For over more than 25 years, Resident Evil has been one of the most well-known, and successful video game properties ever created. The brainchild of Shinji Mikami which started as a mid-budget video game at Capcom, and was released in 1996, has been since then adapted into comic books, novels, films, and TV series. In that quarter of a century, Resident Evil has been successful enough as to gain the honor of being the most successful horror franchise ever.
Yes, Resident Evil is bigger and makes more money than any other horror franchise. And with the new games pushing the genre and the limits of the franchise to new levels of success. It isn’t surprising that studios still want to have a piece of the pie by adapting the property into a new TV show or any other medium. This time, it is the turn of Netflix, as they propose to bring the franchise to the screen in a new and flashy way.
And yet, each new adaptation begs the question of what were the creatives thinking? Before this TV series, Resident Evil invaded the movie theaters with a film series starring Milla Jovovich and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. The series of movies were successful enough to warrant six films, but they were panned by critics. Also were hated by the video game fans who saw in the films just a bunch of Easter eggs and nothing else resembling the characters and the lore that makes the video game side of the franchise, special.
Resident Evil, the Netflix show, seems to have been made in a vacuum because all the mistakes made by the film series are repeated in here. This new series is anything but Resident Evil, they only share the same name, but they could be entirely new properties, and in retrospect, it would have been better for this show to be its own thing. The baggage that comes with the franchise is just too big. Resident Evil comes with expectations, and they are not met.
The first thing is that the show takes elements from the games, but executes those ideas in a completely new universe that feels completely foreign to what we know from the games. The series takes a lot of iconography from the games, especially when it comes to the monsters, and name-drops a lot of lore, especially when the infamous Umbrella corporation is involved. The show even drops the name Wesker throughout the season, but the last name lacks the meaning that carries in the games.
It is a baffling thing to see, a production company getting the rights to such a big and dear franchise, and instead of trying to be a faithful adaptation of the games. It goes in the completely opposite direction and chooses to be something that resembles absolutely nothing to the original source material. Why have they done this? It is a mystery. Why has no one really tried to take at least the first game and do a proper adaptation of it? No one knows.
However, outside of being a dreadful adaptation, this new Resident Evil show isn’t really that bad. The show stars Ella Balinska, Lance Reddick, Tamara Smart, Adeline Rudolf, and Siene Agudong. The show tells the story of Albert Wesker a scientist working at the Umbrella Corporation. When he moves to a new town with his daughters, Billie, and Jade, Albert and the girls discover that their family is stranger than they realized.
Balinska proved to have a true screen presence when she starred with Kristen Stewart in the remake of Charlie’s Angels. That movie wasn’t very good, but Balinska was one of the best elements of that film. The imposing actress is a true action star, and she moves on-screen with confidence and gravitas. Her role as a young mother trying to get to her family is nice, she is easy to root for, even when her personality can be a bit harsh here and there.
Reddick is always a welcome addition to any show, and here it is no different. The show moves between two different timelines, the present, and the future of 2036 where the world has ended after the zombie apocalypse. Because of this creative choice, there are young versions of some characters, and we spend a lot of time with them. Smart and Adugong play those characters, Billie, and young Jade, and both of them are great performers. They really have a future in the business.
On a technical level, the show knows when to go full budget mode, and it manages to put some really great creature work on screen. However, outside of that, the show feels very cheap. The sets are almost always barren landscapes or sterile offices, and that is it. Even in the end, Resident Evil doesn’t really manage to go outside those parameters. So while the episodes are very well shot and directed, they also feel like they had to be held back in some fashion.
If this show didn’t have the Resident Evil name attached to it, very few people would pay attention to it, that is the hard reality. However, because the show is called Resident Evil, fans will be expecting something that the creators never intended to provide when they decided to make this series. It is a complicated matter and a very strange one, but that is exactly how Hollywood works.
Maybe someday, a production company and a team of filmmakers will be brave enough to take the premise of the games and do something with it. This is the biggest horror franchise ever! It deserves special treatment.