Review by Sean Boelman
Although the Resident Evil film adaptations aren’t what anyone would really call “good”, most of them are at least an entertaining guilty pleasure watch. Netflix took a stab at the IP, adapting it into a series, somehow making something that feels like if The CW were trying to rip-off The Walking Dead, which is not what Resident Evil should be at all.
The series follows Jade Wesker, daughter of scientist Albert Wesker, as she seeks to uncover the dark truth behind the Umbrella Corporation. Set in two timelines, the series splits its time between Jade as a teenager and as an adult. The teen portions of the show are set decades after the first Raccoon City incident — the outbreak depicted in the rest of the Resident Evil media — and the adult storyline is set after a second outbreak.
This means that the story is not a direct adaptation of any of the games, instead drawing elements from the games’ mythology and expanding upon them in a sequel arc. And as an attempt to expand the world of Resident Evil, it falls significantly flat by being extremely derivative of other zombie films and shows.
There is also the fact that the series seems desperate to pander to a younger audience. Although some of the action sequences are still quite gory, other portions feel like a teen soap opera. There are several horrible artistic choices made in the show, like a dance sequence set to Dua Lipa, that are simply baffling.
The main redeeming quality of this series is Lance Reddick, who is phenomenal in his role, even if it is very different from the Wesker that fans will know from the games. The way in which Reddick is able to nail the balance between charming and intimidating really carries the past timeline of the show.
Ella Balinska is decent as the lead, and is arguably better at carrying the show than the female leads in the Resident Evil movies (both Jovovich and Scodelario), but she is given frustratingly little to do until the back half of the season. Perhaps future installments will offer her more to work with.
Like a lot of big-budget Netflix shows, there is a ton of CGI that almost feels unfinished. The bigger that the show goes, the worse it looks. And apart from one kickass action sequence that comes about halfway through the season, the action is pretty much generic zombie mayhem shot dizzyingly.
Resident Evil isn’t unwatchable, but it also certainly isn’t deserving of the franchise’s moniker. Still, fans of zombie media will likely find themselves entertained by this, and it will be interesting to see if future seasons take a darker, more mature tone like the final episodes point towards.
Resident Evil debuts on Netflix on July 14. All eight episodes reviewed.