What We Can Learn From The Resident Evil Film Series: Part 6 – ‘The Final Chapter’

It’s the evening of January 26th, 2017. Five years have passed since ‘Resident Evil: Retribution,’ and two friends and I leave the theater, where we were the only people to watch the premiere of ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.” As we enter the lobby, one of the theater employees asks us how it was. I tell him about the film’s ludicrous mistakes, continuity errors, and how it wants us to care about all the newcomers, like Bearded Man, Blue Shirt Girl, That Guy With The Skull Sword, etc., and how it so desperately wanted me to feel sad when Blue Shirt Girl is chopped into mincemeat via a giant fan, despite the fact that she had been on screen for maybe two minutes and I knew nothing about her.

The longer I talk, I realize just how absurd everything is that’s coming out of my mouth to the point where I laugh at realizing I’ve watched one of the worst films in recent memory. Now, having watched the film for the first time in six years, I’m surprised to find that the passage of time has softened my views and made me realize that ‘The Final Chapter’ isn’t bad: it’s hilariously awful.

Join me now as we take a look at the comedic masterpiece that is ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.’

What does the film do well?

It has a cool armored vehicle

Post-apocalyptic films frequently show humanity creating wicked-looking vehicles to help them survive in the wastes, and ‘The Final Chapter’ features a particularly cool mobile command tank equipped with missile launchers, miniguns, hidden compartments for storing motorcycles, nasty spikes, and the ability to communicate with Umbrella headquarters. Granted, all this firepower can’t kill someone driving away from it in a straight line, but it’s still a cool design that almost single-handily destroys the tower Claire and her fellow survivors have taken in, and is a worthy adversary for them to take on in a fight.

It has two memorable villains

Despite being sliced to bits in ‘Extinction,’ we get not one, but two Dr. Issacs in ‘The Final Chapter’: One is a clone who’s an insane religious fanatic, and the other is is the original Issacs, the calm, collected CEO of Umbrella ultimately responsible for the T-virus outbreak, making him the main villain of the entire saga… and unlike other greedy CEO’s, he’s a shockingly good fighter who can hold his own against Alice thanks to some nifty implanted computer technology that lets him dodge bullets, predict what his opponent is going to do, and even heal him after a grenade blasts out his torso, and would have killed her if she hadn’t used her wits to win.

It has the triple-barreled shotgun from the video games

The post-apocalyptic world is a great place to utilize awesome weapons, and what’s better than a sawed-off shotgun? A sawed-off shotgun with three barrels! It may not survive past the movie’s halfway point, but it’s still a cool gun that gets a decent amount of use.

It goes back to where the saga started

‘The Final Chapter’ takes place almost entirely within Raccoon City and the Hive, the locations of the first two movies. For the final film in the series, coming back to where the story began not only gives the story a chance to revisit old locations and reveal new areas within them (such as the cryogenic chamber and that sweet office located beneath the Hive), but to also let the audience reflect on how much has happened since Alice woke up in that shower stall so many years ago, and how she’s changed since her quest to destroy Umbrella began.

It brings back one of the characters from the previous films

Aside from Alice, Wesker, and Issacs, the only returning character from the previous films is Claire Redfield, who is now the leader of the survivors based in Raccoon City. She may not have much to do other than run, shoot guns, and accompany Alice into the Hive, but it’s nice that Alice gets at least one ally from the previous films to help her out, including helping her take on Issacs at the climax.

It gives the Umbrella Corporation a clever motive for everything they’ve done

The biggest revelation of ‘The Final Chapter’ is that instead of the viral outbreak being the result of corporate sabotage and greed, the outbreak was done on purpose: After realizing that Earth was heading towards global catastrophe due to climate change and societal breakdown, Issacs decided to release the virus to ‘cleanse’ the planet so that Umbrella could repopulate it afterwords.

While it may fall apart upon closer inspection (see the entry below on retcons), this revelation not only shows how cold and heartless the Umbrella corporation really is, but also reveals that Issacs is the main villain of the entire series, a man responsible for the murder of billions of people. And shockingly, the plan is… logical. While it’s a horrific, immoral plan that no sane person would dare go through with, it does make sense on a cold, logical level. The best villain plans are ones where the viewer pauses and wonders if they might have a point, and this revelation is an excellent example.

It concludes the series, yet still has an open ending

Unlike so many other franchises (especially horror) that claim to have final chapters, ‘The Final Chapter’ actually follows through on this promise in a clever way: Alice manages to release the airborne antivirus, which will cover the globe and destroy all the zombies, monsters, and undead, saving humanity. The only problem is that it will take years for this to happen, giving Alice plenty of time to continue roaming the earth and killing monsters.

This is a great example of the ‘And the Adventure Continues’ trope: It concludes the series’ story, but lets our imaginations run wild at all the adventures Alice will have as she roams the world (assuming she isn’t eaten by those three bat-things seconds after the screen cuts to black).

What could have been done better?

It could have edited the film so it didn’t look like a 2000’s music video

Here on Imperfect Glass, the focus is primarily on story and characters instead of production values and the physical aspects of filmmaking, but I’ll make an exception to say that the editing on ‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ is awful.

If there was ever a film to showcase why ultra-fast editing with handheld camera shots should be permanently done away with, ‘The Final Chapter’ is it.

It could have not made so many retcons (that don’t work)

Beyond the awful editing, ‘The Final Chapter’ is most notable for featuring numerous retcons that alter the saga’s storyline all the way back to the first movie. While retcons are not a bad thing in and of themselves and can add new and exciting ideas to enhance past events, none of ‘The Final Chapter’s retcons work. At all.

1. In ‘Retribution,’ the Red Queen had taken over Umbrella, gone homicidal, and wanted to wipe out all life on Earth. But in ‘The Final Chapter,’ she still works for Umbrella and wants to help Alice save the last remaining human survivors by bringing Umbrella down.

2. The Red Queen states that she cannot harm an employee of the Umbrella Corporation, forgetting that she killed everyone in the Hive in the first movie. (maybe they were independent contractors?)

3. In ‘Retribution,’ Wesker made it clear that he broke Alice out of Umbrella Prime in order to give her back her psychic powers so she could help him defeat the Red Queen and save humanity. But in this movie, the Red Queen tells Alice that Wesker only pretended to give Alice back her powers, and that his plan was actually a trap in order to kill her and everyone else.

This plan makes no sense. If Wesker really wanted to kill Alice and everyone else who could stop him, then here’s what he needed to do:

-Go with his strike team to Umbrella Prime.

-Plant the explosives and follow team into Umbrella Prime.

-At the first opportunity, abandon the strike team and head back to the surface.

-Detonate the explosives to destroy the facility and kill everyone in it, including Alice.

-Head back to the Hive, enjoy alcoholic beverages, and play Mario Kart 64 to pass the time while waiting for the T-virus to finish wiping out all life on Earth.

4. The aforementioned retcon of Umbrella purposefully releasing the T-virus is a great idea… but the first film clearly shows that it was released in the Hive as an act of sabotage, and subsequently released into the open by idiotic Umbrella operatives. ‘Extinction’ showed that Umbrella was trying to find a way to control the zombies and stop the outbreak instead of just waiting for the virus to do its thing, ‘Afterlife’ had Umbrella kidnapping survivors to use them as test subjects to make even more powerful zombies, and ‘Retribution’ had the Red Queen-controlled corporation trying to wipe out all life on Earth (despite the Red Queen wanting to save humanity).

To be generous, it is possible that while Umbrella high command knew of the plan, their underlings and armies of clones didn’t and were trying to contain and control it, but why make all those clones in the first place? And why would Issacs make not one, but two clones of himself? And if Wesker is part of Umbrella high command, why would he stay awake for the apocalypse and run around instead of staying asleep with everyone else? Wouldn’t Issacs have wanted to keep him under instead of risking Wesker betraying him?

5. The second film established that Charles Ashford created the virus to save his little girl from dying, but this film says that it was actually a man named James Marcus who discovered it to save his daughter from dying. So who was it that ultimately created the T-Virus?

6. Alice says that the US government nuked Raccoon City when it was clearly the Umbrella Corporation that fired the nuke in an attempt to keep the virus under control (and again, if they had purposefully released the virus, why bother trying to contain it?).

7. It’s stated that the T-virus is airborne and infected the world in days after escaping Raccoon City… but at the end of the film, it’s said that it will take the antivirus years to spread to every corner of the globe via the same method. Yes, it traveled faster with jet planes, but it’s still airborne. Furthermore, it’s been established in every film so far that the T-virus is spread via bites from the undead; if the T-Virus is airborne, everyone in the series should have been infected by the end of the second movie and turned into zombies.

It could have brought back the characters from the cliffhanger ending of the last movie and removed all the new ones

Arguably the most exciting idea from the end of ‘Retribution’ was the thought that Wesker, Alice, Leon, Jill, and Ada would join forces to save humanity in ‘The Final Chapter’ after an awesome fight at the White House.

It doesn’t happen, and the battle we want to see is already over when the film starts. Like ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Terminator: Dark Fate,’ which both killed off some of their most important characters in the opening minutes, ‘The Final Chapter’ kills Leon, Jill, and Ada (and presumably, Becky) before ‘The Final Chapter’ even starts. They’re never seen, never mentioned, and Alice doesn’t even mourn Becky, who she fought so hard to save in ‘Retribution.’

Now, while killing off beloved side characters can and often is a bad idea, it can work: Focusing a story entirely on the main character and their attempts to overcome grief and loss while trying to save others is a powerful story idea and give us even more reasons for us to care for them. That could have worked with ‘The Final Chapter,’ had it focused mainly on Alice. Problem is, the film introduces a horde of new characters to work with Alice, and none of them are memorable. We have:

1. Doc, the group’s medic, Claire’s boyfriend, and a traitor who works for Umbrella

2. Post Apocalyptic Leather Guy Who Hates Everyone And Has A Goofy Skull Sword

3. Blue-Shirt Girl

4. Bearded Guy Who Never Talks

5. Guy From Issac’s Tank

6. That Other Guy

The climax of a story is not the place to introduce hordes of new characters: You don’t have time to do it well enough to get the audience to care about them, and the purpose of a climax is to see the characters who have gone on a journey reach its end. We’ve invested time following them and want to see how their story ends. Introducing one or two new characters can be pulled off (Denethor from The Return of the King, for example), but writers need to focus on resolving the journey of those who have come this far.

(As an aside, it would have been hilarious if all of the above characters were placed by cardboard cutouts. They’d have the same amount of personality, and it’d be hysterical watching Alice and Claire interact with them as if they were real people)

It could have made Wesker the main villain

As if things couldn’t be more disappointing, Wesker, the suave, smug, and oh so fun to watch villain from ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Retribution,’ is butchered in ‘The Final Chapter.’ Instead of being the ultimate bad guy who everyone has to work together to even stand a chance of defeating, he’s an incompetent adversary who spends the movie giving the Red Queen orders, preparing alcoholic drinks like a James Bond villain, and eventually resorts to waking Issacs up to stop Alice, all because Wesker failed to close a door hours before Alice got even close to Raccoon City.

And then there’s Wesker’s death. In the games, it takes Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar fighting Wesker to the point of exhaustion inside an erupting volcano in Africa before using two rockets to blow off his head while Wesker was submerged waist-deep in lava to finally kill him for good.

In ‘The Final Chapter,’ Wesker bleeds to death after his foot is cut off by a door.

It’s hard to imagine Wesker dying any more pathetically, short of choking to death on a pretzel; as a refresher, Wesker survived getting his brains blown out in ‘Afterlife,’ and then survived an explosion powerful enough to destroy a city-sized subterranean complex. Having him die in such a laughable manner is insulting to the character. To be fair, killing off such a powerful villain is always a hard task, doubly so if writers have had them survive impossible odds in the past. But while a memorable death scene can be the most satisfying moment of a story, a laughable death scene is memorable, too, but for all the wrong reasons.

It could have had a more memorable final boss fight

The finale of ‘The Final Chapter’ has Alice fighting Issacs to get the antivirus, then running to the surface to release it. While it works fine as it is, it would have been more gripping if Issacs had been replaced by Wesker, and their final fight wasn’t in the laser hallway, but something similar to how Wesker is fought and killed in Resident Evil 5. While putting a volcano underneath Raccoon City wouldn’t make sense, having it take place in an area similar to one of the final boss fights of Resident Evil 6 would work equally as well.

Plus, if the film had brought back Chris, it would have been an opportunity for him to punch a boulder into lava. Goofy, yes, but it would have been a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. But most likely for budget reasons, the final fight is a simple fistfight in the laser hallway from the first film. It works, but feels like a missed opportunity.

Conclusion

Even now, all these years later, it’s still shocking to see how the final chapter of Anderson’s saga fell flat on its face. While it does have some good ideas, and manages to have a good final few minutes, it’s not enough to save the film as a whole. But what about the series as a whole? Join us next time when we examine all six films at once and see what conclusions can be made about the series and the lessons it offers to writers about writing video game movies.

Let’s Talk About What May Be The Ultimate Doomsday Weapon in ‘Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny’

After 12 long years, Indiana Jones is coming back to theaters for his final adventure in ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,’ the trailer for which was released a few days ago:

Jokes about Indy whipping kids off his lawn aside, part of the fun after seeing the trailer and reading Empire’s exclusive coverage of the upcoming film is theorizing about what’s going to happen. So far, this is what we know for sure:

*The film takes place in 1969

*The opening features Indy fighting Nazis in the 1940’s.

*Indy’s main adversary is a former Nazi

*Sallah is back

*Indy has a goddaughter

Beyond that though, everything is up for grabs. But after a few days of thinking and brainstorming, I think I might have an idea about what will happen in the film… and if it turns out to be true, then Indy will face his single greatest challenge of his life, and find the fate of Earth in his hands.

To begin with, let’s start with a very interesting quote from Empire Magazine regarding Indy’s nemesis, Jürgen Voller:

“He’s a man who would like to correct some of the mistakes of the past,” teases Mikkelsen of Voller. “There is something that could make the world a much better place to live in. He would love to get his hands on it. Indiana Jones wants to get his hands on it as well. And so, we have a story.”

Considering how the film has long been rumored to feature time travel, this quote seemingly all but confirms that it will be present in some form: After all, what would an ex-Nazi love more than the chance to go back in time and use more modern technology and advancements to give the Nazis what they need to win World War 2?

There’s another hint that this might happen: Empire’s magazine features a special subscribers-only cover featuring artwork inspired by the film. Looking at the picture and Indy’s body language makes me think of a man who is baffled at seeing something beyond his comprehension, like someone who has been transported from his own time to another (notice how Indy’s hair is dark, not white). Perhaps Indy’s watching New York City be morphed into something different; maybe that light is some sort of cosmic wave washing over New York and morphing it into an alternate version of itself due to messing with time?

There is, however, a far more sinister interpretation: What if the light doesn’t represent some sort of time-warping wave, but the Sun Gun? For those who don’t know, the Sun Gun is a hypothetical superweapon that the Nazis were researching as early as the 1920’s. To quote Wikipedia:

“The scientists calculated that a huge reflector, made of metallic sodium and with an area of 9 square kilometres (900 ha; 3.5 sq mi), could produce enough focused heat to make an ocean boil or burn a city. After being questioned by officers of the United States, the Germans claimed that the sun gun could be completed within 50 or 100 years.”

If Voller really wanted to help the Nazis turn the tide of the war, what better way to do it than by spending 24 years researching rocketry, technology, and weapons, and then using time travel to go back and give that research to Nazi scientists, who could then use rocket technology of the 1960’s to leap ahead of the Allies, construct the sun gun, and use it to incinerate Allied cities, armies, and fleets? Nowhere on Earth would be safe, and there would be nothing the Allies could do to stop the Nazis. It’s conceivable that what we’re seeing on Empire’s cover is the power of the sun being used to incinerate Manhattan with Indy watching on, helpless to stop it… unless he uses time travel to make sure the gun is never made.

Of course, this is all speculation, and we’ll have to wait until June 30th of next year to find out if the theory is true or not. In the meantime, here are a few other thoughts:

*What if the train that Indy rides in the 1940’s is the fabled Nazi gold train? He might find something of great importance on it, including research into time travel, or the dial itself. The train appears to be very well-guarded, suggesting that there’s something very valuable on it.

*If Indy does time-travel to a version of a world ruled by Nazis, it’s conceivable that he’ll run into Hitler again, giving him a second chance to either punch him or shoot him. After all, if he restores the timeline, then Hitler will die as he does historically, giving us two Hitler deaths for the price of one!

*Speaking of time travel, if it is involved, we’re likely to see Del Glocke, another Nazi superweapon that will likely be used as a power source, or as a way to find and retrieve the Dial of Destiny.

*Time travel may seem like a cheesy gimmick, but since this is Indy’s last adventure, I think it can be used well if handled carefully: As he nears his 80’s, Indy is seen as an old relic from a different time, someone who has no real place in the modern world. But thanks to his efforts, he manages to save everyone, and can walk off into the sunset knowing that he literally saved the world from being taken over by the Nazis. If you’re looking for a perfect ending for one of the most famous cinematic heroes of all time, it’s hard to top that.

Perfect Moments: ‘A Christmas Miracle’

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

***

The Video:

NOTE: This video has language that is not safe for work.

Why it’s Perfect

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and as we all settle down into our post-dinner comas, we dream of finally being able to put up all the Christmas decorations once again.

But with Christmas comes something else: something malevolent, malicious, and that infects the soul. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, you cannot escape it. But no one who works in our stores can escape it, and they will spend the next month fighting off the madness that will attempt to destroy us all. Please spare a moment to thank them for their sacrifice so that we can continue to get the consume goods we need while they struggle not to go insane.

What is this evil? Well, just watch the video and find out. And if you have scars from having to wrestle with this madness then you’ll hopefully get a laugh out of it like I did.

Why ‘Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country’ is one of the best passing-the-torch stories ever told

With the onslaught of legacy sequels we’ve gotten over the past several years that seek to keep telling stories in franchises that should have arguably stayed finished, I was thinking about which ones had a successful passing of the torch: that is, having a new set of characters take over from older, more famous ones, and was drawing a blank.

Then I realized that we have gotten one story that perfectly passes the torch, and it came out over 30 years ago: ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.’

But wait a moment, you might say, none of the characters from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ or ‘Voyager’ or ‘Deep Space Nine’ show up! I would say that you’re correct, and that’s why ‘Country’ works so well: the classic crew get one last story that is focused entirely on them, they get to save the galaxy, the Federation, and democracy without any help from those who will come after them. And when their task is done, they triumphantly sail off into the sunrise (metaphorically speaking) and a journey that began 25 years prior finally comes to a heartwarming end.

Why does this work so well when so many other passing-the-torch stories fail? Because the classic characters have one last adventure all to themselves. They’re not teamed with younger characters the audience isn’t interested in, nor do these newcomers upstage them. The newcomers – in this case, The Next Generation crew – pick up the torch in their first story, and prove to the audience then that they are worthy of carrying it without having to tear down or upstage those who came before.

To contrast ‘Country,’ consider the fourth Indiana Jones movie, ‘The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’: Indy is accompanied by Mutt, who upstages Indy a few times, helps rescue him, insults him, and infamously almost puts on the famous fedora at the end. Now imagine the same movie, but without Mutt: Indy gets more opportunities to save the day, foil the villains, and do awesome stuff with Marion (and in a perfect world, Henry Jones Sr., Sallah and a grown-up Short Round). At the end, he marries Marion with all his friends present and sets off to a happy and well-deserved retirement. Afterwords, Mutt is introduced in his own movie and given the chance to prove himself worthy of being an adventurer without upstaging Indy or stealing his spotlight.

The lesson here? Let your classic heroes get one last adventure all to themselves before bringing in someone else to keep a franchise going. Let them have their grand finale, their satisfying end, and give their fans closure and the satisfaction of knowing that they saw a great story from its beginning to its end.

What We Can Learn From The Resident Evil Film Series: Part 5 – ‘Retribution’

‘Resident Evil: Afterlife,’ could have – with a few minor changes – worked as a satisfying end to the Resident Evil film series. But with the cliffhanger ending of Alice, Chris, Claire, K-Mart, and other survivors facing a fleet of Umbrella VTOL’s while armed with nothing more than handguns, shotguns, and the power of positive thinking, it was inevitable that we’d get another followup (that, and earning 300 million at the box office). Sure enough, we got ‘Resident Evil: Retribution’ two years later.

Let’s take a look and see what the fifth entry in the series does well and what could use some improvement.

What does the story do well?

It has a memorable title sequence

It has no ultimate impact on the film’s story, but ‘Retribution’ features the most unique opening of the series, depicting Umbrella’s assault upon the Arcadia, but played in reverse.

It’s a great way to get the viewer’s attention by showing Alice’s defeat and the end of the battle first, and then depicting how it got to that point. Having a great soundtrack helps, too!

It has a great cold open to grip the viewer

After the Umbrella attack and Alice’s defeat, ‘Retribution’ cuts to Alice waking up in a suburban home where she’s married to Carlos (who blew himself up two movies ago) and has a deaf daughter. Unfortunately, her suburban bliss is interrupted by a zombie attack that ends with Carlos becoming a zombie and then killing Alice.

Much like the opening to ‘Extinction,’ this is a great sequence because the audience is trying to figure out just what’s going on because it flies in the face of everything we know about Alice: is it a dream? A hallucination? Something from a parallel universe? As a bonus, it also lets us see different versions of Alice, Carlos, and Rain, all three of whom have no combat skills or fighting experience, making their fight to survive all the more gripping. It’s a great way to get our attention while setting up the reveal about the cloning facility later on

It has a great setting

Although the film’s tagline is ‘Evil goes Global,’ ‘Retribution’ actually takes place almost entirely within Umbrella Prime, an underwater Umbrella facility off the frozen coasts of Russia, which houses recreations of famous global cities that are used to test the T-virus. Now trapped inside, Alice and her allies have to fight their way back to the surface before everything is blown to pieces. It’s a great setting for an adventure story that allows the characters to visit a large variety of locations instead of a single environment like the previous films (an underground lab, a city, a desert, etc.).

It has the best ticking clock yet

‘Retribution’ continues the series’ tradition of having a great ticking clock to keep the plot moving, and this is arguably the best one: Alice and her friends have just an hour and a half to escape from Umbrella Prime before it’s destroyed, taking them with it. That countdown gives every action they take and every delay extra weight.

It has more characters from the games

‘Afterlife’ was one of the most entertaining films in the series due to having more elements from the games (Wesker, Claire, Manjini zombies, the executioner, triple-barreled shotguns, and Chris Redfield). ‘Retribution’ continues that trend by having series regulars Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong, Barry Burton, and everyone’s favorite, Sergei Vladimir (you remember him, right?) joining returning faces like Wesker and Jill, the latter of whom gets a much bigger role here as the main antagonist. While these newcomers may not have great characterizations or much to do besides mowing down zombies, it’s still fun to see them on the big screen,

It shatters the status quo

One of ‘Retribution’s best scenes takes place at the end of the first act, where, in a little over five minutes, the narrative of the series is expanded and changed in interesting ways that shatters the status quo.

Among those changes are:

1. The Red Queen has taken over Umbrella and seeks to destroy all life on Earth.

2. Because of this, Wesker has defected from Umbrella and now fights against the corporation.

3. Wesker, Alice, and everyone else must unite to stop the Red Queen, or humanity is doomed.

These changes mark a turning point for the story of the Resident Evil film series, and smartly lays the groundwork for the series finale. We’re not there yet, but we now know what’s at stake and this helps wet the audience’s appetite for said finale.

The main antagonist is now an ally

I’m a sucker for enemy mine stories, and having Albert Wesker now working with Alice and the others against Umbrella has incredible storytelling potential: There’s nothing quite like having an antagonist deciding to join the victims, and seeing their different outlooks, personalities, and histories clashing against each other, which has endless opportunities for not only drama, but the possibility of the antagonist achieving redemption. And one little touch about Wesker’s turn is that he’s now effectively the leader of the United States. In other words, the series’ most awesome villain is now the president of the United States! Awesome!

It brings back the coolest enemy

It’s always a risk to bring back fan-favorite characters, especially if there’s not a good narrative reason to do so, but thanks to Umbrella’s cloning powers we get to see the Executioner return from ‘Afterlife,’ and watch not one, but two of them battle Alice and Ada in the streets of (fake) New York.

While the scene ultimately doesn’t contribute to the story, it’s still great fun to see a great monster come back for an encore performance.

The final battle is different from all the others that came before it

In all the previous films, the climaxes involved defeating a single, overpowering monster or escaping an explosion, often with a hefty dose of CGI. ‘Retribution,’ however, features a massive melee battle between Alice, Jill, Rain, Leon, and Luthor in a snowy field where they have to rely on their fists and hand-to-hand combat abilities and find a way to stop an almost unkillable Rain without relying on guns.

Unlike previous battles where Alice had the upper hand or won fairly easily, she is resoundingly beaten by Jill and would have died if not for freeing Jill from Umbrella’s mind-control at the last second. And as a bonus, it’s satisfying to see Jill – who has always had her thunder stolen by Alice in previous films – get her revenge. Or, rather, her retribution, if you will.

It has the best ending and the best cliffhanger of the series

Cliffhangers are an inherently risky storytelling trope, but when pulled off well they leave the audience excited and eager to see what comes next. ‘Retribution’ does so with flying colors, ending with Alice, Jill, Ada, Leon, and Wesker joining forces in the ruins of Washington DC and preparing for their last stand against an army of undead sent by the Red Queen. Freaking. Awesome.

What could the story have done better?

It could have removed the opening flashback

Though it’s a tradition for each Resident Evil film after the first to recap what happened in the previous movies, it is starting to wear a little thin. And after four movies, it’s safe to assume that people who are coming to watch ‘Retribution’ are fans who know what happened already, making the flashback summary unnecessary.

It could have removed Alice’s bleeding

At two times in the film, Alice looks down to find herself bleeding from a wound in her side… but nothing ever comes of it. Cutting these shots out would have freed up thirty seconds that could have been invested in character moments.

It could have eliminated the cloning aspect

‘Retribution’s biggest draw was the return of several deceased characters from the past films, including Carlos, Rain, and One, via the magic of cloning. However, the film doesn’t do anything with them: the characters show up, shoot bullets, and then get killed. While it’s a stretch to imagine that a zombie action movie would explore the moral delimas of cloning, it doesn’t use the cloning idea in any meaningful way: Pacifist, anti-gun Rain never meets her cold, heartless self, for example, and at one point Ada talks about how Umbrella uses clones and how they’re all disposable; you’d think it’s setting up some interesting moral ideas that will be explored later on (such as Alice seeing clones as people instead of disposable test subjects), but nothing comes of it. In hindsight it might have been better to remove the cloning aspect entirely and perhaps have all the test subjects at Umbrella Prime be prisoners that Umbrella has captured, which would force Alice and the others to decide if they could risk spending the time to save them or continue on and leave them to die to ensure Alice’s survival.

It could have removed the Las Plagas parasite and the enhanced zombies

Another selling point for ‘Retribution’ was that the Las Plagas parasite would make an appearance from the fourth Resident Evil game, which allows zombified people to keep their intelligence and the ability to use weapons and tools. As such, we’re given scenes of Russian zombies using assault rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, chainsaws, and even driving cars and motorcycles.

The problem is, zombies are supposed to be mindless killing and eating machines who are dangerous because of their resistance to physical injury, immunity to pain, and sheer numbers. By giving them guns and vehicles, they’re essentially normal human enemies with bad teeth and rotting skin. A good solution would have been to have the T-virus continue to mutate, giving zombies more abilities and intelligence, which could have been followed up on in the next movie. But the Las Plagas parasite doesn’t return in the final chapter, and aside from making Rain impossible to kill with bullets, it ulitmitly has no impact on the story.

It could have given characters time to breathe

‘Retribution’ is the most action-packed film in the Resident Evil series, with a breakneck pace that never lets up. While this – in conjunction with the ticking clock – is great for keeping the film moving, it would have been nice if the story took a few moments to breathe between action scenes and invest in letting us get to care for the characters, or develop their relationships between one another. It would have been nice to have Luthor and Alice have a longer reunion, given their shared experiences from ‘Afterlife,’ but they only get a few seconds to speak before we’re off to the next action sequence. While well-done action scenes are fun, caring about the people in those sequences is more important.

While ‘Retribution’ exists to set up the final chapter of the series instead of being a standalone story, it at least offers some good action, has a story that is never slow or dull, and while it doesn’t do anything meaningful with the cloning aspect, or giving characters much to do beyond shooting guns, it’s still an enjoyable entry in the saga. More importantly, it sets the stage for the final film; come back next time, where we’ll take a look at how the series ends. With all the elements in place for a truly epic grand finale, there’s no way the series could mess it up!

Right?

Is This The True Face of the Overlook Hotel?

Ever since it’s release in 1980, ‘The Shining’ has kept viewers guessing for decades about it’s various secrets, including exactly what is going on with the Overlook Hotel itself. The film strongly hints – and the sequel, ‘Doctor Sleep’, all but confirms – that the building itself has a sort of consciousness that forces the ghosts of the hotel to do its bidding and absorb more souls into its haunted walls. And this hotel is an example of the most frightening kind of evil, one that is patient, biding its time as it watches it victims, learns about them, discovers their weakness, and slowly applies pressure to make them give in to their worst impulses without them realizing it, eventually becoming permanent guests in the time-warp that is the Overlook Hotel.

But like all great horror stories, ‘The Shining,’ never reveals what the Overlook’s malevolent self looks like. It is always out of sight, always hidden, and never seen..

But what if the Overlook’s dark core has been hiding in plain sight?

In the 2019 adaptation of ‘Doctor Sleep,’ a grown-up Danny Torrance returns to the rotting remains of the Overlook. What follows is a nostalgic tour of the hotel’s many iconic areas in a state of disrepair, including the Gold Room, where Danny has a ghostly reunion with his father. And while the film rightfully focuses entirely on the talk between father and son, there’s something about this scene that isn’t noticeable unless you’re paying very close attention to the background. Specifically, this shot:

Notice those lamps in the background? They look like mouths. Gaping maws of darkness with the bright, glowing, featureless eyes above them. This, I believe, is the true face of the evil haunting the Overlook, a gaping maw and inhuman eyes, ready to suck in anyone it can get, and they’ve always been there. Compare that shot to the original film:

Notice how in both films, neither Jack or Danny notice these faces. But Lloyd does, and so does Jack when he’s behind the counter in ‘Doctor Sleep.’ How can you tell? Look at their eyelines.

It’s as if they’re silently watching their demonic master before turning their attention back to the latest slave the Overlook wants to add to its collection. And it’s not just the gold room; these lights can be seen throughout the film: the very first time we see Jack, the hotel is watching him.

It watches Jack when he’s working on his book:

Or when Danny is riding his bike:

Or when Rose walks through its halls decades later:

But that’s not all: there are moments when these lights are not lit, like when Wendy is walking around:

The lights aren’t lit because the Overlook isn’t interested in Wendy. It wants Jack and Danny, not her, so it doesn’t bother watching her. Likewise, when Dick arrives at the Overlook and looks for the Torrances, the lights aren’t on; he doesn’t see them:

Yet, moments after he dies, the lights are on, watching Jack, encouraging him to continue his rampage:

Of course, this is just a theory. But perhaps the Overlook has been staring at us for decades; we just never saw it.

The Best Background Characters: ‘Oh God’ guy

Every story has a cast of characters that we follow and watch and come to love… but what about the background characters? The nameless masses who rarely get our attention? This column examines my favorite background characters who deserve a moment in the spotlight.

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The Show:

‘The Lenny Henry Christmas Show’

The Character:

A random audience member

The Scene:

Why He Deserves A Moment In The Spotlight

It’s spooky season once again, and what better way to mark the occasion than with this terrifying live action parody of Wallace and Gromit from 1995’s ‘The Lenny Henry Christmas Show’? The lovable, charming duos of Wallace and Gromit have gone from England’s most lovable couple into inter-dimensional abominations wearing skinned flesh in an attempt to blend in with humanity and their canine companions. It’s so grotesque, so horrifying, that at 0:51 in the clip, you can just faintly hear someone in the audience groaning, ‘Oh god…’ I don’t know who this man is or anything about him – and he’s not even a background character, per se – but he sums up the audience’s feelings so perfectly that he becomes the best thing about this sketch, stealing the show from the two things that will haunt my nightmares forever more.

What We Can Learn From The Resident Evil Film Series: Part 4 – ‘Afterlife’

The third entry in the Resident Evil film series, Extinction was supposed to be the end of the franchise: by the end, we saw how Alice was going to go wipe out Umbrella’s last remaining executives, had learned that a cure for the vaccine could be created, and realized that there was hope things would finally turn out well… but box office money has a funny way of undoing even the most conclusive endings, three years later we got Resident Evil: Afterlife, kicking off a new trilogy of movies.

Taking place a year after Alice awakened all her new clone buddies, Afterlife follows their assault on Umbrella’s Tokyo headquarters and Alice’s subsequent quest to find her missing friends. Let’s see what worked – and what didn’t – in our fourth journey into the world of the undead.

What does the film do well?

It’s closer in spirit to the games

By the time Extinction arrived in theaters, many fans of the video games complained that the film series had little to do with them aside from having characters and monsters, and the most bare-bones interpretation of the plots. ‘Afterlife’ seeks to remedy this by bringing in more elements from the games, such as having Wesker be much closer to his video game counterpart, having more monsters (the Manjini, Axeman, and zombie dogs from Resident Evil 5), as well as bringing back Claire and introducing her brother, Chris Redfield, and including a location from the game as well (the ship from RE5, albeit highly modified for the film). Though the film still follows it’s own story, it deserves credit for bringing in more elements from the game.

The opening act is an excellent introduction to the villain

While the assault on Umbrella’s headquarters acts as an action-packed way to get the story and showcase Umbrella’s well-deserved beatdown, the sequence also serves as an excellent introduction to Albert Wesker, chairman of the Umbrella corporation, and the only individual in all of Tokyo who can face off against Alice and her clones and win. And not only that, but he escapes, kills all the clones by destroying Umbrella’s headquarters, and then takes away Alice’s powers, leaving himself free to continue frolicking about and do Umbrella-related shenanigans. And all of that within the first 18 minutes of the film!

It’s a great way to show how dangerous and powerful Wesker is, setting up the film’s final confrontation.

It takes away Alice’s psychic powers

One of the main problems with the previous two Resident Evil films is that Alice becomes too powerful, easily overshadowing everyone else in the series – including the villains and people from the games – and making her a god-mode sue. Thankfully, Afterlife remedies that by having Wesker take away Alice’s powers before the end of the first act, making her (in theory) a normal human again. In the words of TVTropes: “Wesker beat the Sue out of Alice. And for everyone who wanted to see that moment? It. Was. GLORIOUS.”

It has a celebrity survivor who doesn’t have an ego

Like the films before it, Afterlife features a large cast of new characters who mostly exist to become zombie fodder, and among them is Luther, a former pro basketball player. But despite his pre-zombie fame, he doesn’t expect any special treatment or privileges because of it, and even laughs it off at one point. He’s a nice guy, and a great example of a celebrity character who doesn’t let fame get to their head.

It gives the characters a concrete goal

Afterlife continues the series’ trend of giving the characters a clear and concrete goal to strive for: in the first, it was escaping the hive before it was permanently sealed, in the second it was escaping Raccoon City before it was nuked, in the third it was reaching Arcadia, and here it’s… to reach Arcadia. So while it may be repeating what came before, the revelation that Arcadia is a boat and not a town is a nice touch (and then the further revelation that it’s a mobile Umbrella research lab is another nice twist, too, so that just reaching the finish line doesn’t mean everyone is automatically safe and sound).

It has two ticking clocks

Like the previous films, Afterlife once again gives the characters a ticking clock, but ups the ante by having two of them: after we’re introduced to the prison where most of the film takes place, we see a zombie digging around underground, telling us that this seemingly impenetrable fortress won’t stay that way for long. Then the Axeman shows up, and now Alice and the others not only have zombies to deal with, but a monster who’s immune to bullets and can break down the doors keeping zombies from rushing in. Twice the pressure, double the drama!

It has a funny expletive

As I’ve written before, cursing can be funny when it’s done sparingly. ‘Afterlife’ has a particularly amusing moment where Bennett steals Alice’s plane and flies away, only to seemingly plunge to his death, leaving Luther to yell, “That’s right, bitch! Fuck you!”

Not only does Boris Kodjoe do a great job delivering the line, but it’s darkly funny that no one is sad to see Bennett face his seemingly imminent demise.

It has an awesome monster fight

Afterlife brings in one of the most memorable monsters the Resident Evil games in the form of the Axeman, a towering monstrosity of a man who wields a freakishly huge axe that can cleave someone in two with a single stroke. Not only does this guy look exactly like he does in the game (a big plus), but he’s also reinvented to make him more threatening: where the Axeman from the game is a slow, lumbering brute who can take a ton of damage, the movie makes him a monster who can not only kill you in one hit, but also run after you as well! To balance this out, the Axeman doesn’t have the durability his game counterpart has, meaning that if you get the right weapon – such as a shotgun – and hit him in the right spot, you can take him down with a single shot, giving the characters a fair chance in a fight against him. To further sweeten the deal, his big fight takes place inside a shower room drenched with falling water.

The slow-mo can be cheesy, but it’s an awesome fight with an awesome monster (and awesome music).

It gives Wesker a counter to his superpowers

Wesker is the easily most powerful character in the movies, even moreso than Alice: he’s not only an expert hand-to-hand combatant, but can dodge bullets, survive wounds that would kill a normal person, and even survive a nuclear bomb blast a point-blank range! But while his power level approaches that of a god, Afterlife wisely balances this out by forcing Wesker to constantly consume human flesh to keep his T-virus under control, making his abilities a case of powers at a price: he can do incredible things, but if he slips up, it will cost him everything.

It brings one of the best scenes from the games into the movie

It may be pure fan-service, but it’s fun to see one of Wesker’s fight scenes from Resident Evil 5 become the final fight of Afterlife.

Say what you will about just copying something from one medium to another, but it’s still a great way to show how hard Wesker is to put down. And to top it off, the end features Chris and Claire pumping Wesker full of lead by shooting him approximately 17 million times. It’s not enough to kill him, but boy is it satisfying to see villains get reduced to hamburger to ensure they can’t come back

It spares Luther

Luther is the most likable character in the film, which makes it a shame to see him get dragged away by zombies in the sewers… which makes it a treat when Afterlife decides to be merciful and spare him at the very end. In a series full of interesting side characters getting killed off left and right, it’s refreshing to see one survive to the next movie.

It gives Bennett a moment of sympathy

Bennett is not a sympathetic or likable person. He’s selfish, rude, and arrogant, willing to kill and abandon his companions to save himself, making his final comeuppance very satisfying. But before he becomes Wesker chow, his selfishness and smugness melt away for just a moment when, in the face of death, he whimpers that he just wants to go home. In this moment, we see that beneath all his arrogance and selfishness, Bennett is a sad, tired man who just wants things to go back to the way they were before the T-Virus outbreak. It’s not enough to redeem him, but it does make him just a little more human, and a little more relatable.

What could have been improved?

It could have turned Alice into a truly normal person

One of the best things Afterlife does is have Wesker take away Alice’s powers. The problem is that Alice is still capable of taking on crowds of zombies, jumping over six feet high to kick a monster in the face, swing through the air like Tarzan, scoring hits on zombies with revolvers while falling to the ground, and kicking falling shards of glass into zombie dogs. While it makes sense that Alice would still have the knowledge and experience gained from the previous three films, it would have been more better to see her struggle with the limitations a normal person would have facing zombies and undead monsters, which would make her victories all the more satisfying.

It could have explained why the world is no longer a desert wasteland

Extinction made a big deal about how the T-virus was turning Earth into Tatooine by killing vegetation and causing bodies of water to dry up. Yet here, a little over a year after the events of the previous film, there are giant glaciers, sprawling forests, and enough water to solve all of the southwestern United State’s drought problems. While this could be hand-waved by saying that Alice was able to create the antivirus the White Queen had mentioned from the previous film, it’s still a huge stretch to go from a world that’s a barren desert to a world that looks pretty normal.

It could have dropped the video logs completely

After escaping Tokyo, Alice starts recording video logs as she hunts for Arcadia and other survivors. But after arriving at the prison, she stops making them and they’re never mentioned again. It would have been better to drop them completely and invest the freed-up time in more character moments.

It could have had a better reason why the prison group doesn’t trust Chris

In the film, Chris is kept locked up in the prison because nobody trusts him and believes that he’s there for a reason. Problem is, that flies in the face of all logic. If you have a man who says he knows a way out of your safehold surrounded by thousands of zombies, and you’re trying to get to your one refuge from said zombies, it makes more sense to see what he has to say. Besides, the other survivors outnumber him and have guns in case he tries anything.

It could have given Bennett a better reason for his betrayal

When Bennett learns that the APC – the group’s would-be escape vehicle – will need at least a week to fix, he responds by pulling out his pistol and killing Angel, and then stealing the plane to fly to Arcadia. The problem is, this makes no sense. Bennett is a selfish jerk no doubt, but he has a way out of the prison, and a path to safety. Killing the one man who can repair the vehicle is too much; perhaps if he had lost patience and demanded that Angel have them all draw straws and fly away in the plane, and then get turned down, it would have made sense for him to snap and kill Angel. As is, Bennett’s decision to murder someone feels too sudden and too illogical to accept.

It could have let Claire kill the Axeman instead of Alice

One of the more egregious moments in Apocalypse was when Alice stole Jill Valentine’s victory against the zombie dogs in Racoon City’s grade school, and here she does it again: after Claire struggles against the Axeman and almost kills it, Alice literally runs in and delivers the killing blow. Having original characters steal canon character’s moments of glory is a big no-no.

It could have had a more conclusive ending

As like all the films that came before it, Afterlife ends with a cliffhanger: Not even a few minutes after stopping Wesker, freeing all the prisoners on the Arcadia, and having a moment to just relax and feel safe, Alice and her allies now have to contend with a fleet of Umbrella VTOL’s bearing down on them, led by a brainwashed Jill Valentine.

Unlike the three cliffhangers that have come before – which were hopeful or promised that our heroes would do something awesome – here the odds are so heavily stacked in Umbrella’s favor that there’s no way Alice and the others could possibly stop them. A cliffhanger implying that things will eventually work out for the heroes is acceptable, but one that implies that the bad guys are going to win is just an unpleasant way to end the story, as it gives the audience a feeling that everything the protagonists went through was ultimately for nothing. It might have worked out better to have Alice broadcast her message of hope, and then end the film there, leaving us with a satisfying conclusion, and moved the arrival of Umbrella’s forces to the next film.

Despite just pointing out how many flaws Afterlife has, it still remains my favorite of the series: the action is engaging, the visuals are great, the pacing is pretty much flawless, the elements from the games are well-translated to the screen, and there are no slow or tedious moments. It’s an action film that delivers on what it sets out to do, and I’d be happy to rewatch this one again and again. In my opinion, it’s the best film of the series… but unfortunately, it’s not the last. We still have two films to go, so check back in next time when we take a look at Resident Evil: Retribution.

The Best Background Characters: Agent Harmon

Every story has a cast of characters that we follow and watch and come to love… but what about the background characters? The nameless masses who rarely get our attention? This column examines my favorite background characters who deserve a moment in the spotlight.

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The Show:

‘Stranger Things: Season 4’

The Character:

Agent Harmon

The Scene:

Why He Deserves A Moment In The Spotlight

Recently, I watched all four seasons of ‘Stranger Things,’ a show with a great many characters both major and minor, but one of whom stands out as one of the most awesome redshirts you’ll ever see on TV.

For those of you who are unaware, a Redshirt is a minor, typically unnamed character in a movie, show, or book who exists sorely to die and establish how dangerous a situation is for the main characters. Named after the famous crewmembers from Star Trek, they’ve become a joke in pop culture, and I was expecting the two government agents in the fourth season of Stranger Things to be the same.

Boy, was I wrong.

When military spooks break into Will and Jonathan’s house to kill them, I thought agent Harmon would quickly fall like his partner, leaving the boys to fend for themselves. But to my surprise, Harmon immediately morphed from an overweight, lazy, tv-watching agent into a stone-cold warrior who fearlessly takes on an entire squad of soldiers with only a pistol and wins. Granted, he doesn’t kill them all, but he does stop them from getting Will and the others, ensuring that they escape to find Eleven.

What’s so great about this scene is that even though we know so little about Harmon, we quickly become invested in his struggle because we subconsciously know he doesn’t have plot armor and could die at any time, making his fight even more engaging than the main characters who we know are going to survive until the climax of the story. He’s a redshirt who temporarily becomes a main character, one who is responsible for keeping the others alive… but, sadly, at the cost of his life.

Rest in peace, Harmon (AKA, Unknown Agent Hero Man). We only knew you for a few minutes, but you were unquestionably one of the biggest badasses in Stranger Things. If you had gone to the Upside Down with the others in the season finale, you’d have killed Vecna in seconds with that legendary pistol of yours and saved the world.

11 Great Things About ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

NOTE: This post spoils pretty much all of ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’. If you haven’t seen it yet… well, today is as good a day as any to see it!

Ah, the 4th of July: A time for barbecues, patriotism, and watching movies about aliens invading earth on America’s birthday. I’m talking, of course, about 1996’s ‘Independence Day,’ one of the biggest blockbusters of the 90’s. Considering how much of a success it was, it’s surprising that it took Hollywood twenty years to give us a sequel, ‘Independence Day: Resurgence.’

Unfortunately, ‘Resurgence’ didn’t repeat the success of its predecessor, and quickly faded from view, taking with it any hopes of any further sequels. Yet, despite its lackluster reception by audiences and critics alike, I’d say that, when compared to the many legacy sequels we’ve gotten since then, ‘Resurgence’ is one of the better ones. In honor of the film’s 6th anniversary, I’d like to list (in no particular order) 11 things ‘Resurgence’ does well.

1. The setting

Reflecting the passage of time in our world, ‘Resurgence’ takes place 20 years after the event of the original, and features a world where humanity has not only rebuilt itself in the aftermath of the war of 96, but also reverse-engineered and integrated alien technology into our societies to grant us hover technology, laser blasters, and casual space travel, among other things. But even better, coming together to defeat the harvesters has resulted in humanity putting aside our differences and enjoying twenty years of world peace.

It’s so rare these days to see a sequel where life is unquestionably better for everyone after the events of a previous movie, and this kind of optimism is a welcome change from countless films where the world may have been saved, but is still a dark and dreary place.

2. Almost all the original cast are back, and have large roles in the story.

When legacy sequels bring back original characters, they usually take a backseat to forgettable newcomers. ‘Resurgence,’ bucks that trend, though, by having almost all of the original cast return from the first film and making them integral to the story, from President Whitmore being a key figure in the fight against the harvesters, David being the leading expert on alien technology, and Dylan and Patricia stepping up to fight the harvesters like their parents did. Even side characters, like Julius, Jasmine, and even General Grey get their moments to shine; as a fan of the original film, I was so happy to see all my favorite characters come back after twenty years and still be treated with respect, so much so that the public still adores Whitmore, and little kids want David’s autograph. Goofy? Yes. Heartwarming? Also yes.

3. The film doesn’t negate the accomplishments of the original.

If there’s one common flaw to be found in legacy sequels, it’s the infuriating tendency to undo the accomplishments, resolutions, and happy endings found in our favorite films for the sake of starting a new conflict (see: John Conner being killed off in the first three minutes of Terminator: Dark Fate, the rise of an even more evil empire in the Star Wars sequels, a new Matrix enslaving humanity, etc.) and rendering everything our heroes did pointless and meaningless. Thankfully, ‘Resurgence’ is arguably the one legacy sequel that completely averts this trope, as Earth has enjoyed twenty years of peace, prosperity, and technological advancements, thanks to the efforts of everyone in the original film. That means that, when going back to rewatch the original movie, we know that all the pain, suffering, and sacrifices endured by the characters do pay off, and lead to lasting change that benefits so many people, rather than knowing that all those efforts will be rendered meaningless.

4. The adventures of Julius

Many reviewers have correctly pointed out that Julius doesn’t have much to do in ‘Resurgence,’ and that his subplot of leading some kids to safety ultimately doesn’t contribute anything to the story. While I agree with this critique, his story allows us to see the more personal, intimate side of an alien invasion, with ordinary people dealing with gas shortages, children losing their parents, and just trying to find safety as everything falls apart. Plus, you could also say that, thanks to Julius, he provided the bus that allowed him, David, the kids, and David’s assistant to escape the harvester queen at the climax, meaning that Julius ultimately ends up helping save his son’s life, while also helping bring hope and comfort to some scared teenagers and pre-teens. That, I think, is a worthy outcome to a road trip at the end of the world.

5. Whitmore’s sacrifice

Poor James Whitmore doesn’t have it easy in ‘Resurgence.’ After rising to become one of the most badass fictional presidents in cinema (helped by having given one of the best speeches in film history), we see him as an older, wearier, and worn-down shell of his former self, a man plagued with mental issues and who needs a cane just to walk around. Yet, as the film goes on, James finds his old strength and once again rises to help humanity once more, culminating in him confronting the harvester queen – the source of all the mental pain he’s suffered for so many years – and sacrificing his life to stop her.

But wait a minute, you might say; James’ sacrifice fails to kill the Queen! And you’d be right… but James did destroy the Queen’s ship, critically damaged her shield, and forced her out into the open, where she was vulnerable and attacked by others, ultimately leading to her death, none of which would have happened if he hadn’t sacrificed himself. Thus, James manages to save humanity from aliens a second time, complete with a great pre-mortmen one liner to boot.

6. It introduces a new faction of aliens

It would have been easy for ‘Resurgence’ to focus its story only on the harvesters; after all, we came to see our favorite characters once again fighting them to save the Earth, and we would have still gotten a good, focused story. But ‘Resurgence’ introduces the spheres, a new species of alien that’s friendly to humanity, one that’s thousands of years ahead of us in terms of technology.

With the sphere, ‘Resurgence’ expands the lore of Independence Day by revealing that the harvesters are a much greater threat than we believed, and that they’ve destroyed countless worlds. And not only that, but there are other species that have been fighting back against them, and that it is possible to defeat the harvesters for good. Now that’s good world-building.

7. Dikembe Umbutu, warrior extraordinaire

If I’m being honest, most of the newcomers in ‘Resurgence’ don’t make much of an impression… save for Dikembe, a veteran of a ten year ground war against the harvesters in Africa, making him a warrior skilled enough that he can take down a harvester in a one-on-one fight with nothing but two machetes. And while he’s not the warmest or most personable of people, Dikembe is a reliable ally who isn’t afraid to help when it’s needed, and to give praise to those who do their part who fight to stop the harvesters. If only one newcomer were to be kept in ‘Resurgence’ while all others were deleted, I would pick this guy.

8. Steven Hiller’s Action Figure

This one is cheating just a little, as it only happens in the film’s novelization, but at the hospital that Jasmine works in, one of the patients – a little boy suffering from cancer – can’t sleep without having his favorite action figure by his side. What is it? A figure of Jasmine’s husband, Steven Hiller, who was so memorably played by Will Smith in the original film. It’s a moment that should be unspeakably goofy… and yet, it works. I just love the idea that Steven is so beloved by the world after all that he did that action figures were made of him; makes you wonder if there are figures of James, David, and all the other heroes of the original film.

9. The Harvester Queen

While the harvesters in the first film were more like the Borg in that they had no leader, ‘Resurgence’ gives us a harvester queen to be the film’s antagonist. And like the xenomorph queen from the ‘Alien’ movies, this queen doesn’t mess around, personally leading the attack on Earth, causing destruction on a scale that the original attack couldn’t even dream of, wiping out all of Earth’s defenses, and beginning the process of drilling down to the planet’s core, an act that would destroy Earth and humanity. And if that wasn’t enough, the queen is then revealed to be a skyscraper-sized colossus who single-handily attacks Area 51; it’s only by sheer luck and grit that humanity manages to take her out.

No matter how you may look at the movie, it cannot be denied that the harvester queen is an incredibly dangerous, determined, and smart antagonist who does not fool around and almost single-handily wiped out humanity by herself.

10. James and Grey’s reunion

It’s a very brief moment, but when James is rushing to warn Earth about the impending alien invasion, he spots his old friend, General Grey. At this point in the story, Whitmore is desperate to get his message out. His mental illness is driving him to act regardless of the consequences, but he still respects Grey enough to stop for just a few moments to acknowledge him. Without any words, it conveys the bond the two share, and the respect they have for one another. It’s a lovely moment, made all the more bittersweet with the knowledge that Grey’s actor, Robert Loggia, was suffering from Alzheimer’s during filming (he passed away shortly before the movie’s release, and the film is dedicated to his memory).

11. The Invasion of Earth

Regardless of what you may think about his storytelling abilities, there’s no denying that Roland Emmerich is a master of presenting disasters on screen, and in my opinion, the arrival of the harvester Queen’s ship to Earth is among his best work: we get a ship the size of the Atlantic Ocean effortlessly demolishing part of the Moon, then arriving on the planet, sucking up entire cities and dumping them down on other cities in addition to causing enormous tidal waves that topple oil rigs and send ships flying. The massive amount of destruction is awe-inspiring, and I just love the shots of Singapore getting ripped from its foundations and getting sucked up into the sky.

It took over 20 years to get ‘Resurgence,’ but it was worth waiting that long to see some of the most creative destruction Emmerich has ever made. What about you? Are there any other moments or elements of ‘Resurgence’ that work well for you? If so, shout them out in the comments!