When it comes to video games, Resident Evil is one of the most beloved video game franchises. It is also one of the worst-reviewed film franchises, which, unlike its inspiration, continued to see a decline in profit throughout the years. So, knowing that Netflix’s adaptation of Resident Evil would draw inspiration from both the games and the films was worrisome, to say the least. And yet, the series manages to be everything that the films were not. Yes, there are drastic changes from the characters fans have come to love – or hate – in the games. Yet, they somehow work.
Fans of Resident Evil will most likely know Albert Wesker as one of the most memorable villains of the video game series. He’s the captain of the Raccoon City Police Department’s Special Tactics And Rescue Service unit in the video games. In the series, however, Wesker is a scientist who works for Umbrella and has been working with them to develop a product called Joy that can present some issues for those that take it. While fans are sure to expect the asshole Wesker from the games, the Wesker presented in the series – at least, initially – is a much more levelheaded character who is eager to protect his kids: Billie Wesker and Jade Wesker.
The first episode of Resident Evil is a bit of a slog at times. In fact, it almost feels like it wants to be a Resident Evil take on The Walking Dead. However, as the story progresses, it becomes an exciting story of family, deception, love and pain. It is of note that Resident Evil moves between the past and present frequently and often without warning. While it can be frustrating, there is a reason the story is told this way. It allows for the world and its characters to be established quickly, while also propelling the story forward. It’s an odd choice, sure, but by each episode’s end, the story manages to come together with ease.
Ella Balinska is wonderful as Jade Wesker. As frustrating as the character’s choices can be from time to time, Balinska proves to be a star in the making. She commands the screen and often outshines the rest of the cast, including her “twin.” The character is reckless, but operates from a good place and when Balinska nails those moments of conflict within Jade? She does so wonderfully. Then there’s the always excellent Lance Reddick who is a force to be reckoned with in Resident Evil. Not only is his casting in the series stellar, but Reddick delivers some of his best work in the series.
This is very much a story about a father and his daughters, but it’s also a story about the Umbrella Corporation, the T-virus, and corruption. Perhaps that is one of the best things Resident Evil manages to successfully do: craft two connecting stories that blend seamlessly when all is said and done. The story of the girls and their father is just as vital to the story as are the various creatures that occupy the screen. It’s the perfect blend of horror and heart. Especially when the series introduces some of the most iconic elements from the video games.
The series serves as an origin story. Not just for the characters, but also the world of Umbrella and the T-Virus. It tells a cohesive story that weaves together into one larger-scale story that moves between timelines. It’s massive in scope, and yet grounded at the same time. Perhaps not a phrase one expects to hear when referencing a horror video game franchise, but it’s the most accurate description. And while these characters and their stories are only getting started, Netflix’s Resident Evil doesn’t waste any time teasing its future.
The only place where Resident Evil stumbles occasionally is with its cinematography. That isn’t to say all of the shots are muted and unaesthetically pleasing – in fact, that’s far from the case. The set pieces are so well constructed that, when shot appropriately, the imagery can be stunning. As for the music, Resident Evil does a great job incorporating music here and there, and even manages to include some of the piano music from the video games.
The first season of Netflix’s Resident Evil proves a good adaptation of these games is entirely possible. The films might’ve been a disaster, but Andrew Dabb has been very vocal about his love for the games and, despite some changes, that love is evident in the final product. From the well-thought-out Easter eggs, to the inclusion of key story points, Netflix’s Resident Evil is the only adaptation of the video games that matters. (Sorry, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City… this is a Resident Evil story worth watching.)