a cheek and arrogance that they leave behind. Perplexed.
And no, this is not a show that aims to bring non-players closer to the videogame series, this being opposed to the series in question in terms of tone and final result. Very difficult, if not impossible, that the situation can recover thanks to the four missing episodes (even if, for intellectual honesty, we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt): the only hope, if not, is that this agony will end quickly. Leaving the Resident Evil brand away from movies and TV series for quite some time.