Reason: The year 2036 -14 years after the spread of Joy caused so much pain, Jade Wesker fights for survival in a world flooded with the bloodthirsty infected and mind-boggling creatures. In this absolute carnage, Jade is haunted by her past in New Raccoon City, by her father’s terrifying connections to the sinister Umbrella Corporation, but most of what happened to her sister, Billie.
Review: A year after the seven-film franchise led by Milla Jovovich was restarted with Welcome to Raccoon CityResident Evil is back with … another reboot, this time on Netflix. Unlike any of the iterations on the big screen, the small screen Resident Evil exists in its own continuity, but one that builds on the story that started in the video games. The series takes place in two timelines and focuses on the Umbrella Corporation eruption leading to the end of the world and the future fallout for the post-apocalyptic survivors. With a young cast of new characters and some from the games, Resident Evil changes the approach to the zombie franchise from total action and horror to something far more subdued and far less cinematic. But in keeping with the film franchise, the series is also an impressive mess.
The first thing you will notice about this recording Resident Evil is that it is both a sequel and a reboot. The four episodes made available at the time of this review (of an eight-episode season) take place years after the events in Raccoon City tarnished the name of Umbrella Corporation. Evelyn Marcus (Paola Nunez), daughter of the company’s co-founder, has taken over as CEO and works with Dr. Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick) for developing a miracle cure called Joy. Wesker moves to New Raccoon City with his daughters Jade (Tamara Smart) and Billie (Siena Agudong). As the girls get used to their new surroundings, they experience first-hand the release of the T-virus and the possible downfall of humanity. This part of the story takes place in 2022 and has many characteristics of the video game franchise and lots of subtle references to past events, but for the most part these scenes feel like an arbitrary number of teen dramas in the air and are not with everything so much in the way of convincing characters except for the always-great Reddick and the backstage-chewing Nunez. Both actresses playing Wesker’s children are good at times, and others are sore on the nose with their birth.
The scenes in 2022 are intercut with sequences set in London fourteen years later. By 2036, the world is similar to the shambling infrastructure being looked at The Walking Dead and other dystopian zombie shows. We primarily follow the now adult Jade Wesker, here played by Ella Balinksa (Charlie’s angels). Jade is a villain researching the T-virus and the zombies it generates, and Jade is also on the run from Umbrella Corporation, embodied by actor Turlough Convery, who plays his character as a half-villain and half-bumbling idiot. His role is not explained in the slightest other than working for Umbrella as he chases Jade. I will not reveal why she is being hunted, but needless to say, it is one of those many moments that does not make much sense.
The 2036 sequences have some of the better action moments, but they are spread thinly between hard-to-see action scenes recorded at night as well as daytime sequences with mediocre CGI. The zombies here called Zeroes and regularly explained that they are not actually zombies, but infected humans, are the fast type of monster that one can see in Zack Snyders The morning of death. There are also mutated bugs and animals that feel remarkably out of place when translated from video games to live-action. The future scenes establish a very different narrative and tempo compared to the scenes in 2022, but both are intercut without any kind of transition between the two time periods. It’s quite jarring and makes it almost as boring to follow the story as any of the dialogue.
Developed by Andrew Dabb (Supernatural), Resident Evil suffers from consistently awful dialogue. Each episode shows some of the scariest lines I’ve heard from a series with as much marketing that Netflix has invested here. The only actor who seems to be able to deliver his remarks without sounding ridiculous is Reddick, but that guy could read everything and sound cool. The series aims to look cinematic, but often falls short due to the instructional team, all veteran TV directors who have not worked on projects with the scale that this show needs. Bronwen Hughes, who spearheads the first two episodes, delivers some well-shot moments seen in the trailer, but that equates to the most suspense this series can muster. The story is so unevenly paced and executed that it draws from gun fights to teenagers shouting matches to boardrooms and back again.
Resident Evil should have worked better as a streaming series than it has ever done on the big screen, but this adaptation fails to capture the tone and feel of the video games that inspired it. While the Paul Anderson / Milla Jovovich films went completely off track from the games and became B-movie glasses, last year’s restart came closer to the games, but failed to capture what makes them so popular. This Resident Evil stays solid between the two film universes by not grasping what makes the games work as well as what makes engaging television. I have not been more disappointed with a show in a long time, but it was perhaps my fault when I assumed the ninth attempt to get Resident Evil right would be the one to work.
Resident Evil premieres July 14 on Netflix.