I know this is going to upset some people, but there haven't been any truly great Resident Evil movies. I know, I know. The Milla Jovovich-starring franchise has its ardent fans, and I’m happy for them. That said, I think we can all agree that while some of the movies have been light popcorn fun, none of them have actually been “great.” And, with the recent video game, Resident Evil Village, being proclaimed by some as the best game in the franchise, I think it’s even more glaringly obvious that we still haven’t gotten a worthy film to go alongside the long-running video game series.
Now, mind you, “great” is entirely subjective. I personally find the first Silent Hill movie to be great, in terms of best video game movies. However, with the recent and final season of Castlevania now streaming on Netflix, I just never could get over what a missed opportunity these Resident Evil movies were. I think there are many reasons for why there has never been a truly great Resident Evil film, but here are the five most obvious. Here’s hoping that the upcoming reboot, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City will make things right. But, until then…
All Of The Movies Tonally Feel Like Resident Evil 6, And That's Not Good
Ask most Resident Evil fans what the weakest sequential entry in the game series is, and they will likely say Resident Evil 6. It’s not that Resident Evil 6 is bad, per se, though, many RE fans will tell you that it is bad. It’s just that it’s too over-the-top for its own good. It’s a bloated game that took the action from Resident Evil 4 and 5 and blew it way out of proportion. Don’t believe me? Just check out this fight between Leon Kennedy vs. Chris Redfield that looks like something out of 24.
The first Resident Evil movie came out in 2002. The more action-packed Resident Evil 4 didn’t come out until 2005. So, back when the first movie came out, the video game series was still deeply rooted in its survival horror origins. This made the first movie, with Milla Jovovich kicking a zombie dog in the face, seem like a completely different franchise. Flash forward to 2017’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, and it actually seems like the films were setting the groundwork for the bombastic and ridiculous Resident Evil 6. The problem is, all the movies feel like Resident Evil 6, and that’s not a good thing.
None Of The Films Are Actually Scary
This goes back to the Resident Evil 6 complaint, but none of the movies are actually scary. While not all of the Resident Evil games have been complete fright fests, more often than not, the famed Capcom series has prided itself on its scares. Just take Resident Evil 7, for instance, which some fans call the scariest game in the series when played in VR. That is some scary stuff!
The Resident Evil movies, on the other hand, have never actually been scary. They are more like action films with horror elements, with creatures like zombies and the Majini undead who kind of look like the super vampires in Blade 2, but nowhere near as scary. The stories are not scary in the movies, either. Yes, they deal with the Umbrella Corps, but the tone of the films never really settled on trying to actually scare you. They were more focused on stuff like brainwashing and clones, with none of it being scary in the slightest.
None Of The Films Intentionally Lean Into Camp
I know I just complained that none of the movies are scary, but if they weren’t going to go the scary route, then they could have at least gone the campy route. From the very first game of Barry being concerned that his partner almost became a “Jill Sandwich," to the soap opera vibes of Resident Evil: Revelations, I honestly love RE as much for its scares as I do for its campiness.
And, honestly, I think I would have dug the Resident Evil movies more if they really dived into that camp. So, while the movies are certainly corny, they aren’t campy, which is a shame.
The Special Effects Always Left Much To Be Desired
Look, I love Paul W.S. Anderson, who directed four out of the six Resident Evil movies. I’d much rather re-watch the original Mortal Kombat than the reboot. That said, special effects are definitely not his specialty. And that’s fine. They don’t have to be. I still find movies like Soldier and Event Horizon (Which IS legit scary) charming in how they handle their special effects.
The Resident Evil movies look pretty lackluster, though. For example, Nemesis might look pretty game-accurate, but I honestly don’t WANT him to look like he does in the video game. I want him to look a lot scarier, and a film version could have really gone to town on the special effects. Instead, we get what looks like a Cenobyte rip-off from Hellraiser. Like, why? I know the budgets weren’t huge for these films, but I would have liked a bit more in the art and CG department.
They Were All Sequels To A First Movie That Was Arguably Not Very Good
Lastly, all of the sequels directly follow up that first movie, which wasn’t very good in the first place. Again, I know the movie has its fans, but it wasn’t a great starting point for the film series. Like her husband, Paul W.S. Anderson, I also love Milla Jovovich. The Fifth Element is one of my personal favorites, and I will always defend the much maligned Ultraviolet. Always.
But, I really don’t think Alice was the best character to start the film franchise with, and unfortunately, we got stuck with her for the entire series. Okay, maybe stuck isn’t the right word. I mean, she’s fine. Even so, I think it would be better if this wasn’t Resident Evil and was just called something else instead.
Sure, we got Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, and many others in the later films, but I think the Resident Evil movies would have stylistically felt more like Resident Evil if we had gotten one of the mainstays early on. Instead, even with all the Umbrella stuff, the Resident Evil movies feel like they’re in another universe, and that action-heavy first movie was not a great start for the franchise. Yes, Resident Evil: Extinction is probably the best film in the series, but I think I would have preferred it if they had started with that film. The first movie just wasn't a great jumping off point.