Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness Review: ‘There’s a reason that Capcom did a soft reboot of the series with RE7’

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, the latest in the series of Resident Evil CGI films, just hit Netflix. It’s the first of two Resident Evil productions that will be exclusive to the streaming service and serves as a pseudo-sequel to Resident Evil: Degeneration and a prequel to Resident Evil 5.

While Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is presented as a four-part miniseries, it’s not really. It’s 100% a film that’s been chopped into four parts. I’m sure some Netflix algorithm predicted that audiences would respond better to 4 25:00 episodes than a 1:45:00 movie, but don’t get things confused. This production is the next Resident Evil CGI film, no more, no less.

Army of Darkness

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The story of Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness kicks off in 2000. During the (fictional) Penamstan Civil War, a US Army unit combatted rebel forces when one of their helicopters goes down. Against orders, the special operations unit “Mad Dogs” proceeds to the crashed choppers location and attempts to rescue the crew. However, events go very south and end in tragedy.

Six years later, Claire Redfield, working for TerraSave, is working as part of a relief operation in Penamstan. She meets a boy there who saw what happened to the Mad Dogs unit. It was so horrifying that it drove him mute, but he drew a picture of what he saw. To Claire’s surprise, it looked exactly like what happened during the Raccoon City incident.

Meanwhile, Leon Kennedy is at the White House along with Penamstan hero (and one of the last surviving members of the Mad Dogs) Jason and Army agent Shen May. The president is tasking the three to find the source of an info leak about a Shanghai biological weapons lab that could threaten international security. As Secretary of State Warren blames the Chinese and encourages the president to take a hardline, the White House is attacked by a biological weapon that infects several staffers, turning them into zombies.

As Leon and Claire connect the dots, they find that Penamstan holds a secret that could shake the foundations of the US and are targeted by those who stand to lose everything if their wrongdoings come to light.

Insubstantial

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Netflix advertising Infinite Darkness as a series is going to disappoint many fans. However, the fact that it’s not a series is one of its biggest weaknesses. The plot isn’t given enough time to bloom into anything other than superficiality. Concepts are spoken about and quickly forgotten. The windup toward the ending is so on rails that it feels anti-climatic.

Infinite Darkness has some intriguing themes that could have made this production more heady fair than most other Resident Evil media (and I say this as a huge fan of the franchise). Topics like war crimes, PTSD, refugee crises, and profiteering are touched on very briefly, but only in the most superficial ways.

Guaranteed Survival Horror

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Aside from issues with the runtime, Infinite Darkness also suffers from a mixed tone. It seems like it wants to be thoughtful at times, primarily when focusing on war and its victims. Still, it also has to be bombastic with White House gunfights and secret nuclear submarine missions.

One of the major issues is that the film is set between Resident Evil 4 and 5, which is an awkward point in the series storywise. The threat of Umbrella and its legacy has gone from local to international. With the stakes so high, we know what will happen, especially since the two stars (really one) appear in later media. Two new characters are introduced, Jason and Shen May, but since this is a prequel/sequel, we know they do not affect anything later in the timeline, so it’s hard to care about them.

Resident Evil was the progenitor of survival horror, and there’s a reason that Capcom did a soft reboot of the series with RE7: the series lost its scare factor with RE5 and RE6. If a film has to be made using existing characters, set it sometime exciting. For example, do a retelling of the Racoon City Incident or when Claire is looking for Chris after RE2. Don’t make it a pseudo-philosophical international romp.

Uncharacterization

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Perhaps the biggest sin of Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is how it treats Claire Redfield. She got the short end of the stick in canon anyway. Leon goes off to be a secret agent, and she becomes a human rights activist. That wouldn’t be an issue, but the film makes it evident that Leon doesn’t really care what she has to say when she tries to warn him of a possible prior outbreak in Penamstan. He doesn’t even forward her concerns to any government agency.

Instead, while Leon is on submarines and blowing stuff up, Claire has to poke around and try and solve the mystery of what happened during the Penamstan Civil War. I’m not sure why they even bothered including her since Leon solves the puzzle independently. The writers could have removed Claire from Infinite Darkness altogether, and Leon’s plot would be almost exactly the same.

Claire’s presence in Infinite Darkness definitely feels tacked on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the original script only starred Leon. Unfortunately, at no point do they really team up, and her B plot does nothing to explain any story elements that aren’t already covered during scenes with Leon.

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness Review: The Final Verdict

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness doesn’t do anything to further the canon. It doesn’t directly tie into any games or any other media except for passing references. As far as the rest of the timeline is concerned, nothing that is shown here happened. Capcom let go of this portion of the timeline for a reason. There’s plenty of room elsewhere for more interesting stories that actually feature horror elements and suspense.

Infinite Darkness is worth a watch for fans of the franchise because even bad Resident Evil is still Resident Evil. However, those who aren’t familiar with the series will likely be dumbstruck as this film is a poor introduction.