REVIEW: ‘Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness’ (2021) Blatantly Repeats The Past

Rating: 1 out of 5.

“‘Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness’ is the franchise’s latest attempt to break out of video games, but this politics-heavy thriller doesn’t do anything to break the mold.”

Leon Kennedy, with short hair and stubble, is seen in profile view. Shen May is in a jacket and out of focus in the background. They're observing something, their environment lit by a green tint
Image courtesy of Netflix

Not all Resident Evil properties are created equal. The series has become known for terrifying, thrilling video games, having largely moved past its missteps with successful reinvention. Its animated movies are drawn from this winding twenty-five-year-old canon. However, these spin-offs have been largely dissatisfying, lacking the qualities that made their sources so memorable. The scope of the games is certainly something that they have been missing. They feel more like action-oriented side stories, bringing back familiar characters to fight against some apocalyptic threat that’s defeated in under two hours. There is so little time to explore and elaborate on these stories that this undermines the games’ balance of a slow burn, B-movie narrative with ever-increasing terror. The expanded length of a TV show seems an ideal way to create something epic enough for the Resident Evil name. But is this four-part series what fans have been hoping for?

There’s little horror to greet viewers as they start Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness; beyond the hordes of zombies, it’s more of an undead political thriller. Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield are the heroes of the adventure, and whilst there is some action, there’s a lot of unwelcome emphasis on war and politics. We follow the weighty moral decisions and goings on at the White House, all leading towards a government conspiracy involving bio-weapons. There are familiar touchstones, though, of the equally unwelcome kind: the female lead being relegated to the sidelines, an overly serious tone, and an inevitable journey to a subterranean lab. Resident Evil veterans might be reminded of the trivial plot of Resident Evil: Revelations, a handheld game that at least had plenty of playable fun to make the silly story worthwhile.

Shen May, Claire, Leon, and Jason stand in front of a crumbling wall and hand in this promotional art for the series
Image courtesy of Netflix

It hardly seems like the lessons of the past have been applied to Infinite Darkness, as there’s a lack of character here that’s equally absent in its predecessors. For a start, everyone is animated in a way that leans awkwardly and obviously close to falling into the uncanny valley, and this avoidably stilted style makes it hard to invest in their humanity. Improved animation would have to shatter the limits of current technology to distract from how stodgy the writing is, with no charisma to breathe life into what should be a version of Leon and Claire more fleshed out than in Resident Evil 2. Its most prominent failures are the aesthetic choices, shining a spotlight onto the fact that this is a side project in the wider franchise. Camera work is lazy and static, rarely being dynamic in a way that might make it compelling to watch.

There’s a lack of originality in the art design, with the locations being blandly familiar to Resident Evil fans. The only nostalgia that this raises is a desire to play the games it blatantly and unsatisfyingly repeats. A more engaging, ambitious approach would have been to follow in the footsteps of the most recent mainline Resident Evil releases, VII and Village, by introducing fresh locations and creatures— an attempt to revitalize the games that has made them more successful than ever. Nor is there enough done to make this feel like a series, its short length and familiar structure suggesting that it’s another animated film simply chopped into four portions. There’s not enough punch to make it satisfying even as a very small event series, its dourness and lack of franchise-standard campiness depleting the story of energy. There’s not enough room, either, to make the story enjoyable within its stifling confines, as the characters and universe get so little chance to shine before another plot point comes along. It’s not a particularly bad plotline in principle, but it would be much more involving if the relentless movement of events stopped to allow viewers some levity.

Not many people are going to be satisfied by Infinite Darkness. Viewers who aren’t Resident Evil fans will likely find this to be mediocre as a political thriller and zombie series, ill-suited to the medium of 3D animation. Fans of the franchise might be on board with some references and character moments, but will mostly be reminded of the series at its worst. Infinite Darkness seems in step with the era of Resident Evil 6, a time when the games became bogged down in mythology, awkwardly trying to appeal to everyone. It’s not in tune with the Resident Evil that’s trying to reinvent itself as something surprising, exciting, and often unsettling, and does harm to a brand that is as prestigious as it is already beleaguered.

Dir: Eiichirō Hasumi

Prod: Hiroyasu Shinohara

Cast: Nick Apostiledes, Stephanie Panisello, Ray Chase, Jona Xiao

Release Date: July 8th 2021

Available On: Netflix