Another Resident Evil adaptation is here, this time in the form of a live-action Netflix series. Given that Resident Evil adaptations aren’t usually well-received, how well has the recent attempt at adapting the games been?
When I saw that there was another Resident Evil project, I was more than wary, especially after seeing last year’s Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, which wasn’t good at all. We used to get live action movies, mostly in the form of Milla Jovovich’s action horror movies, and while I really liked the first Resident Evil movie, I didn’t like any of the other movies at all. So it’s fair to say my expectations for this new show were pretty much rock bottom.
Maybe it was because of that, but I quite enjoyed this adaptation. The best way to describe Resident Evil (2022) is that it feels like an odd mix of the Resident Evil games, the Resident Evil film series, with a little bit of The Last of Us.
Resident Evil 2022 – 2036
Resident Evil (2022) is set in two different time periods, one in the present, 2022, and one in the future, 2036. In 2022, Albert Wesker and his two daughters, Jade and Billie, are taken to New Raccoon City in South Africa, where Wesker is brought in to help produce Umbrella Corporation’s new product, Joy. Meanwhile, in 2036, Jade Wesker tries to survive the absolute carnage that has wiped out six billion people because something went wrong with the Joy drug.
It’s worth noting that the series appears to be set in a separate universe from the games, but certain events of the game series did take place in Resident Evil (2022). Part of the fun of the Netflix series is trying to figure out what events from the games actually took place in that universe.
So, with that out of the way, let’s talk about what I think works about the show. First off, the Netflix series manages to have some incredibly fun Easter eggs for longtime Resident Evil fans. I won’t spoil them here, but there are name drops, creatures, specific event references, etc. that are sure to make fans of the video game series chuckle.
Something Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City got wrong was trying to stuff as many Easter Eggs as possible, giving the feeling that they were trying to go through a checklist. On the other hand, Resident Evil (2022) not only hands out the Easter eggs, but the show doesn’t hit you with them either. Some blink and you miss them, while others are incredibly important to the story. When watching Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, I often found myself rolling my eyes at the Easter eggs; However, when I watched Resident Evil (2022), I was much more excited, especially for certain references that were particularly well constructed.
I believe the key to Resident Evil (2022) having much more successful Easter eggs is that the episodic format allows Easter eggs to be properly distributed and feel like they should be in the story. It’s also worth noting that the treatment of the different enemy types is night and day compared to Welcome to Raccoon City and Resident Evil (2022), the latter offering a much better overall design.
As for the plot of Resident Evil (2022), I found it much more intriguing and invested a lot more than I expected. Both storylines are pretty interesting for the most part, especially the present-day one. I was surprised to see some social commentary on the show, mostly revolving around mega corporations and how they treat employees and consumers, but unfortunately this is somewhat overshadowed by other story events. I could definitely see the show doing more of this in future seasons as it’s heavily implied they plan to; Still, it’s a bit disappointing that it’s not included in this one.
Another big plus is the acting, especially when it comes to 2022. I may have some issues with acting, but I’ll elaborate more as we move away from the positives. Lance Reddick in particular stands out as he is an absolutely fantastic Albert Wesker. Yes, Albert Wesker was race-swapped, but Reddick does such an excellent job portraying the character that it doesn’t matter. He is the perfect example of how race switching can work as he is without a doubt the Albert Wesker from the games.
Long-time fans of the video games will not only appreciate references to many different games from the series, but also that while the series is primarily horror, there are still some campy elements interwoven here. Towards the end of the season in particular, there’s a reveal involving a certain creature from the video games that’s so ridiculous that it took me straight back to that original encounter in the games, which was frankly glorious.
Now for the things I didn’t like about the show. First off, the juxtaposition of the two time periods is incredibly distracting and confusing. Sure, there’s a significant time warp that explains why the two time periods feel so different, but I still couldn’t help but feel like those two time periods belonged to different shows. It also doesn’t help that things happen between the time skip that would help bridge the gap better, which we don’t see at all.
It feels like these scenes were intentionally saved for possible future seasons, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that the world feels completely different without even making the bridge between them by the end of the season.
This also leads to one of the problems I have with acting, because while I didn’t mind casting different versions of characters like Older Jade and Younger Jade, they didn’t feel like they were portraying the same character at all. Sometimes I forgot that it should be the same person. There are certain scenes in Resident Evil (2022) that are meant to be emotional because you’re witnessing what happens to Younger Jade, but those scenes completely fall flat at the end because you have to remember that these are the same characters.
Having two wildly different feelings between the two time periods creates not only tonal whiplash, but also a split in the plot that the audience will prefer. I will say that I personally found today’s story much more fascinating, so I have often wished to return to this story when I was stuck following the future one. However, I will say that the future storyline will really appeal to those who liked Milla Jovovich’s Resident Evil movies.
In general, those who like the Resident Evil video games are more likely to enjoy the events of the present, while those who like the action Resident Evil movies are more likely to enjoy the events of the future.
Another thing that struck me is that there are scenes where characters have an incredible amount of plot armor. This gets to the point where it got me off the show as tons of people die around the named characters but somehow the actual named characters survive. It can frankly get ridiculous at certain moments.
Going through this review, I’ve mostly been going through it from the perspective of a Resident Evil fan because I can speak to it personally. However, I think it’s also important to ask, how will non-Resident Evil fans enjoy Resident Evil (2022)?
I think audiences will enjoy it for the most part, but as I mentioned earlier, there are some glaring issues with the series that I think will be partially addressed by the Easter Eggs, meaning people who don’t like the series won’t have those Easter eggs to distract them from the problems.
It’s important to note that the story doesn’t require any prior knowledge, so those of you who have never played the video game don’t have to either, since you’ll understand the story well without ever having touched anything Resident Evil.
So if you’re someone interested in a storyline that combines greedy corporations with tons of zombies, then you can have fun with Resident Evil (2022), especially since you can tune it in and watch it on Netflix at your leisure.
Resident Evil (2022) would prefer its viewers to find themselves in an odd gray area where they are fans of the game series but are extremely receptive to the series’ deviations from the source material. While this audience is by no means the only audience that can see it, as I believe non-Resident Evil game fans can find plenty to enjoy from the series, it’s the audience most likely to have a good time, first line because of the cute easter eggs that are there to distract you. Don’t get me wrong, the Easter eggs are fun and mostly well done, but that doesn’t mean the troubles of this series can be entirely forgotten.