Resident Evil: Vendetta is the third CG movie in the series after 2008’s Resident Evil: Degeneration (which I reviewed here) and 2012’s Resident Evil: Damnation. You shouldn’t confuse it with Paul W. S. Anderson’s increasingly-belaboured string of live-action shenanigans, the most recent of which, The Final Chapter, brought that particular series to a spectacularly mediocre conclusion.
What’s it about?
A bioweapon, naturally. When I reviewed Resident Evil VII, I noted that the series’ viruses and parasites are the most malleable narrative tool that the property has, and nothing has changed since then. It’s called the A-Virus this time, and it has been engineered by a vengeful arms dealer (John DeMita) to only target specific unlucky sods of his choosing. On his trail are series favourites Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman) and Leon Kennedy (Matthew Mercer), as well as series not-favourite Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill), who here has been reimagined as a well-regarded university professor with a plot-convenient specialization in vaccine development.
Is it any good?
It is, actually, but only if you slightly tweak your critical metric. And, look, I know the live-action cycle didn’t get a pass for being an adaptation, but those movies were only nominally adaptations. Sure, they recycled a lot of iconic imagery and kept some character names intact, but they were mostly focused on establishing their own contorted mythology, and their primary purpose was to fetishize Paul Anderson’s real-life sexy wife, Milla Jovovich, who starred in all of them. Vendetta, on the other hand, manages to achieve a similarly camp and bombastic effect, but by doubling-down on all the inherent absurdities of the source material. It lives and dies in all the same ways that the games do, and it’s more useful to critique it on that basis than to judge it as you would any other feature.
Isn’t that cheating?
I suppose so. But, remember, this isn’t a tent-pole Hollywood release; it’s an animated video game adaptation that saw an extremely limited theatrical run and will mostly be content to serve as a digital-only curio for fans of the series. Anyone who’s interested enough to know that this film exists is already judging it on a slightly different basis. The CG trilogy slots into the established continuity of the games (this one taking place between the sixth and seventh), and they all retain the same narrative, aesthetic and thematic sensibilities as their console brethren. It really is like watching a 90-minute cutscene.
Take it or leave it, basically.
Okay. So what’s good?
What you’re expecting, mostly. All versions of Resident Evil strike some kind of balance between traditional horror and gonzo action spectacle, and Vendetta is no different. But what’s surprising is that both elements mostly work here. The creepy stuff is quite legitimately creepy, and the go-for-broke gun-fu is a riot. There’s also the usual high standard of creature design, including the obligatory eyeball-festooned multi-storey monstrosity. The slower, steadier scenes that play for horror are superior on a technical filmmaking level, but it would take a bigger man than me not to be entertained by the bonkers second half.
So what doesn’t work?
Well, pretty much everything else. The voice acting is horrible, the writing is loaded with exposition, and the plot’s a load of old arse. Par for the course with this series, really, and I’m well-aware that there are going to be people who just cannot tolerate that kind of thing under any circumstances. Not me, obviously, but never let it be said that I was a perfectly unbiased, objective critic. Luckily, most audiences aren’t unbiased or objective either.
So, yeah, Resident Evil: Vendetta is significantly, unavoidably flawed, but not, I don’t think, in any way that is really going to matter to the dedicated fanbase.
So you recommend it?
Cautiously. If you liked the previous two CG movies (which I did) then you’re probably going to like this – personally, I thought it was the best of the three. There’s also enjoyment to be found here if you’re someone who just doesn’t give much of a s**t about narrative coherence, writing, and the craft of voice acting, and I know that plenty of those people exist. If you’re a fan of the games, or of big, dumb action spectacles with a splattering of good, old-fashioned zombie-horror, then you can do a lot worse than Resident Evil: Vendetta.
Everyone else? Eh. It is what it is. These things play like gangbusters in Japan and other Asian markets, so there isn’t going to be a vaccine for this series anytime soon, but it should be easy enough to avoid contracting if you’re worried about infection.