Netflix’s Resident Evil series is really bad – but not because it’s “Woke”.

Netflix's Resident Evil series is really bad - but not because it's "Woke".

Phew, checking out 2022 on Twitter or in Metacritic user ratings whenever a movie or series changes the ethnicity or gender of a well-known character is a good recipe for shaving a few years off your personal lifetime account. Reading “Woke Agenda” again, just because some clueless showrunners couldn’t believe their luck that an actor of the caliber of Lance Reddick would say “yes” to the role of Albert Wesker, I have to start my latest perform fist dance.

Yes, Wesker’s casting bothers me too, but only because the games didn’t happen to position him close to the Nazi ideal of the superman. And even if you wanted to cast him black, Reddick just isn’t the type to overact and twirl his mustache to make an over-the-top villain. Someone like Jeffrey Wright would have been a better choice then. Luckily (or unlucky!) the script doesn’t even try to portray him that way for a long time. He’s suddenly a multi-faceted character, with some moral gray areas, who has retained a remnant of caution about Umbrella’s bio-experimentation.

Neither fish nor meat

The series explains this with a much too late twist that makes you wriggle too long about why the good guy is so different – and why he’s still alive after his volcano swim. This is also the moment from which Reddick is allowed to try a few things. More than many other shows and films. But this poker just doesn’t quite work that way. Instead, for a good six episodes, he causes difficulties in reconciling the show with the canon of the games. If that canon is why you should tune in at all, that’s a problem.

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But reconciling show and game is doomed to failure anyway, because one thing is clear: the authors want to ground the material to a large extent, and also get something out of it emotionally – which ultimately proves that they have not understood Resident Evil. Tonally this is completely different from the games throughout the first half.

At the same time, I have to say that the series isn’t even conceptually boring. To some extent, what happens to the characters works. Mainly because the show mirrors a bit the sibling alienation of the roughly 56 times better show Arcane. Above all, the young actors who play the protagonists in the 2022 timeline do their job solidly, so that you keep forgetting that you are supposedly watching a Resident Evil series and not a mediocre interesting hybrid of coming-of-age and horror. That too can’t be the aim of a show with that name.

Would you watch it if it wasn’t Resident Evil?

Result: Most of the time, as a connoisseur of the games, you stay with it to find out when and where, apart from the name dropping, the Resident Evil factor comes into play. Whenever it comes to the nasty Umbrella side or the action changes to the post-apocalypse of 2036, unfortunately it finally becomes cheap. It’s already tough doing a show about a ridiculously ruthless pharmaceutical company with bribed health officials in year three of the coronavirus pandemic – probably just as much part of the woke agenda as making the primary antagonist homosexual I guess? – but here it is done in a particularly silly and stupid way. Paul WS Anderson’s films were more consistent, signaling from the start that you just wanted to have some sloppy fun digging through the trash of the games.

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The rest is monster film arbitrariness by filmmakers who are apparently just as tired of zombies as large parts of the audience are now. Of course with lots of digitally added fire and blood, mediocre make-up and matte paintings that seem to have been created from kindergarten projects. The show as a whole has a pretty cheap look and the back half’s “big-bad” plan is meant to come across as character-motivated but comes off as a bad joke.

It wasn’t just yesterday that I thought a game like Resident Evil was pretty much unfilmable. If films are a language, video games—this one in particular—are a dialect whose phrases have no grammatical equivalents in cinema. I can still praise the old Jovovich films for arranging the elements of the games into their own recognizable collage. But even that didn’t guarantee good films.

On the other hand, well and good, Netflix tried to do something different with the stuff. But there’s always a certain commitment to brands like this, and it was kind of clear that nobody would like this parsimonious and confused-looking half-half approach. So let’s look forward to future games studiously ignoring this series. Best of all, you do too. And start with the user ratings on Metacritic!