Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness (Japan 2021)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/21/22

Contains four episodes

I don't know why I keep watching "Resident Evil" movies. It must be some perverse lingering hope that they'll finally do it right and capture the thrill and tone of the video game series. But they never do.

In this iteration, the omnipresent Umbrella Corporation is nowhere to be found, and rather than focusing on evil pharmaceutical companies trying to take over the world, the show is a military political drama. When the Pentagon is hacked, federal agent Leon Kennedy is called upon to investigate. And wherever Leon is, you can bet that zombies are involved. It doesn't take long for the White House to be overrun with zombies, which leads military leaders to conclude that China was responsible for the attack. It's an interesting choice to set the stage for war with China when tensions between the US and China are already so high, but it's immediately obvious who the real villains are. So once again it's up to Leon Kennedy to save the world and prevent the US from starting World War III. Meanwhile, bleeding heart activist Claire Redfield is investigating another zombie outbreak and uncovers enough dirt to get herself into serious trouble with the feds.

While the CGI animation is superb, everything else is awful. The writing is weak, the voice acting is flat, the story makes little to no sense, and the ridiculously absurd action scenes demand more suspension of disbelief than I can muster. The series continues to present Leon as some kind of superhuman bad-ass fighter, but he'll always be a bumbling goofball to me. This show attempts to infuse him with sensitivity and charm, but it doesn't really work. The series never seems to be able to get Claire right (or any of its female characters, for that matter), and this time around she's more annoying than usual. Her voice also doesn't match her character, which is a considerable hurdle to get past. The other main characters are Jason and Shen Mei, and while their performances are decent, their personalities and back stories are laughably cliché. The villains are hilariously one-dimensional and their actions and behaviors are baffling. Of course, if they acted smart and could see past their enormous egos and personal vendettas, the heroes wouldn't stand a chance. On the plus side, the American president is presented as an intelligent, honorable, and respectable world leader, which I truly appreciated. Maybe I'm too cynical and still suffering from the PTSD of the Trump years, but it felt like wishful thinking more than anything else.

One of the recurring challenges that the series faces is having American characters and settings depicted through the lens of Japanese writers, which results in a bizarre, surreal, and often unintentionally comical experience. It's also kind of embarrassing. Is this really how the rest of the world views us? The show also suffers from a disregard of space and time, where the laws of physics don't apply. I was constantly confused by when and where things were taking place, and characters jump between China and America as if they were an hour's drive apart. Nothing makes sense and the bite-sized chunks of action don't logically flow together. That said, at least the motion capture is good and the combat tactics are sound, even if the situations they're applied to are silly. It's difficult to strike a good balance when the aesthetics aim for photorealism, but the action is totally outrageous and cartoonish. It's also disturbingly violent and gory, which is at odds with the overly juvenile writing. Overall, it's another disappointment for the "Resident Evil" franchise, but I give them credit for trying to keep the tone serious and grim.