Oh boy. This one.
So good a couple of months after its release Netflix cancelled the series all together.
Exactly like it did for its Cowboy Bebop’s live action series, but i doubt this will be the last time we see this treatment, as Netflix is committed to bring more live action crap into its folds, especially by picking a “random” videogame or anime/manga license.
But that discussion will have to wait for when the One Piece live-action series (also by Netflix and also handled by the same production team behind the aforementioned live-action Cowboy Bebop), for this is a Resident Evil affair, and the series already had its own spotted history of adaptations.
I was gonna review this thing anyway, but cancelling any further seasons it’s definitely a move that appeals to my vulturine tendencies, and also means i hopefully won’t have to talk about it again at a later date. Hopefully, who the hell knows with Netflix nowadays, since not even instant super mega hits that are well received by most people like The Sandman (adapted from Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name)… aren’t guaranteed a second season, as the very people making it explained.
But getting back on the subject at hand, you didn’t need to be online 24/7 to know that this was most likely not gonna be any good, and that you were kinda setting yourself up for disappointment by going into a Netflix produced Resident Evil live-action series. Just that description is enough.
From the trailer alone one could tell this was gonna be a very different show all together, and in theory i would understand why go with this approach, since the series itself had already a fairly shlocky live-action film series that just did whatever it wanted in terms of plot, and a series of CG animated films that fell into the trap of just reenacting the same B-movie scenarios from the games.
And it’s not like Resident Evil it’s this holy grail of narrative, creative ideas or characters, so the bar was set pretty low to begin with, and again, we had series like Riverdale where they basically did whatever random garbage they wanted, completely straying from its source material, but despite being Riverdale in name only, it found its audience in people that were far too young to know or care about Archie Comics, and lacked the worlwide cultural importance to get people really upset.
The problem with this series doesn’t lie in the fact it tried doing whatever it wanted with the franchise’s elements and its basic premise of “zombies in it”, but in what it’s actually doing being… honestly subpar, overblown and still ridden with questionable choices all around.
Speaking of which, this take on the franchise it’s focused on depicting a post-apocalyptic zombie ridden world where the few shelter of humanity live in gated corporate city under the control of pharma megacorp Umbrella, which previously had a horrible outbreak of the T-Virus happen in the american town known as Raccoon City, but now it’s trying to peddle a “happiness pill” called Joy, and basically seizing by force every opportunity for business and control over the wasteland.
The plot follows a couple of sisters, Jade and Billie, that move into New Raccoon City due to their father job, Albert Wesker, whom works as a scientist perfecting the “Joy” pill for Umbrella, but the narrative alternates between two timelines, one set in the present of 2030 with the siblings as adults in the zombie wasteland, one years priors, when they were teen that just moved into a new place, but eventually were swept into the machinations and true purposes of Umbrella..
I’m gonna go for the jugular right away, but sadly this “double timelines” choice doesn’t actually pay off, it’s mostly distracting and – most importantly – it’s detrimental to the narrative trying to woven any kind of twist or surprise, destroys any potential suspence , and it’s not helped by some really obvious cliched “reveals” you’ll sniff from a mile away, not that this is a proper flaw because the characterization for the two sisters it’s ultimately unsatisfying, and it’s just… plain incomplete.
You’d think this extensive focus on them would actually explain why and how they end up as they do in the future/present, but not quite, especially for Billie, even by the final episode you’ll never quite get why her character evolves that way… it’s utterly random, maybe it was gonna be properly shown in the second season, but that will never happen, so it’s mostly a lot of time spent on teen drama about two cliched and fairly unlikeable teen protagonists.
And then having the characterization just skipping huge important passagge in Billie’s arc, now she’s like this because the script and the cliche demanded so, while Jade’s character at least makes sense would develop that way.
Wonderful writing to accompany this…. stuff, to booth.
How the hell do you make a Resident Evil series and decide it’s mostly gonna be a teen drama… it just eludes me, or it would have completely if i didn’t factor in this being a Netflix produced joint.
But that’s what it is, for the focus is mostly on shit teen drama, with the other big part being this conspiracy corporation stuff (which also rips off the “Joy” thing from We Happy Few, of all things), and zombies, they do are in the show, but it’s incredible how little they factor… into something using the Resident Evil name.
Sure, most zombie media isn’t actually about zombies, let’s remember that, but i do not joke when i say this is 70 % teen drama, one with a first episode that will almost assuredly enrage even casual fans of the videogame series, and make one weep for the older film series, especially with lines about Zootropia porn being red on tablets by tween girls. or mentioning torrenting the anime Deca Dance.
But the surprising thing is that beyond the incredibly awful first impressions, i did warm up a bit to the series, and was flabbergasted to realize it wasn’t actually that bad as everyone was saying, once you get to grips to what it actually is and not what you wanted from it.
I mean, it’s decently acted even at worst, with Lance Reddick alone carrying the series in terms of acting, he’s fucking great at this reimagined Albert Wesker, even the cartoonish girlboss at the head of Umbrella is a fun enough villain, the CG for the monsters it’s solid, the gore isn’t bad either.
Heck, even the references to the main series are actually not bad, sometimes they are just so goofy , so played for jokes it’s hard to hate them, and i was genuinely surprised by how they integrated in context the “Moonlight Sonata piano puzzle”, indeed quite the clever implementation.
Shame the main characters dynamic is as predictable as it’s gratingly cliched, to the point you’ll symphatize or just like the secondary characters more (Again, Wesker it’s the best damn part), and ultimately the narrative just completely falls apart, with some really obvious asspulls from the script so we can have a literal genius character do a stupid thing.. otherwise the plot wouldn’t move forward.
Some really stupid shit in a series that often tries to take itself seriously… mostly, and the final episodes are the worst offenders, with too much shit happening kinda at random, some references to the first game crammed into the pot because the season it’s almost over and we almost forgot, subplots vomited at the viewer, some left completely unresolved by the final episode, which of course ends with a cliffhanger.
Of course it fuckin does.
Heck, at least in this regard even the Cowboy Bebop live-action shitfest had more closure, and i can believe i have to say this non-negative thing about that pile of garbage, which was far worse overall.
Getting off that soapbox, there’s also the issue of a spotty worldbuilding, as we rarely see what’s the life outside of the gated Umbrella city-states, and even when we do, it’s very little and brief, like they make a big deal about the Brotherhood, a coven of crazed cultists that believe zombies to be a divine gift (and so on)… when we eventually go there it’s all done & dealed with in one episode.
Without spoiling anything further, it’s a shame because the series could have done something interesting with its plot, but ultimately the narrative fumbles whatever it had going for it by the end, coming off as both underdeveloped and overburned with too many subplots, some that ultimately go nowhere, hoping a second season would fix that and make one overlook the shitty ass cliffhanger finale (featuring some freaking awful choreography, as you can see a lot of zombies fall down well before being hit by drone weaponry)… which as we now know, it’s the actual end of this Resident Evil story as a whole.
And in another surprising realization, this comes off as oddly faithful to the source material, which is basically built on b-movie cliches, sci-fi horror twists, ridiculous dialogues and so on, but the problem here is that the series tone doesn’t match the campy one of the games, it takes itself too seriously and focuses way too much on teen drama, so it never quite gets that, by design or accident it never matches the campiness of the first RE games, or the tone of Resident Evil 4.
Again, it’s hard to tell how intentional this was by the staff at Constantin Television, but even the Paul W.S. Anderson movies (also made by Constantine’s Films division), which also ignored the canon plots of the games, managed to capture better and more consistenly the B-movie spirit of the series overall. This almost seems to try and emulate the games too much in terms of having things crammed in, again, kinda mirroring the games, but problem is, these things can be forgiven or are necessary for a videogame, but this isn’t a game, it’s a TV show that feels bloated, even with just 8 episodes, each going from 50-60 minutes each.
But even casting the whole “fidelity debacle” aside, there are plenty of issues that sadly make this series subpar on its own, and while there are some fun parts overall, by the end i felt ready to see it end even earlier than it eventually does, with more – and now rethorical – questions about many things, and some of the more stupid shit… not coming off as “stupid but fun”, but just plain stupid.
At the end, though, i’m left of two minds about this Resident Evil live-action series.
It’s not completely awful, and i can see general audiences enjoying it, because for what it actually is, it’s not THAT bad, the references to the series are actually implemented fairly well in this new context, and let’s be honest, you kinda set yourself up for disappointment if you genuinely expected the Resident Evil Netflix live action series to be good, considered the quality of the source material.
But still, even taken as its own thing that basically has very little in common with the source material, we have a subpar zombie apocalypse series that has something going for it, but fumbles any proper characterization of the annoying main characters (Billie’s arc is simply incomplete), puts the zombies as mere background halloween decorations to the main focus of this mediocre (at best) teen drama cum pharma conspiracy “story hoagie”, with a skeletal worldbuilding stuffed with too many subplots, often never given proper closure, despite opting to switch back and forth between two timelines, with the intent to fill in the gaps…. in a second season that will never happen.
Tone is often too serious to be campy fun as the games or the older live-action movies.
So it’s pretty bad even disregarding the RE name and what it entails, it’s not bad because it’s different, it’s different and bad on its own, but still.. it’s not THAT atrocious, there’s plenty worse shit on Netflix, and while personally i’m kinda glad i won’t have to bother with another season of this, i’m not happy about it either because i feel it’s a bit overkill, just not fully deserved.
Still, it could have been even worse. There is worse shit around.