Resident Evil has been going from strength to strength lately. With Resident Evil 4 Remake becoming one of the best-selling games in the franchise in a time so quickly that it might mean we’ll get Resident Evil: Code Veronica remake soon (Psyke! CAPCOM will probably remake Resident Evil 5 for no reason). In the realm of home media, we had the successful Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City… Wait… Fans loved it, but it failed at the box office, so it’s canceled. We also had the Netflix Resident Evilseries… Nope, canceled too.
Well, at least the Resident Evil offerings via the CGI movies are still around. Resident Evil: Death Island is the 5th entry into the CGI series following both Resident Evil: Vendetta and the side story that was Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness. With us finally getting all of the main characters (Except Barry… Poor Barry) in one place for an outbreak in a real location for the first time, will Resident Evil: Death Island give us the zombie-filled dreams that Resident Evil gamers have wanted for years or is this another modern dead on arrival movie?
Title: Resident Evil: Death Island Production Company: Quebico & TMS Entertainment Distributed by: Stage 6 Films/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (Worldwide) Directed by: Eiichirō Hasumi Produced by: Hiroyasu Shinohara & Kei Miyamoto Written by: Makoto Fukami Starring: Nicole Tompkins, Kevin Dorman, Matthew Mercer, Stephanie Panisello, Erin Cahill, Salli Saffioti, Daman Mills, & Cristina Vee Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom Release dates: July 25, 2023 Running time: 91 minutes
At the start of the Raccoon City Incident, members of a private military firm are hired by Umbrella Corporation to help with the evacuation of high-ranking Umbrella executives and government officials. Unit 6 is deployed with 10 members which consists of Carl, JJ, Dylan Blake, and seven others into the city to extract the remaining officials that are still trapped within, they arrived outside the border where USS soldiers are preventing civilians from escaping and allowing officials to leave freely. The unit advances in its operation but suffers bites by Zombies, with JJ and Dylan being the exception. The pair dials HQ to request extraction for immediate medical attention but are told to quarantine the rest of the unit and await further orders, something which shocks JJ and enrages Dylan. As the two await, HQ orders the surviving pair to kill their comrades, and only then will extraction come; Dylan argues with JJ about euthanizing their own comrades, which the latter justifies as a necessity. As the two argue the infected soldiers smash through a window. JJ successfully fights against the horde but is bitten; a disheartened and mentally broken Dylan kills him.
Now 2015. In San Francisco, California, DSO agent Leon Scott Kennedy and FOS agent Ingrid Hunnigan are tasked with rescuing and taking Dr. Antonio Taylor into custody after the lead robotics engineer sells classified information to foreign entities outside of the USA. Learning of his last location, San Francisco Police Department deploys S.W.A.T. to retrieve him only to encounter firepower from an unknown group who kidnaps Taylor and transports him in a van, Leon is sent to intercept the kidnapping and retrieve the DARPA researcher. Amidst the briefing, Leon catches sight of the van and pursues down the freeway, unfortunately, his bike crashes in a scuffle with a female motorcyclist, which is revealed to be Maria. Following this, Chris visits BSAA advisor Rebecca Chambers who updates him about the twelve cases of mysterious infection plaguing the city. She deduces that the corpse of an infected person contains an advanced strain of t-Virus which cannot be transmitted through airborne or saliva as every victim bitten by them, succumbed to their injuries and died afterwards. Additionally, all of them had needle marks on their body, indicating a direct means of infection. Chris visits Jill in the shooting range and expresses his desire of recusing her from further participation in the operation due to his growing concerns but Jill firmly declines the notion. Jill grimly recalls her years under Wesker’s control and wanting her friends dead.
In the BSAA laboratory, Chris and Jill meet up with Claire and Rebecca to discuss their findings. Claire discovers that the chipped Orca had been swimming around Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, the same as several other whales which have disappeared recently. Similarly, the Orca is infected with the same strain of t-Virus found in human corpses, confirming a link. Luckily for the BSAA, this strain of t-Virus is similar enough to others the BSAA has encountered, and existing vaccines should be adequate. Chris and the others meanwhile head out to Alcatraz Island, posing as tourists. Jill meanwhile continues exploring the sewers, where she meets Leon, they both fight lickers that devoured zombies. As Leon and Jill investigate the armory, they discover blueprints for the Mosquito Drones which have been infecting people. Knowing they are nearby, Dylan beckons them to the prison cells where they find their colleagues and Davis, who Leon identifies as Antonio Taylor himself. With the Drones, Dylan infects Chris, Claire, and Leon. Introducing Maria, he confirms what is now clear to Leon and Chris – Dylan has taken over Arias’ crime syndicate for his own ends. While Maria seeks vengeance for her father’s death. Dylan bitterly insults the heroes’ actions, while they’ve nobly stopped bioterrorism in the past, he berates them for working with bad organizations. Jill meanwhile heads after Dylan in the armory. Rebecca cures Leon first, then the others; Leon is then attacked by Maria in the facility. After a long brawl, Leon gets the upper hand knocking Maria into a bent rod and impaling her.
Chris, Claire, Jill, Rebecca, and Leon fight Dylan who combines himself with a bio-weapon but they’re struggling to hold him off. Rebecca meanwhile has taken control of the Drones, instead of shutting them down she ordered them to infect Dylan with massive quantities of the t-Virus. Dylan begins to deteriorate and weaken. Jill, Leon, and Chris manage to kill him with explosives and Rocket Launcher. The group awaits the rescue helicopters, and Chris applauds Jill’s return.
Story Review – Some Vague Spoilers
Resident Evil: Death Island brings all the main characters from all the mainline games together in one mission for the first time ever, showing that even though they have all gone in different directions since the Raccoon City incident. Chris and Jill are a part of the BSAA, Claire is with TerraSave, Rebecca is a virus researcher for an unnamed University, Leon is working with the Government’s Division of Security Operations, and Barry is… nowhere. Sorry Barry fans.
If you’re looking to place Resident Evil: Death Island into the overall Resident Evil timeline, then it would be somewhere between Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6. The main key here is that Jill is with the BSAA and they do speak about Jill’s brainwashing under Wesker throughout Resident Evil: Death Island.
Resident Evil: Death Island really comes off as a little bit of explanation about the main games coupled with a story about an outbreak on Alcatraz Island, yes, THAT Alcatraz. The villain in this case is an Umbrella Corps member who survived Raccoon City by killing his partner and the trauma of this caused him to kidnap a scientist and create a version of the T-Virus that he could administer via mutated mosquitos, selecting those in power and killing them off without causing the “innocent” to suffer… Anyone who has seen Jackie Chan’s The Tuxedo would know this plot without the zombie outcome.
Nicole Tompkins as Jill Valentine A fresh Jill Valentine, coming off Resident Evil 5 brainwashing from Wesker, joins the BSAA under the command of her former S.T.A.R.S. teammate Chris Redfield. Throughout Resident Evil: Death Island Jill struggles with the leftover effects of that brainwashing while trying to get things back to normal with her life. Jill tries to keep herself composed while being selected by Dylan as the outlier “innocent” who was only doing what she was commanded to do in the previous games. Jill gets some character development but Resident Evil: Death Island doesn’t do enough to explain what happened post-Resident Evil 5 to get to this point with her.
Kevin Dorman as Chris Redfield Good old generic Chris Redfield, complete with boulder-punching arms, is still the commander in charge of the BSAA anti-bioterrorism unit… and that’s it. The guy is there simply because there is a need for someone to keep Jill under observation to make sure she doesn’t go all evil and kill people again. There is a slight mistrust between the two, but Chris keeps things professional at all times and tries to lead Jill back onto her nicer path when she begins to slip. Other than that, nothing else is going on.
Matthew Mercer as Leon S. Kennedy Leon jumps into things after the scientist who created a modified version of the T-Virus for Dylan is kidnapped. His mission to get the scientist back and destroy the formulas brings him together with everyone else for the first time ever, including another reunion with Claire. For all the experience that Leon brings to the table, he is very underutilized in Resident Evil: Death Island from an action standpoint.
Stephanie Panisello as Claire Redfield Claire comes across in the same vein as Chris, generic as hell and adding nothing to Resident Evil: Death Island except another body to add to the cast. Claire comes on board because she found evidence of a mutated animal that has surrounded Alcatraz Island. She practically stumbles her way into the movie and is there so she can Rebecca can have one little girl boss moment together and get paired up with Chris so they can have some time killing zombies together.
Erin Cahill as Rebecca Chambers Oh god, poor Rebecca. She gets the desk job for both Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness and Resident Evil: Death Island. Rebecca could have done anything else in the Resident Evil universe, but she has become a researcher on the T-Virus. Sure, she gets the job of creating a vaccination for the T-Virus and delivering it just in time to save everyone else. I know the trope “person in the chair” has become a thing for all action films, but Rebecca could have been so much more.
Daman Mills as Dylan Blake Out of all the Resident Evil villains since Wesker that almost seem justified in their plans, Dylan Blake is one of the better ones. The trauma that he got through the orders he had to do as a member of Umbrella Corp’s private military unit, which occurs due to orders stating that they have to kill anyone bitten on sight including Dylan’s unit members and friends, he seems the someone worth rooting for during Resident Evil: Death Island. As someone who believes that “Thanos was right”, sometimes a villain isn’t evil just because they are coded that way, sometimes villains are created by bigger monsters that control the world and those monsters are the ones who need to be destroyed. But Dylan gets the typical treatment of “you have to go through the system” speech and is called evil because he’s a product of a system that failed him. Probably the best character in Resident Evil: Death Island.
Cristina Vee as María Gómez Probably the most confusing addition to Resident Evil: Death Island. Maria survived her encounter with Chris and Leon in Resident Evil: Vendetta, swearing vengeance against the two for her father’s death in that movie. So you would think that Maria would get more screen time or development or even fights within Resident Evil: Death Island, but she pretty much stays to the side, doing very little till she gets a rematch with Leon late in the film, where she is defeated. We don’t see her body after the fight, so she might come back in a future story, but at this point in time Maria was yet another useless character.
While Resident Evil: Death Island isn’t the most original when it comes to plot. As I mentioned before, if you have seen the Jackie Chan movie The Tuxedo, then you’ve seen the whole “selective elimination of the most powerful people in the world via a virus transmitted by Mosquito” thing in action and know that there will always be someone who will save the day. The difference here is that The Tuxedo only had Jackie Chan to win the day instead of a group of 5 people banding together to do the same thing.
The thing is that while I’m happy to call this a stolen plot, it’s a stolen plot that works really well to bring everyone together in one place to get the big team-up that Resident Evil fans have been wanting for a long time. I know Resident Evil 6 does some of the same things, but not all the characters get together by the end of it to fight off the big bad monster that is pretty common at this point. That seems to be the point of Resident Evil: Death Island, it was to bring all the main characters together so we could have some sort of ending to the CGI movie series, or at least the huge team-up moment that all movie series want to get to at some point before they get canceled.
Outside of characters and plot, Resident Evil: Death Island has a really good upgrade in terms of graphics. Unlike Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, Resident Evil: Death Island looks to have a bigger budget when it came to the animation, with the characters getting closer to the uncanny valley than any other Resident Evil movie or game has come before it. Little things like eye movement and even pupal dilation can be seen throughout Resident Evil: Death Island, making the characters look more human than just CGI puppets that they started out in with Resident Evil: Degeneration all those years ago.
What didn’t work
If there was one thing that really got annoying when watching Resident Evil: Death Island, it was that I’ve come to find the Resident Evil CGI movie series has become very formulaic. The main plot would involve someone who wants to wipe out the world or country, a current Resident Evil favorite character will appear to stop them, a few zombie fights here and there, a monologue from the villain, the villain becomes a huge mutant monster, main character defeats the monster with a high powered weapon, main character cracks a bad joke on the way out as the movie ends.
Resident Evil: Death Island does all of the above, but adds in a returning villain character from Resident Evil: Vendetta as a”sub-boss” of sorts, who adds nothing to the overall story, and instead of one main character appearing to stop the villain’s scheme, we get 5. Adding all… sorry, most… of the main characters in one movie doesn’t make things more exciting, it just makes things more complex. Everyone except Leon is accounted for in their own stories, both games and movies. Leon is the exception as he isn’t doing anything post-Resident Evil 4 or even Resident Evil: Vendetta; he is somewhere else at the beginning of Resident Evil: Death Island and just appears because the plot demands it via the kidnapping of a pointless scientist.
It’s really weird. Overall I enjoyed Resident Evil: Death Island as the team-up movie that it was designed as, but in the back of my mind I could not shake the fact that I’ve seen this plot before in an average Jackie Chan movie and that the Resident Evil CGI films have started following the same framework over and over again that I think that the directors and filmmakers are using AI at this point to create a plot. Also… WHERE THE FUCK IS BARRY!? WHY DOES EVERY RESIDENT EVIL MEDIA IGNORE BARRY!?
At this point, even if you have just been watching the CGI movie series, you owe it to yourself to give Resident Evil: Death Island a watch. It’s the Avengers of the Resident Evil series and that alone is good enough. However, if you are looking for something different then Resident Evil: Death Island isn’t going to be your cup of T-Virus. Maybe it’s time for the Resident Evil CGI film series to give us a whole new story… Maybe taking events between Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil 7/Resident Evil: Village and telling those stories.
Resident Evil: Death Island is the movie that really shows that there is a limited amount of times when they can use the same formula before people start to notice. Resident Evil: Death Island stole a plot and added its own spin on it, using it as The Avengers of the Resident Evil universe, which isn’t too bad. However, it’s hard to recommend Resident Evil: Death Island to anyone who either isn’t really invested in Resident Evil lore at this point.