Resident Evil is no stranger to multimedia properties. The beloved video game series has had comics, animated films and a string of much-maligned live-action movies. Overall, the franchise wasn’t in the best place prior to 2017’s Resident Evil VII: Biohazard and 2019’s remake of Resident Evil 2, two excellent releases that reinvigorated the series – thrusting it back into mainstream popularity.
Now that Resident Evil is being regarded more favourably, Capcom have big plans for the series outside of gaming. These include an upcoming live-action film more in line with the plot of the games and two Netflix series. The first of which is a CGI anime entitled Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness. Unfortunately, it’s not the most interesting start to this multimedia endeavour.
Set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, Leon S. Kennedy is working as a government agent for the US President, while Claire Redfield is in the stupidly named country Penamstan building houses and schools for the locals of a war-torn town. While there, Claire discovers that fallen soldiers were ravenously attacking the living. Worried that this foreshadows another zombie outbreak, she heads to the President’s office to warn him. Upon arriving and not being listened to, Leon agrees to help with the aid of two other agents as Claire tracks down the source of how the soldiers rose again.
Despite how by the numbers the plot sounds, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is a jumbled mess. Ranging from incomprehensible to flat-out stupid (and not the good kind of Resident Evil-style stupid), the story is honestly not even worth your attention for any moment that Leon or Claire are not on screen. No other characters make an impact and when they try, it’s done so flatly that it’s a herculean task for viewers to muster up the will to care. Particularly in the final episode, characters make such boneheaded decisions and arrive at such undeniably farcical conclusions that you end up siding with the supposed villain, even if he is pretentious. He yammers on about fear and terror so much like he’s expecting a round of applause at the end of each monologue. In fact, ‘Resident Evil: Fear and Terror’ would’ve been a far more fitting title than the generic and irrelevant Infinite Darkness.
The agents Leon works with have roles to play in the story. But this information is communicated to the audience either so bluntly through an overly written script, or, bizarrely sometimes, in a way that is so underwritten you wonder why it even had any time devoted to it at all. Some of the ideas and concepts are interesting, such as having a slow working cure to the virus and trying to keep people alive while they recover. There are also some connections to the wider Resident Evil lore. However, to be honest, neither of these add up to much.
Infinite Darkness being marketed as a series is laughable. At four episodes, it barely reaches the 90-minute mark and each episode cut feels like the credits were spliced into an act break of a film. The flow of the sequence of events, structure and delivery are all more in line with a film than a series. Given the amount of CGI RE movies (which are also on Netflix), the impression is that Infinite Darkness was only made a series to help it stand out from these.
Do you like reused footage? Do you enjoy watching the exact same scene a third time? Then Infinite Darkness has you covered. Watch the military shootout with a terrible blood splatter effect. Then see it again with an added few seconds at the end. Then return for a nail-biting third time to witness the exact same damn scene again, but now from halfway through with a new revelation at the end. Since nothing in the flow of the narrative would change if we just saw that whole scene at once the first time, it comes across as the most inexcusable form of padding. That’s to say nothing of the extended shots of people walking or a plane taking off, which really feel like they are only there to fill out the runtime. Another reason this might have been a show instead of a film is that the script is so thin that it could barely stretch to feature-length.
It’s not like the series was strapped for content either. Case in point; Claire Redfield. SHE’S BARELY IN THIS! Apart from some digging around for information and discovering a classic RE secret lab, she does very little. Even the tip-off she gives to Leon in the first episode, he was already mostly aware of. Another issue is that when Claire is on screen, she doesn’t get to show much of a personality or character disappointingly. It’s a shame because the main selling point of this series was the return of voice actors Nick Apostolides and Stephanie Panisello from the Resident Evil 2 remake as Leon and Claire. Both of them still do terrific jobs but Panisello definitely could’ve used more screen time beyond sitting behind a laptop or getting knocked out and tied to a chair.
Aspostolides deserves special praise for his performance as Leon. The dorky rookie cop he portrayed before has aged nearly a decade and, as fans of Resident Evil 4 will know, has involved into more a quippy man of action who nonetheless is still a total dork at heart. Aspostolides latest take on Leon has grown with the character very smoothly. He has got a different voice and new mannerisms, but he still feels like Leon which is a commendable feat.
The shining moment of the series where everything clicks together is in the second episode. Leon and his crew are on a submarine, which is a great idea for a RE location, enabling characters to mostly sit around talking and expand their relationships, while at the same time providing unique setups in an environment that would fit perfectly into the video games.
This particular episode feels like such an outlier because one: it’s good, and two: it shows the potential a miniseries set in the Resident Evil universe could have. While the new characters still are not the best, it is one of the only times you get a sense of personality from them. You learn of their opinions on the mission and their jobs and how they look at the world. The episode also features the standout scene of the series in which Leon discusses the events of Resident Evil 2 and its fallout, his frustration at the destruction of Raccoon City during Resident Evil 3, which is then followed by a clever action set-piece involving a horde of zombie rats. It’s frustrating to see this kind of quality only present for one-quarter of the series.
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is not worth your time. Newcomers will have no idea what’s going on and RE fans are left to pick at scraps by pointing at the screen and shouting “I know what that is” for enjoyment. There’s not much point to this existing and you won’t miss much of anything by skipping it.