Netflix’s Resident Evil Review: Fans deserve better
Given how many bad Resident Evil adaptations there have been, we should honestly start labeling it as “unadaptable” because it seems cursed. Paul W.S. Anderson’s movies traded the horror and charm of the games for generic cinematic horror action that featured lazy interpretations of iconic franchise characters. Johannes Roberts’ Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City tried to touch on game lore, but instead created a monstrous cinematic mess that was just painful to watch as a fan. Now, Netflix has created a tv adaptation of their own that sadly continues Resident Evil’s legacy of terrible adaptations.
Netflix’s Resident Evil brings fans into an original storyline that’s split between two timelines. One that follows Jade (Tamara Smart) and Billie Wesker (Siena Agudong), the daughters of legendary Umbrella scientist Albert Wesker (Lance Reddick), as they make horrifying discoveries about their father’s work. While the other timeline focuses on an older Jade (Ella Balinska) trying to survive a near-future apocalypse created by Umbrella’s actions. With the Resident Evil games featuring some simplistic yet expansive lore and a wide array of beloved characters, it’s still so strange how people would rather create an original story rather than utilize established lore. Yet, there are some interesting aspects to this original Resident Evil story that stand out.
The setting being this community built by Umbrella is intriguing and some of the new perspectives we get from Billie and Jade investigating their father’s work leads to some potentially interesting story threads. There’s some decent suspense built around the discoveries made by Jade investigating Umbrella, and Billie dealing with her growing infection from a rabid dog bite ends up being an interesting season-long storyline. Even some of the horror-fueled action of Jade’s future storyline allows for some classic enemies to return and there’s at least a decent budget behind the monsters to make classic enemies, like Lickers and dogs, look awesome. However, the few highlights this series has are constantly overshadowed by devastating flaws.
Although the series wants to establish its own original story, it does acknowledge that it takes place within the game canon leading to some major logic and plot hole problems. Wesker being alive suddenly is barely explained in a comprehensible way and him still being heavily involved with Umbrella creates these big gaps in logic. In the games, Umbrella is back but has franchise protagonist Chris Redfield attached and that isn’t the case here. Frankly, just the idea of Wesker being back in a prominent role doesn’t feel right because there’s no way that franchise protagonists like Chris, Leon, Jill, or really anyone would let that happen without protest. It’s not like Umbrella is underground or a secret, so the fact that Wesker and Umbrella are back with no real opposition is completely unbelievable.
Frankly, it’s tough to understand why this series wants to take place within the game lore because it doesn’t utilize it much or all that well. There are some fun nods and references to weapons and memorable game moments throughout and Evelyn Marcus (Paola Nunez) being the daughter of Umbrella founder and Resident Evil 0 antagonist James Marcus is a nice way to expand on lore. However, any other reference to the games’ characters or big moments are sparse or simply feel forced. There are also some missed opportunities to right some wrongs of the games, specifically with Wesker’s son Jake Wesker. Although he wasn’t loved in the games, this series would’ve been the perfect place to touch on him since it was already introducing other Wesker children. However, it’s not all that concerned with establishing itself well within Resident Evil’s canon when it’s kind of should.
Even when you take away the Resident Evil canon issues, this series is still a complete mess. It’s incredibly incapable of shifting between its two timelines well as the transitions are never smooth and constantly break the momentum of the action. The jumps between each timeline are never well-timed and the tone between the two storylines feels all over the place. The moments of horror and action feel fine, but never make a unique impression. Most of the time, things stand out because it involves a familiar enemy from the games or simply adds any sort of energy to an otherwise dull viewing experience. Nothing the series offers of its own really makes a positive impact and the only time that fans will feel hooked by it is when it trying to earn its Resident Evil name, which it barely does.
The story and characters are easily this series’ weakest point because of how insufferable and nonsensical they are. Literally every character is just the worst as they generally give off a snarky, angsty, and/or over the top vibe that’s just puzzling. Jade and Billie’s relationship is oddly characterized, and their sudden bursts of anger feel mostly unwarranted. Wesker’s characterization will undoubtedly frustrate fans as he feels nothing like the iconic antagonist and the explanation behind his return is just plain bonkers. There are honestly tons of moments that will leave you scratching your head because of how weird and cringy they are and neither storyline ever features moments that really keep your attention. Often, the series just hits the expected beats of corruption and action horror that fans have gotten bored of with other adaptations and even the world-building falls flat because of how generic it is.
Adaptations like Netflix’s Resident Evil make it seem like Resident Evil is a tough series to adapt when it’s really not. Although it tries to pay homage to the classic survival horror franchise, it ultimately fails to earn in its place in the lore as the execution of its original ideas is terrible and it doesn’t provide consistent horror or action that’s satisfying amongst its bizarre story and character choices. It’s just simply another bad Resident Evil adaptation and fans deserve better.