Running time: 22-24 minutes (per episode)
Director: Eiichirō Hasumi
Voice Cast: Nick Apostolides, Stephanie Panisello, Jona Xiao, and Ray Chase.
Streaming on Netflix from 8 July
3 out of 5 stars
If you’re a fan of the games, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness will feel like coming home. This animated series, which takes place in the same continuity as the games, is not part of the Milla Jovovich-led Resident Evil film universe. However, that’s one of its key strengths — it returns to the roots of the franchise by being set in the game universe. And you might very well find yourself going to revisit the Resident Evil games after watching this series.
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is a 3D animated horror action series that is part of the Resident Evil franchise. Set in the same universe as the Resident Evil games, the film takes place between the Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 games. It sees the White House coming under attack from zombies. As the plot unfolds, it is revealed that a sinister new threat has emerged from within — and not all is as it seems.
The animation quality is superb, with photorealistic graphics that can make certain scenes look almost indistinguishable from a live action film. It's a step up from 2017's animated film, Resident Evil: Vendetta. It uses similar cinematography as the cut scenes from the Resident Evil games, but with greatly upgraded graphics (given that Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5 came out in 2005 and 2009, respectively), which help to reinforce its connection to the games. It also makes its core characters, Leon (Nick Apostolides) and Claire (Stephanie Panisello), look that much more lifelike, giving us a clearer idea of what they’re meant to look like as real people. Having Leon and Claire (as opposed to the protagonists who have appeared in other games) as the main characters is also a great choice, thanks to the name recognition of these two.
Leon is one of the most popular heroes from the Resident Evil games, due in part to wish fulfilment fantasies (who doesn’t want to be as cool as Leon?) and the fact he always seems to handle situations in a calm and collected way. He’s as suave as ever in this series, and it’s fun to see him get stuck in video game like situations and having to figure his way out. In fact, the series almost seems like watching beautifully rendered cut scenes from the game, which is testament to how it evokes the feel of the game at times. While Claire is great, I’d have preferred seeing Jill Valentine instead. But then, the story would be too convoluted to weave Leon and Jill together and explain why they know each other at this point.
That’s because the action scenes (there’s a least one in each episode) feel like those from the video games. Yes, there are hordes of zombies, but there are also other action sequences and zombified opponents that triggers your gaming instincts to press a button (like a quick time event in boss battles, where you have to defeat the enemy by pushing controller buttons when notified). Even during the quieter scenes, you sometimes wish you could do a quick turn (in the games, there is usually a command that allows for an instant 180 degree turn) to make sure that nothing is sneaking up on you. The series is structured somewhat like the games, so you can expect a “boss fight” in the final episode. Thankfully, there’s no inventory management in this film though — that’s one game element that really doesn’t need a film adaptation.
Unfortunately, the actual number of action scenes can feel a little wanting, especially in the first few episodes. The last two episodes are more satisfying in nature, partly because the story hurtles towards its climax in those two episodes, but more because that’s when the series starts to feel more like a video game (especially with the final battle at the end). But the first few episodes are incredibly talky, especially since new characters Shen May (Joan Xiao) and Jason (Ray Chase) need to be introduced and the premise for the series has to be established. Still, sitting through the first two episodes will yield a good payoff at the end.
The two new characters also aren’t all that compelling, especially since their stories have to be wrapped up within four episodes. They’re there purely for plot purposes, and it shows. They have no ties to the rest of the Resident Evil series, so their eventual fates can also be somewhat predicted.
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness feels like it would fit in perfectly with the other games in the series, thanks to its treatment. There could have been more action though, and the new characters are forgettable. Nevertheless, it’ll definitely satisfy fans of the game.
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