The six resident Evil The films starring Milla Jovovich are both one of the most successful and mocked video game film adaptations ever made. For fans, it feels like no one can ever do the show justice. But while the video game series was able to reinvent itself and return to its former glory, the film adaptations weren’t so lucky.
Milla Jovovich’s latest film, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was released in 2017, the same year Resident Evil 7: Biohazard revitalized the game series. Since then, the movie franchise has admittedly at least tried to find new ground with last year’s Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon Citya more faithful horror adaptation of the first two games in the series, but a critical flop.
With the new resident Evil series on Netflix, many fans have been anticipating another new take on the franchise. It might be another faithful recreation of the games or a new story with familiar characters. But while the series got off to a good start on Netflix after its July 14, 2022 release, becoming one of the platform’s most-watched shows that week, the response hasn’t been good. At the time of writing, the show sits at a 26% viewership score on Rotten Tomatoes, and for many beleaguered fans, it’s yet another in a long line of disappointments.
One of the reasons fans are so disappointed with the series is that it looks completely unrecognizable from the source material. It does not incorporate the most fundamental and important elements of games: military-style protagonists, a specific mystery/crime to solve, a zombie outbreak in a small area, and powerful horror elements.
The main characters are cops/soldiers
In the original version resident Evil (1996) on PlayStation 1, the protagonists were members of the elite police force known as STARS (Special Tactics And Rescue Service), essentially a fictional SWAT team. This added several things to the game. First, the protagonist was a highly skilled fighter who could collect and use advanced weapons and equipment such as a handgun, shotgun, grenade launcher, hook, etc. . to finally get the better of the wandering monsters.
Second, it lent an atmosphere of seriousness to the story – if the protagonist failed (as most of his team, already killed by zombies, had), then all of Raccoon City and possibly the rest of the world would be destroyed by monsters.
This has been one of the most consistent elements of the game series. You always play a military type character: a member of the STARS, a policeman, a government agent, a member of a private security force, an anti-terrorist unit, a Vietnam veteran or an armed biker. It was an essential part of the games atmosphere and separated it from its rival series silent Hillwhose protagonists were ordinary people without any special skills.
In the new resident Evil Netflix series, however, all of that is thrown out the window. The series cuts between two timelines, one in the past and one in the future. In the past timeline, the protagonists are two ordinary high school girls. In the future, the protagonist is a scientist with apparent experience in fighting zombies.
Because the protagonists are ordinary people, the show doesn’t have the same sense of seriousness; moreover, it spends the vast majority of its time on dialogue cutscenes and drama, and little on horror, monster fighting, and mystery solving, which are the core elements of the games’ narrative premise.
Investigate a specific crime/solve a mystery
The plot of the resident Evil games is almost always the same. There has been a series of mysterious murders, a kidnapping or an apparent viral outbreak. The protagonists are military-style experts or police officers sent to solve the crime, find out what’s going on, and contain the monsters.
Gameplay usually involves a series of almost IndianaJonesstylish puzzles involving keys, gems and riddles that must be solved as the characters descend deeper underground until they find the secret lab where the zombie virus was produced. They then kill an extra-large zombie, activate the self-destruct sequence, and escape on a train, jet ski, or helicopter.
In the Netflix show, very few of these elements remain. Yes, over the course of 8 episodes there is a scene infiltrating a mysterious secret lab, one solving some puzzles, and two discussing hidden secrets with an investigative reporter. Other than that, however, there isn’t much. The same time is spent skateboarding, putting on plays, and discussing high school crushes. Without this central plot motivation, most series seem aimless and fail to capture the atmosphere of the games.
A zombie escape in a small region/city (not the whole world)
Another consistent element of the games is that the zombie outbreak occurs in a small geographic region. This includes an abandoned mansion in a forest, Raccoon City, a rural town in Spain, a town in West Africa, a few towns in Europe, China, and the United States, a swamp in Louisiana, and a village isolated from Eastern Europe. It’s crucial that the zombie outbreak be limited to a small region, as the plot still revolves around the military-style characters sent to save the day and contain the outbreak.
What separates resident Evil other properties zombies is that it is not post-apocalyptic; the world can be saved, survivors can be found, and mysteries must be solved.
In the new resident Evil show, however, the zombie outbreak in the future timeline encompasses the entire world. This completely changes the mood of the story and makes it virtually indistinguishable from other post-apocalyptic zombie shows like The Walking Dead.
The characters aren’t on a mission to solve a mystery, but rather wander aimlessly around the remnants of society to survive. Lost is the uniqueness of the concept, the tension of containing the outbreak, and the intrigue of the secrets uncovered.
Horror versus action
A central dynamic throughout the resident Evil series is the tension between horror and action. The first three games lean much more towards horror, but by the end of these the player has collected so many powerful weapons and healing items that the final bosses can only take seconds to defeat.
After the 4th game, the series felt much more like action than horror. The Milla Jovovich movie series, which began in 2002 and grew alongside video games, also started with a horror movie and morphed into ridiculous, over-the-top action movies.
The new Netflix show features a decent amount of action, light and infrequent horror, and plenty of drama. Much of the series, especially the past timeline, consists of high school drama and family weaknesses, a very odd choice for a resident Evil property.
What is interesting is that over the past five years, resident Evil the games (7 and 8, plus the remakes of 2 and 3) returned to their roots in pure horror, to incredible critical and popular acclaim. But unlike recent video games, the new show doesn’t return to the series’ roots as a mystery-fueled horror story. The characters, setting, story arc and mood are all fake and feel completely unrecognizable as supposed resident Evil property.