***WARNING: Mild Spoilers for Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness***
While the Resident Evil franchise has had a mostly acclaimed legacy in regards to its games, its extensions into other media are a much more mixed bag. From the infamous live-action films starring Milla Jovovich to the polarizing animated films that take place within the games’ narrative, it feels like no one has been able to fully translate the world of Resident Evil to a solely visual medium. The latest attempt to change this is Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, a 4-episode mini-series released on Netflix on July 8.
Starring Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, this midquel series takes the newly re-popularized characters from the Resident Evil 2 remake and sets them in a story that, in theory, utilizes both of them once again to tell a story of political intrigue that is filled with all sorts of zombie-killing action.
While it succeeds in this regard, it comes at the cost of the story’s heart. The show does a good job at feeling like a proper Resident Evil project, with plenty of intense moments mixed with telling commentary on real-life elements. However, its pacing and writing leave a lot to be desired, making this an enjoyable but inessential watch for Resident Evil fans.
Infinite Darkness follows Claire and Leon years after they first met, taking place between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. After the White House is hacked and suffers a zombie attack, Leon is called into action with a new crew to investigate the cause of both incidents. Meanwhile, Claire, who is now a volunteer in a nation known as Penamstan, is investigating a strange child’s drawing that reminds her of what happened years ago in Raccoon City. These stories come together in ways that neither expect, creating a tale of American tragedy and fear that both must work to stop before the world is doomed at the hands of those who wish to do others harm.
Although Resident Evil occasionally falters in its attempts to balance horror and action in its releases, Infinite Darkness manages to walk this tightrope seamlessly and with little error. Every action sequence is filled with tension, and even though you know that the leads will make it out okay, to see the enemies they have to face, both big and small, is incredibly stressful as their wits and will are put to the test.
This is aided by a great score at the hands of Yugo Kanno; whether a scene calls for fast-paced music or barely any sound except for ones that matter, the series does a great job at adding to its ambiance with whatever is needed in a particular scene.
Infinite Darkness also has mostly strong voice acting to go with its animation and tone. Nick Apostolides and Stephanie Panisello reprise their roles as Leon and Claire from the Resident Evil 2 remake, and their performances remain strong. Claire is still a compassionate and inquisitive person, and Panisello’s delivery sells that through and through. However, to me, Apostolides’ performance is the most impressive. Leon is in a completely different state in Infinite Darkness compared to how he is in Resident Evil 2, and this comes through in everything from his demeanor to his actions.
Apostolides takes this in stride, delivering both cheesy one-liners and reflective monologues with the same deadpan and weathered demeanor that Leon had in Resident Evil 4. The supporting cast also does a good job fleshing out their characters; Jona Xiao adds a sense of passion to the secretive agent Shen May, and Ray Chase adds the perfect amount of disillusionment to war survivor Jason. There are a few bit parts that have awkward delivery, but overall the performances in the series are worth seeing.
Where Infinite Darkness greatly falters however is its writing. The new characters are engaging for the most part, but the story itself feels entirely built-in political thriller tropes. I could predict where the story was going rather easily, and there weren’t any moments where the show caught me off-guard. Moreover, the show feels like it criminally under-utilized Claire.
While Leon gets plenty of time to shine in all of his action-hero glory, Claire is given almost nothing to do. Her screentime pales in comparison to Leon, and her plot feels almost completely unnecessary. The show’s marketing felt like it was banking on Leon and Claire’s popularity that had a resurgence thanks to the RE2 remake, but in reality, Claire feels like an afterthought at times and a damsel in distress in others.
Ironically enough, the show also feels like it does not need to be… well, a show. Seeing how Infinite Darkness is only four episodes long, the question arises: why wasn’t this story just edited into a film instead? While each episode’s cold opens and ending points work, it feels like things would flow much better if the story was displayed as a single full-length movie. The show’s length even fits into average movie lengths, so… why wasn’t this a movie?
Even then, the show feels inessential to the overall Resident Evil narrative. While it introduces neat ideas into the story, including small nods to succeeding games in the timeline, no major sticking points remain by the end of the film. Thus, one can skip this show and not miss out on anything essential in the process. This feels like a product made out of profit rather than passion; it can be enjoyed on a surface level, but upon reflection, I feel no reason to revisit it.
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is a potentially fun time for Resident Evil fans, but to reach that point they must be willing to overlook a lot. The animation and sound are great, especially during action scenes, and the main casts’ voice acting is solid all-around. Unfortunately, these factors do not stop the writing from being incredibly lacking, being tropey at best and pointless at worst. Infinite Darkness may have moments of light in it, but overall there is a lot of dark and disappointing moments within that make it one of the most forgettable times I’ve ever had as a new Resident Evil fan.
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