REVIEW: Netflix's new Resident Evil series badly borrows from two incredibly good disaster movies
The new eight-part series arrives on Netflix this week.
While some of the video games in the series have been genuine classics, absolutely none of the adaptations of Resident Evil have been any good so far.
From the SIX movies starring Milla Jovovich, to the CGI series Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness (also released on Netflix), to 2021's reboot attempt Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City, not one of these projects can be considered "good".
However, each and every one of them have still managed to bizarrely watchable, and despite themselves, somewhat entertaining.
That holds true for Netflix's new live-action series Resident Evil, which borrows incredibly liberally from some very well known (and much better) genre movies.
The central story is told across two different points in time: in 2036, we're focused on Jade Wesker (Ella Balinska) as she studies the zombies in a post-apocalyptic London, and in 2022, with a younger Jade (Tamara Smart) and her sister Billie (Siena Agudong) living in New Raccoon City in South Africa, which was founded by Umbrella next door to their HQ, where their father Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick) works.
What the central mystery is supposed to be is what happened in that 14 year gap that caused this latest zombie outbreak - a previous disaster is constantly alluded to - but that question is answered in the very first episode when the girls break into the weirdly security-less Umbrella science labs and release what turns out to be a zombie virus-infected dog.
So in 2036, Jade eventually finds herself on the run from Umbrella, attempting to escape from a ravaged Great Britain using illegal channels, while the government and opposing criminals actively hunt her down, which gives some very strong Children Of Men-vibes.
Meanwhile, in 2022, we've got a government-sanctioned attempt to paper over the cracks of a previous zombie outbreak. However, as expected, they're not doing a great job of not just making the same mistakes as last time, which definitely echoes 28 Weeks Later.
From the first four episodes that were made available to review, the show looks big and expensive, with the first few directed by Bronwen Hughes (Better Call Saul, 13 Reasons Why) and scripted by Andrew Dabb (Supernatural), so there is that required sense of scale that should go hand-in-hand with a world-ending story.
There is even some fun to be had from the zombie carnage, with the show never shying away from the gore, and there are also set-pieces involving monstrously huge caterpillars and spiders, which is both (A) true to the games, and (B) never not fun.
The biggest problem remains that there is absolutely nothing new here, as the formula sticks pretty rigidly to what you'd expect from a zombie story. Shady corporations, useless governments, society immediately collapsing, "man is the greatest monster of all": they're all checked off like a game of zombie bingo.
Maybe it picks up in the second half of the season and finds some new terrain, but it is still baffling that as the games have progressed so fantastically - the plots for Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil: Village are all absolutely begging to be adapted - the adaptations are still so enormously hung up on the same basic premise of the very first game, one that they've now been churning out over and over again for two decades.
All eight episodes will be available to watch on Netflix from Thursday, 14 July.
Clips via Netflix