Resident Evil TV Review

Plot: Year 2036 -14 years after the spread of Joy caused so much pain, Jade Wesker fights for survival in a world overrun by the blood-thirsty infected and mind-shattering creatures. In this absolute carnage, Jade is haunted by her past in New Raccoon City, by her father’s chilling connections to the sinister Umbrella Corporation but mostly by what happened to her sister, Billie.

Review: One year after the seven-movie franchise led by Milla Jovovich was rebooted with Welcome to Raccoon City, Resident Evil is back with…another reboot, this time on Netflix. Unlike either of the big screen iterations, the small screen Resident Evil exists in its own continuity but one that builds on the storyline started in the video games. Set in two timelines, the series focuses on the Umbrella Corporation outbreak that leads to the end of the world and the future fallout for the post-apocalyptic survivors. Boasting a young cast of new characters and some from the games, Resident Evil changes the approach to the zombie franchise from all-out action and horror to something far more muted and far less cinematic. But, in keeping consistent with the movie franchise, the series is also an impressive mess.

The first thing you will notice about this take on Resident Evil is that it is at once a sequel and a reboot. The four episodes made available at the time of this review (of an eight-episode season) take place years after the incidents in Raccoon City besmirched the name of the Umbrella Corporation. Evelyn Marcus (Paola Nunez), daughter of the company’s co-founder, has taken over as CEO and is working with Dr. Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick) to develop a wonder drug called Joy. Wesker moves to New Raccoon City with his daughters Jade (Tamara Smart) and Billie (Siena Agudong). While the girls adjust to their new surroundings, they witness first-hand the release of the T-virus and the eventual downfall of mankind. This part of the story takes place in 2022 and features many hallmarks of the video game franchise and lots of subtle references to past events, but for the most part, these scenes feel like any number of teen dramas on the air and don’t feature all that much in the way of compelling characters aside from the always great Reddick and the scenery-chewing Nunez. Both of the actresses playing Wesker’s kids are at times good and others are painfully on the nose with their delivery.

The 2022 scenes are intercut with sequences set in London fourteen years later. In 2036, the world resembles the shambling infrastructure seen on The Walking Dead and other dystopian zombie shows. We primarily follow the now-adult Jade Wesker, played here by Ella Balinksa (Charlie’s Angels). A badass who is researching the T-virus and the zombies it generated, Jade is also on the run from the Umbrella Corporation embodied by actor Turlough Convery who plays his character as half villain and half bumbling idiot. His role is not explained in the least aside from working for Umbrella as he hunts down Jade. I won’t reveal why she is being hunted, but needless to say, it is one of the many moments that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The 2036 sequences have some of the better action moments, but they are spread thinly between hard-to-watch action scenes filmed at night as well as daytime sequences with mediocre CGI. The zombies here called Zeroes and regularly explained not to actually be zombies but infected people, are the fast-moving type of monster as seen in Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. There are also mutated bugs and animals that feel remarkably out of place when translated from video games to live-action. The future scenes establish a much different narrative and pacing compared to the 2022 scenes but both are intercut without any sort of transition between the two time periods. It is quite jarring and makes following the story almost as tedious as some of the dialogue.

Developed by Andrew Dabb (Supernatural), Resident Evil suffers from consistently awful dialogue. Every episode showcases some of the most cringe-worthy lines I have heard from a series with as much marketing as Netflix has invested here. The only actor who seems able to deliver his lines without sounding ridiculous is Reddick, but that guy could read anything and sound cool. The series aims to look cinematic but often falls short due to the directing crew, all veteran television directors who have not worked on projects with the scale that this show needs. Bronwen Hughes, who helms the first two episodes, does deliver some well-shot moments that are seen in the trailer but that amounts to the most excitement this series can muster. The story is so unevenly paced and executed that it drags from gunfight to teen shouting matches to boardrooms and back again.

Resident Evil should have worked better as a streaming series than it ever did on the big screen but this adaptation fails to capture the tone and feel of the video games that inspired it. While the Paul Anderson/Milla Jovovich films went entirely off the rails from the games and turned into B-movie spectacles, last year’s reboot hewed closer to the games but failed to capture what makes them so popular. This Resident Evil resides firmly in between the two film universes in failing to grasp what makes the games work as well as what makes engaging television. I have not been more disappointed in a show in a long time but maybe that was my mistake in assuming the ninth try in getting Resident Evil right would be the one to work.

Resident Evil premieres on July 14th on Netflix.

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