Friday, August 12, 2022

Netflix’s Resident Evil stinks worse than zombie meat

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Spanning two timelines before and after the T-Virus outbreak, this video game spin-off series is a lazy addition to the long-running franchise

As if we weren’t at the saturation point, now there’s a new one resident Evil Live-action series, also on Netflix and created by supernatural Writer Andrew Dabb. The eight episodes, taking place in both 2022 and 2038, at least tell a new story with new characters in the franchise’s universe, meaning you don’t need to know about the action to enjoy it until now. However, you need a high tolerance for bad television.

Next to Super Mario and Pokemonfew video games had the durability of resident Evil. First launched as a PlayStation game in 1996, the zombie horror franchise has had eight major installments (most of which have also been remade and re-released), a six-part live-action film franchise (plus last year’s reboot, Welcome to Raccoon City) a comic series, several stage plays, some novels, the inevitable merchandise and, coming July 2021, an anime series on Netflix.

It begins in the year 2036 with a woman studying a group of “zeros” – zombies, all rotting skin and throaty moans, like every other depiction of the undead in the last five centuries. She is Jade (Ella Balinska), a “survivor” who, 14 years after the great outbreak in New Raccoon City, is still determined to find a cure (or at least to contain the so-called T-Virus more than ever). South Africa. In the four episodes that critics were allowed to see, we follow her through a decimated London, avoiding zeros and gigantic zombified CGI creatures, as well as the seedy pharmaceutical company The Umbrella Corporation.

Why are you after her? Who knows. Between all the chases and fights, there is very little time to talk. Zeros or bullets rain down from an Umbrella Corps drone whenever a clue to a plot threatens to be uncovered. It’s no different than a video game where you don’t have to bother listening to the boring dialogue – here it’s skipped for you.

Far more interesting and revealing are the scenes set in 2022, in which young Jade (Tamara Smart) and her twin sister Billie (Siena Agudong) move to New Raccoon City where their father (Lance Reddick) works for Umbrella. While the two timelines flip at an alarming rate (usually interrupting the most exciting parts), Jade’s schooldays move much more slowly than the action-packed adventures she experiences growing up, and is far more detailed and action-packed.

Concerned that Umbrella conducts animal testing, Billie convinces her sister to sneak into the lab with her after work to take photos of the rabbits living there. Unfortunately, they accidentally unleash a feral dog carrying the T-Virus (a nod to the video games where dogs are some of the most irritating villains) that bites Billie’s shoulder. No prizes for guessing what happens next: Billie begins morphing into Patient Zero. And yes, Covid gets an honorable mention (Billie is worried she’ll have to quarantine before her father ominously tells her the T-virus is ‘nothing like’ Covid), but thankfully no one dwells on the comparison. We’re done with the weak, languid pandemic allegory on TV, thank you.

But do we really need another zombie survival show? This is a story that has been told to us countless times the Walking Dead to zombie land to the upcoming adaptation of another video game, The last of us. In a way, the continued interest in the genre should make it harder to mess up another addition to the canon (especially when it’s so snotty and predictable)..

That resident Evil doesn’t take a novel approach and doesn’t add anything new to zombie culture or the original franchise, it’s not its worst crime – it’s how lazy it’s going about it. The writing is sloppy, the performances are unsubtle and the entire show lacks direction.

Live action in the right hands resident Evil Series could make for masterful television. The Umbrella Corps’ involvement gives way to many intricate and twisted storylines rather than the simple violent villains they are here. This slapdash approach doesn’t capitalize on the franchise’s rich 26-year history, nor does it tell a story compelling enough to feel fresh. Much like the decayed flesh of a grotesque zombie, resident Evil smells bad.

Resident Evil will stream on Netflix starting Thursday, July 14.

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