In October of 2015 Jonathan Barkan of Bloody Disgusting was invited to fly to Cape Town in South Africa to visit the set of the newest installment in a beloved franchise, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Since his recent departure from the website, I was fortunate enough to be handed all of the notes and audio recordings of his visit, which I have compiled and written out as a basic guide below.
In Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, which takes place just three weeks after Resident Evil: Retribution ended, Alice awakens, the only survivor left from humanity’s final stand against the undead. Now, she must go back to Raccoon City, and try to put an end to the infection once and for all, before the Umbrella Corporation claims its final casualties, and wipes out the few remaining survivors of the zombie apocalypse.
This is your one stop shop for director Paul W.S. Anderson’s last entry in his beloved video game turned hugely successful Sony saga. Read on to learn more about Alice’s final descent into the Hive, and get ready to say goodbye, once and for all, when the movie Resident Evil: The Final Chapter hits theaters everywhere on January 27th, 2017.
RETURN TO RACCOON CITY
According to director Anderson, The Final Chapter will show Milla Jovovich’s character Alice getting back to her roots, and returning to the place that we very first saw her in: The Hive.
“It’s a return to The Hive, it’s a return to the very first film, so what you discover is there are things that [Alice] was trying to do in the first movie that she thought she succeeded in but she didn’t” reveals Anderson. “So you come back to the location of the first film and she tries to kind of put things right and do what she should’ve done right at the very beginning. And in a way, we also tell the story of what the Umbrella Corporation has really been doing, what the truth behind the T-Virus is, what the truth behind a lot of different characters are, so it’s really revealing a lot”.
Whereas the last Resident Evil movie, Retribution, was filmed mostly on a closed set, the latest installment will be more location-driven, filmed in 2D and later converted to 3D, and filmed mostly outside in the South African desert, using various cool landmarks to better help shape the story.
“The locations played a huge role. I mean there’s a tower block in the city of Johannesburg called Ponty City and if there’s one piece of architecture that’s the reason we’re here, it’s that”.
Producer Jeremy Bolt, who has been on board with Anderson since the very beginning, is excited for the opportunity to shoot in such fascinating areas, but also slightly concerned for the safety of his cast. “It’s the most extraordinary piece of seventies architecture which is sadly now one of the most dangerous parts of Johannesburg, but it just towers up there, and it’s the basis of the peak which in our script is where the survivors are living in the outskirts of Raccoon City. It was created in the seventies, and it was a high rise for wealthy people, and now it’s run by drug gangs. Like I said, it’s a very dangerous place. We were gonna shoot there for three days, we only shot there for two days because I decided after two days it was time to leave”.
Producer Bolt goes on to describe another critical piece of land that served as a huge component of the movie’s story – an abandoned stretch of road out in the middle of nowhere.
“The other piece of architecture that was important was there was a section of freeway outside of Johannesburg that was disused. We were able to take over about five kilometers of disused freeway, which was critical for one of our sequences involving an Umbrella troop transporter which is traveling around the North American continent with thousands of undead on chains being pulled behind it, so we needed a stretch of road for a big action sequence and this was perfect”.
The Final Chapter will be returning to form in more ways than one – the latest picture in the series will be darker, grittier, and more ferocious than the last few entries. It will be much more like the first stylistically just as much as it is story-wise.
Also like the first movie, Milla Jovovich’s character Alice won’t have any special powers in The Final Chapter. All of her super strength, telekinetic abilities and everything else that made her more human than human is being stripped away in order to give the audience a more relatable heroine to root for.
“You know I think the problem with having powers is that you become like invincible and then why should people really care?” explains Jovovich of their decision to take away Alice’s powers in the final film. “So it was something that Paul was thinking about a lot was trying to bring Alice back to who she was in the first few movies, when she was just a badass and she didn’t need all these powers. When you think about a franchise that goes on and on you need your main character to be a bit more human and be relatable and to just have those vulnerabilities”.
THE RESILIENCE OF RESIDENT EVIL
It’s hard to imagine now given the franchise’s wildly successful legacy, but back when the first movie was being made, it nearly went straight to DVD. Apparently, Sony required a certain reaction from a test audience to determine whether it would ever be seen on a big screen.
“When we made the first Resident Evil, no one was expecting it, no one really wanted it, there wasn’t any anticipation” reflects director Anderson. “There wasn’t a release date for it, when we were making it we didn’t even have an American deal for it. There was no American money in it, the whole movie was shot in Europe, we only did a deal with Sony towards the end of principal photography, they never saw the movie until the first test screening in Burbank”.
Luckily, thanks to a very well received screening in Burbank, California, the movie was released in theaters everywhere, and went on to spawn five more films, becoming the most profitable video game adaptation of all time.
“There’s that elevator scene where you think you see the women’s head get chopped off but you don’t, and it goes to black for a moment, and I had all of Sony top brass sitting behind me and there was a guy in the row in front of me who stood up and yelled, ‘I love this movie!!’ and the whole audience cheered” remembers Anderson happily. “I was like, ‘Oh, thank god’”.
As far as what has made the series last as long as it has, producer Bolt says the legacy’s staying power is all thanks to the one and only Milla Jovovich.
“It doesn’t matter how spectacular the visuals are, if the actors at the center of it is not an intense visceral presence it will fall flat” says Bolt. “I think the best sequences in Resident Evil have been with Mila, when we do close ups of her, that rage, that ferocity, that sells whatever situation she’s in. When we spend too much time away from her and away from that intensity, the films fall a little flat. And I strongly believe the only reason this has grown as a franchise beyond gamers is because we cast her in the first one. Without that, I think we would have struggled the way a lot of other video game franchises have struggled. And it’s really interesting, I can’t think of any other adaptation where the principal character is not in the underlying property”.
STANDOUT CHARACTERS OF THE FINAL CHAPTER
The Resident Evil franchise has always had a myriad of kick ass female characters, and the latest entry in the series is no different. This time around, Alice and Claire will be joined up again, and newcomer Ruby Rose will be on board as well, signing up to the survivalist group as the mechanic daughter of a man who taught her everything he knew in a chop shop while she grew up.
“She is a survivor” says Ruby Rose about her character Abigail. I mean clearly, we’re in the Final Chapter, so everyone that’s around has been around for fifteen years, six films, so we’re all kind of pretty tough. Her father worked in a chop shop, so she has this way of putting things together and almost kind of like a mechanic, and a sculptor, and because of that she’s really good at making weapons, and so that’s how I imagine she survived. She’s the only person left in her family, and she becomes Alice’s kind of right hand man”.
According to Milla Jovovich, at some point during the film, she will be wearing ninety-year-old makeup.
“I have to play a ninety-year-old version of myself. You’re gonna find out some really deep stuff, don’t let it scare you,” teases Jovovich. “It’s gonna be intense”.
“[Paul] writes women incredibly well” says Ali Larter when asked to discuss her character Claire Redfield’s return to the fold. “One of the things that I’ve always loved about Resident Evil is that [Alice and I are] not in competition with each other. I mean it’s such a cliché thing that you see over and over and over again is that if you have two female leads, then there has to be problems with them, and that’s such a genuine part of this movie and that Paul writes, is that it’s not necessary. They’re two strong women that will do whatever they have to do to survive and at the same time got each other’s back till the end of day”.
Other new characters signing on to the good guys team include William Levy who plays Christian, and Eoin Macken, who plays Doc.
Martial arts expert and South Korean superstar Joon Gi-Lee will be playing Commander Lee, a vital asset to the bad guys of the Umbrella Corp, and one who may be able to hold his own in a fight against our hero Alice.
“Commander Lee is selected as the best soldier from the Umbrella Corporation” says Lee of his character in the film. The actor may be coming in to the franchise at the end, but according to him, he’s been a fan since day one. “Resident Evil, not only movies, but also the games, are all very popular in Asia, especially Korea, so I’m a huge fan of it. Growing up, I always stayed at home and didn’t go outside because I was always playing the video games”.
Perhaps the most exciting addition of all to the cast is Milla and Paul’s very own daughter, Ever, who will be taking on the role of The Red Queen.
“So, our daughter is playing the Red Queen. And she’s got more dialogue than any other actor in the movie by the way”, remarks proud mother Jovovich. “Paul hasn’t had that attachment [to all the other Red Queens] because they weren’t his kid, but when you love your kid and love their idiosyncrasies, you know, the more he was thinking about it, he was like, ‘Oh, I’m not gonna change her voice, she has to do her own voice in this because all the other ones have an adult that dubs the voice’. So he’s keeping her voice, and all of her other childish mannerisms and because he recognizes them”.
Apparently, Chris Redfield, Joel Allman, and Jill Valentine will not appear in the new movie.
In a saddening series of events, Milla Jovovich’s stunt double Olivia Jackson was horribly wounded in a motorcycle accident during the start of filming. Jackson was raced to the hospital with fatal injuries, and production was nearly shut down for good.
“We were gonna pull the plug on production period. I mean, this was the first day of principal photography and what happened to Olivia was a nightmare,” recalls Jovovich emotionally. “Paul was crying on the phone. I’ve never heard the man cry in the fifteen years that we’ve known each other. It was the most shocking thing that anyone on these movies has ever witnessed. That accident shouldn’t have happened. It was one of the most typical shots that you could do on a motorcycle. Straight ahead, camera goes over, it was something that everybody on the crew has shot a thousand times on car commercials….The fact that Olivia is alive is a miracle. It’s a miracle! I mean we all thought that…we were at the hospital when she first got taken in and just…you know just waiting for somebody to come out and say she didn’t make it. I mean it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever been through in my life. She’s so strong and the doctors obviously were so amazing. She had so many surgeries, it’s insane. It’s absolutely insane”.
As far as what it’s been like without Jackson on set, Jovovich says it’s taken several team members to try to replace the one stunt double they lost that day.
“It’s taken three people to replace one Olivia. Like, the one who can do the motorcycle, the one who can do this kind of stunt, the one who can do that, She’s like a powerhouse. For one of her you need multiple other people. She was really the best in this part of the world, and it’s been very difficult to replace her”.
LIFE AFTER THE UMBRELLA CORPORATION
Based on what everyone on the set is saying, it sounds like this will definitely be the end. It might actually be possible that The Final Chapter is just that — the last movie in the series, once and for all.
“We wanted to advise people it was the last one because we wanted all the fans to come knowing they’re going to get an explanation of Alice’s story” says Producer Bolt, putting a final nail in the coffin to the Resident Evil series. “I must say you know I’ve got mixed feelings now because I’ve really enjoyed working in South Africa and the film has a grittier sense to it, it’s closer, I think, to the first movie, ironically being the last, so there are days when I’m thinking we should continue, but at the same time, honestly, creatively I think it is probably time to put our energy somewhere else. You know the sixth movie, that’s pretty amazing”.
According to Jovovich, she won’t just miss playing her character, but having the opportunity to embody one of her all time favorite roles, in female fashion.
“I love sort of playing the female Clint Eastwood I just found so exhilarating you know, I love Clint Eastwood and to be able to sort of do that Dirty Harry thing over and over and over has been really really fun and I love that people buy it and that I can sell it in a believable way, but I think what I’m gonna miss the most is the family we’ve created not just with the actors that keep coming back and we keep bringing back to life over and over again but our camera crew and the kind of family experience that we have, me and my husband and the kids running around” reflects Jovovich fondly. “It’ll definitely be sad to say goodbye”.
As for director Paul W. S. Anderson, the end is bittersweet, but he’s gotten more of out this franchise than he could have ever hoped for: six successfully completed films, and a family.
“Not only have I gotten a successful franchise out of Resident Evil, I also acquired a wife and a family. There’s definitely a sadness associated with [ending this], but it’s really hard work” recognizes director Anderson. “If you’d said to me fifteen years ago I’d still be making Resident Evil movies I don’t know if I would have believed you. I mean it’s been an amazing ride, to make a franchise that has six films, and to have written and produced them all, and I directed the majority of them, I feel very fortunate to have been associated with that, and so it’s kind of a bittersweet experience to be directing the last one”.