Film and TV show adaptations aren’t always easy to accomplish. They don’t always get the best of receptions either especially when it comes to film and TV adaptations of video games. The latest contender to dish out a TV adaptation of a video game chose a gigantic feat to overcome as far as source materials are concerned. Netflix’s Resident Evil series is now available on the streaming platform and we took the time to watch the show’s first season as we now bring you our full review of the series.
Resident Evil Review: A Brief Overview
As mentioned this series is an adaptation of the popular survival horror, third-person shooter, and first-person shooter games. This is the second television adaptation of the franchise after the animated miniseries Infinite Darkness, and the third live-action adaptation after the film series which starred Milla Jovovich, and the reboot film, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. The series features an ensemble cast led by Lance Reddick, Ella Balinska, Adeline Rudolph, Tamara Smart, Siena Agudong and Paola Núñez just to name a few.
The series is set in its own universe but features the video game series’ storyline as its backstory and basis. The show is also set in and alternates between two distinct timelines — 2022 and 2036. The former centers on a young Jade (Tamara Smart) and Billie (Siena Agudong) Wesker during their days in New Raccoon City where they discover the secrets of their father alongside those of the Umbrella Corporation. The latter timeline on the other hand revolves primarily around an adult Jade (Ella Balinska) as she wanders the post-apocalyptic ruins of the world while averting what remains of the Umbrella Corporation and flesh-eating zombies.
Resident Evil Review: Spoiler Warnings
This review of the Resident Evil series will, for the most part, be spoiler-free. We will focus on the effectiveness of the two timeline setup, the acting display set by the main cast, and the show’s creativity and innovation on the source material. There may however be some broad strokes that would tend to be a bit spoiler-y.
The Problem Of Doing Too Many Things
This reiteration of Resident Evil faces this very problem. Too many things occur all at once even for an eight-episode story arc. That’s the gravity of what is sought out to be achieved in an ambitious fashion from this show given the fact that its lengthiness was still not enough to contain the magnitude of the various sub-plots that occur in Resident Evil. There were some parts to the whole however that were admittedly done in an excellent manner. This was primarily the case due to the two-part story of the entire series — one became a stand-out in comparison to the other.
The 2022 timeline was a clear standout as a great depiction of what seems to be an Albert Wesker origin story. This portion of the story is admittedly worth seeing as the character development and flow of the story are spot-on in bringing in a level of humanity to an iconic video game villain. The overall pacing of Resident Evil is admittedly sluggish and is seen in both timelines but as a whole, the 2022 story arc features the more interesting plot due to the fast-paced nature of its scenes and story. What makes this portion of the Resident Evil series all the more invigorating to watch is the fact that we are offered a new side to the franchise compared to any that we have seen before. The origins of the T-Virus are fully explained and expounded on which surprisingly amps up the excitement all the more and becomes a fresh offering for the Resident Evil franchise.
In contrast to the success of this particular storyline set, the 2036 timeline lands on the completely opposite side of the spectrum. The futuristic and post-apocalyptic adventures of a grown-up Jade are sadly tiresome to witness. It may be due to the fact that there is a huge abundance of similar stories which makes this one, very repetitive and formulaic. Nothing new is added but rather a mess of various sub-plots that have no real weightiness or contribution to the actual story at hand for this timeline are squeezed. The adventures of Jade keep on coming and they occur one after the other. It feels pointless at times as she encounters a variety of storylines and characters that have no real resolutions. The running time of the series, therefore, feels enriched by this boring narrative that isn’t at all as compelling as the prequel-like storyline set in 2022. We must also add that the ending was very disappointing which further emphasized the weak and overly plot-saturated storyline that the show already had.
In and Out of the Resident Evil World
One of the aspects that fans of the source material must take into consideration is the ways the series pays tribute to the game while still standing on its own two feet as a completely different entity. It may become confusing at times with how the show is set in the modern year of 2022. The references to COVID and Apple establish this very plainly. This puts the entire Resident Evil movies and games into question as the years of release and story settings are way too different. The show however is, by all means, a new creation as creators and showrunner have explicitly made clear. The show highlights the world of Resident Evil that it is in, including the important references and characters but it elevates it to an extent of being able to exercise the freedom to get away with the constraints of what the source material offers. It becomes confusing until it doesn’t when the show manages to clear things up — the ride to get there however is definitely a slow burn.
Resident Evil tonality-wise manages to capture the essence of the zombie-apocalyptic world that the source material prides itself on. The visual aspect from its special effects down to the design of the zeroes and lickers is nothing short of spectacular. There is a consistent darker mood that the show brings that is just fitting with the whole ambiance and direction of Resident Evil. Most critics and fans have gone on to say that the show as a whole deviates from the games but I actually found the visual side of it to be quite resemblant to what the games offer and are a huge level up from the Mila Jovovich films and most importantly from the CGI disaster that the reboot gave us.
The biggest highlights in my opinion, however, were the performances of the Wesker family, specifically Lance Reddick as the various clones of Albert Wesker. and Tamara Smart and Siena Agudong who played the younger version of Jade and Billie respectively. Reddick at the onset felt to have given the bare minimum in terms of diversity as his initial performance felt derivative from the ones he would give in John Wick. It eventually shifted when Wesker’s clones were introduced which admittedly added some character and depth both to the role and the entire story. The younger actors in the show also proved to hold their own and their dynamics alongside Reddick showcased their chemistry and acting prowess. The only downside in terms of the cast was the underutilization of Ella Balinska and Adeline Rudolph who were overpowered and outshined in this case by the other solid performances as they lacked the emotional depth that their younger counterparts had.
Resident Evil Review: Final Verdict
As seen in our review, Resident Evil has a few things going for it. Contrary to what most critics and fans may think about it, the show isn’t all that bad but it isn’t the best either. It actually sits comfortably in the middle of being a mediocre offering and one that is good enough to watch if you have nothing better to do. We stand by our thoughts that the show could have been split into two separate stories and the success of a 2022 prequel-like series would have been better off than the confusing and overly-extended output that we were given. The show is redeemed to a certain degree by some of its cast members and the overall visual appeal that it takes on.
In terms of upholding and staying true to the source material, Netflix’s Resident Evil doesn’t really aim at that. It instead tries to offer something new to the world of Resident Evil while somewhat respecting the original elements and story. In summation, we give Resident Evil a solid five out of ten on our Hype Meter.
Hype Meter: 5/10
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