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Alice doesn’t live here anymore

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Sixth “Resident Evil” film claims to be “The Final Chapter”

It seems like every six months or so, we see yet another movie studio try to take a video game property and cross it over to the big screen. And every six months or so, that effort is for naught, resulting in a bad-to-very-bad movie that is critically savaged and commercially meh.

For whatever reason, the outlier seems to be the “Resident Evil” franchise.

Don’t get me wrong – these movies are still bad, but thanks largely to the commitment of the husband and wife team of writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson and star Milla Jovovich, they’ve managed to settle into a niche that has proven profitable enough to support half-a-dozen installments since the first offering back in 2002.

The latest is billed as “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” though I think we’re all a little skeptical as to the veracity of that subtitle.

Jovovich is back as superhuman zombie killer Alice, digging herself out of the rubble following the battle that was supposed to be humanity’s last stand or whatever at the end of 2012’s “Resident Evil” Retribution.” She survives, only to be told by the Red Queen – the AI that controls the operations of the megalithic and evil Umbrella Corporation – that it turns out there’s a cure to the virus that made everybody into zombies.

So Alice heads back to Raccoon City in an effort to battle her way back into Umbrella’s headquarters – known as the Hive – and release the anti-virus. But she has to do it within 48 hours because that’s the oddly specific amount of time left before the last human settlement falls.

Standing against her is super-evil virologist Dr. Alexander Isaacs (Iain Glenn, TV’s “Game of Thrones), the leader of Umbrella and devoted to a wild nonsense plan to destroy humanity so that he and the rest of Umbrella’s rich and powerful friends can inherit an Earth that belongs to them and them alone.

With a little help from fellow zombie-killer Claire (Ali Larter, TV’s “Pitch”) and a group of conveniently-skilled survivors, Alice makes her way into the Hive, doing battle against not just the undead, but numerous bio-engineered monsters and the remaining human security forces of Umbrella.

But let’s be honest – the plot doesn’t really matter.

As weird as it might sound, the “Resident Evil” franchise feels almost like a labor of love for Anderson. He’s undeniably a genre auteur – he has written all six films and directed four of them (the first and the last three) – and it’s difficult to argue his passion, misplaced as it might be. And he has absolutely stayed true to his bats—t vision of what these movies are supposed to be, all over-the-top action sequences and gruesome monsters and convoluted mythology. Regardless of where you come down on them, you can’t dispute that the guy is making the movies he wants to make.

(It’s worth noting that the opening weekend of this sixth film puts the franchise over the quarter-billion mark for total box office. That’s not insignificant.)

As for Jovovich, well … she’s clearly comfortable with the situation. She has embraced her centrality to the franchise with gusto; the ever-increasing ridiculousness hasn’t made a dent in her commitment. Her Alice is a never-changing cipher, one constantly clad in tight jumpsuits and whose weapons have nigh-infinite ammunition capacity. It’s all ridiculous, but even amid all the shooting and stabbing and fistfighting and motorcycle riding, Jovovich refuses to wink at us. She treats the lunacy with deadly seriousness, which is actually kind of endearing.

The supporting cast is fairly unimportant. Glenn chews on some scenery, though he gives the impression of someone who regrets signing the contract that required him to return to the franchise if asked. Larter is fine; she basically just does a slight variation on everything Jovovich does. Everybody else says their lines and hits their marks and dies when they’re supposed to die. It’s all very workmanlike; nobody is particularly memorable.

Whether “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” is actually the final chapter remains to be seen. The film is certainly constructed in such a way as to allow for the franchise’s end, but the door is certainly left open for more to come should Anderson and Jovovich decide to revisit.

In a way, it’s sad to say goodbye to “Resident Evil.” No matter how you might feel about the movies (hint: they’re bad), there’s something remarkable about the creative willpower and bizarre vision necessary to turn one so-so video game movie into a six-deep franchise. Congratulations, Paul and Milla. Go do something else now.

[1.5 out of 5]

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