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Resident Evil Netflix: Review

To say that video game adaptations have a…tumultuous history would be putting it lightly. To many fans, the concept of a film adaptation is often met with concern and there’s a good reason. The two media have many similarities, but there are more than a few differences. Netflix has decided to throw its hand in the ring with a new adaptation…and its zombies no less.

Resident Evil is one of the longest-running video game series to the point that it is practically royalty. It’s also one that has had a fair few adaptations over the years, to a mixed level of success. The original movies by Paul W.S Anderson started well enough but soon went off the rails. We were also graced with animated films, which retained the main characters and followed the plot of the games. Netflix’s new series is aiming for something in the middle, but does it work?

So, first things first, this series is not a retelling of any of the games. The connection to the main series initially appears pretty distant. For those of you feeling the same concern that occurred in the W.S. Anderson movies, don’t worry so much. I know that none of the main characters appear in this series, although there are mentions. Well, that isn’t strictly true, but I will get back to that. However, while there aren’t many connections, there are several nods and jokes that form a connection.

The show's plot is split into two, but both follow the story of the Wesker family. You heard that right, the Wesker family, as in Albert Wesker and his two daughters Billy and Jade. The first storyline takes place in the ‘future’ following Jade as she studies the T-virus and its evolution. Meanwhile, the second plot is based in the past and is focused on Billy and Jade uncovering the mystery of their father’s past and what Umbrella has done in Racoon City.

Initially, I thought the future story was the more interesting, especially as it had more action in it, but over time I changed my mind. The plot focused on the past retains that sense of mystery regarding Umbrella that the games had and the characters all have time to grow. The future plot begins to drag and slowly starts to feel like an addition made to have some action, which is fine, but it isn’t enough to retain interest.

These two stories are intertwined with skips between both over the course of the episodes, and this is certainly where the biggest issue arises. This is especially apparent in the initial episodes. The way these two plots mix feels rushed in the beginning and it takes the watcher away from what is happening. It feels like there was too much pressure to get the setting sorted as fast as possible and it certainly hurts the experience. However, this issue does get resolved to a degree in the later episodes. It’s still not great, but there it’s passable.

The show spends more time bringing forwards new mysteries and all of them culminate in a finale that both open up a season 2 and answers everything the audience needed to be answered. I should also mention something, this dhows plot is based on the game's universe, at least to a degree, not the films. This is important as it helps with some of the initial confusion. However, a fantastic plot is nothing if the actors can’t deliver.

The performances here are amazing, and no I am not being overly gushy. The stand-out is easily Lance Reddick as Albert who, throughout the show, gets to expand himself from the ‘creepy powerful’ guy many know him for. I know some people will make the classic complaint regarding casting. I just want to tell you that he is fantastic, hands down. He manages to come across as a varied retelling of a character who, let's be honest, wasn’t exactly fantastically written in the games. This isn’t Albert Wesker as you know him, trust me on that.

Outside of Lance the two teenage Wesker's, played by Sien Agudong and Tamara Smart, were great as well. Sien Agudong especially manages to convey terror and confusion fantastically. It never feels forced and her reactions all come across as realistic. Their adult actors, Ella Balinska and Adeline Rudolph, have their moments but honestly, there is less for them to do in regards to character. However, saying that Ella has some great emotional moments in the later episodes that really hit me hard.

The side characters vary in how good they are and many of the teenage actors are passable, for the most part. Paola Nunez performs the role of Umbrella’s head, Evelyn Marcus, fantastically and manages to convey manic insanity with cold calculation in a way that makes you hate her (in a good way). Also, Turlough Convery’s performance as the Umbrella agent is amazing and one sequence in particular (if you ever watched the animated movies) has to be seen to be believed.

However, it isn’t all perfect and there are certainly issues here that need to be addressed. Firstly, some of the teenage sequences become a bit difficult to believe, especially the teenage hacker able to break any security he finds. It’s fine in theory and it gets the plot along, but the biggest issue is his constant flirting. He does it so often, and at the worst times that it really grates the nerves and takes away from the situation.

Look, I get the fear about any adaptation taking just the name from a series. Initially, this felt like it was doing just that and I hated it for the first couple of episodes. However, while it isn’t perfect there is something here that might be a great addition and it does get better. It has issues certainly and is by no means perfect, but if you are turning away simply due to whatever the hell “forced representation’ is then you are missing something. Give it a try, but don’t give up straight away because even some of the complaints about cannon are explained away. Also, there’s a guy with a sack on his head and a chainsaw. Just putting that out there.

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