TV Review: Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness (Netflix Miniseries)

Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield are back in a new adventure set after the events of Resident Evil 4!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 07/20/2021 01:13 Comment on this     ShareThis

The Resident Evil series has always embraced the campy side of horror. Whether its outlandish plot elements like Chris Redfield infamously punching a boulder in Resident Evil 5, or Leon S. Kennedy’s plethora of one-liners in Resident Evil 4, the games have no problem scaring players’ pants off while also eliciting a grin. This approach has continued into the latest Resident Evil media project, a TV miniseries that’s available to stream right now on Netflix. Dubbed Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, it revolves around Leon and Claire Redfield as they work to unravel a plot involving a secret bio-weapons project and an attack on the White House. The plot has a lot of grim, cynical aspects to it, but it also makes sure to keep things just goofy enough to feel right at home as a Resident Evil story.

Which works, for the most part. To be clear, the people who will get the most from Infinite Darkness are Resident Evil fans. I watched the four 30-minute episodes with my girlfriend, who has never played a Resident Evil game, and she was less than impressed. She had no appreciation for the characters or knowledge of the established lore. It was just a zombie movie whose plot left her bewildered by holes and screwy motivations. I have a feeling that for most people who have never dabbled in the world of Resident Evil, Infinite Darkness will likely come up short as a narrative experience for them, too. The issue is that, like so many forms of media based on licensed properties, the story here takes for granted that viewers will have rudimentary knowledge about the basic setup.

The timeline placement of Infinite Darkness, for instance, is stated as being between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. That’s not going to mean a thing to anyone who hasn’t played either game. Of course, therein a relevant counterpoint comes up: how much of the audience is even going to be anyone who isn’t already invested on some level with Resident Evil as a franchise? I think that’s fair to ask; after all, the series makes no bones about positioning itself within the broader Resident Evil oeuvre. That noted, for those potentially jumping into Infinite Darkness thinking this is a good entry point for fledgling fans, know that’s not the case. Infinite Darkness is made for the longtime fan. I think that there’s enough good action and beautiful animation to keep anyone’s attention from start to finish, but some of the story will feel utterly daft without prior Resident Evil exposure—and even then, it’s still not perfect.

While I’m not going to get into too many specific, as we move forward there are mild spoilers. Feel free to turn away now if you don’t want to know anything about Infinite Darkness before watching it.

Still here? Cool. As far as plots go, Infinite Darkness interjects some interesting background into the already very rich (and often convoluted) narrative history of the series. It was interesting to get Leon’s perspective on things like the military bombing Raccoon City off of the map; character introspection isn’t always touched upon in the Resident Evil games, and while Leon has been a series mainstay for years now, getting a deeper look into how he thinks was great. Claire fairs well in her portrayal here, too, but she doesn’t get as much screen time as Leon. The nature of Infinite Darkness’s story is the reason (its central conspiracy is more directly connected to Leon’s position as a government operative), so it makes sense why she’s not on camera as often, but it would have been better to have Claire more central to the plot.

The new faces, specifically Jason and Shen May, are okay. Shen May is helping Jason to uncover a secret plot being perpetrated by the US government, which does the handy job of providing a reason for Leon to come into conflict with the duo about midway through the adventure. It’s here that things get somewhat odd—without going into too much detail, Leon decides that he’s going to play things by the book and bring in Jason and Shen May. It isn’t out of character for Leon, which I’ll delve into more in a moment, but I was left wondering if Leon could have found a smarter way to handle the situation. As it stands, Leon’s actions come across as rash—the trio are really all more or less on the same side in the end, and Leon makes a choice that, while forced, still feels wrong later on.

Perhaps the biggest narrative issues revolve around Jason. His motivations read as superficial and shallow by the time the final act arrives. In brief, Jason acts as the end boss, to use some video game parliance, and wants to expose the government’s plot in the most showy, gratuitous way he can. Leon, rocket launcher in-hand, pursues him, and while I can appreciate the action scenes Jason’s choices set up, I was less enthusiastic about how forced the exchange felt. Jason is under pressure to act now thanks to a looming threat, but by that point in the series he and Shen May have everything they needed to execute their plans. Why become so aggressive at the eleventh hour? Granted, Leon’s actions might have tipped Jason to the breaking point, but by the time Jason is butting heads with Leon, my patience with his antics was wearing thin.

Claire and Leon’s ideological split at the series’ conclusion is disappointing but also speaks to both characters’ portrayals across the series. Leon is a government man—following Raccoon City, Leon is recruited into STRATCOM and embarks on many, many missions working for the fed to fight bio-terrorism. Claire, meanwhile, continued the good fight much like Leon, but her affiliation with TerraSave, a non-government organization also fighting bio-terrorism, speaks to a different mindset than her friend’s. Where Jason’s characterization was somewhat ham-fisted in its execution, Leon and Claire rang true from start to finish. Fans of both will be pleased, although Leon is continuing to be voiced by his Resident Evil 2 Remake actor Nick Apostolides. He does a fine job, but let’s be real—although multiple men have handled the role, no one can hold a candle to Paul Mercier, Leon’s RE4 voice actor.

Infinite Darkness is a CGI series. While the technology keeps evolving by leaps and bounds, as ever Masahiro Mori’s uncanny valley rears its head. In some instances Infinite Darkness looks hauntingly lifelike, but in others characters appear like wooden marionettes. It’s a shame when the visuals fall flat, but for the most part Infinite Darkness is wonderfully animated. Many of the action scenes are as good as any live-action movie. This is handily the best animated Resident Evil cinematic production to date. Structurally, however, I can’t help but wonder why this was presented as a miniseries. At roughly two hours of runtime, this could easily have been debuted as a movie and no one would have been the wiser. I watched Infinite Darkness in a single go and expect most everyone else will, as well. Why the forced intervals, Netflix?

All in all, I recommend Infinite Darkness to Resident Evil fans. If you come in knowing who Leon and Claire are, and have a sense of the overarching series narrative, Infinite Darkness is much more rewarding. It’s a lot easier to piece together why each character makes the choices they do, as well as what motivates them, and this results in a better viewing experience. That doesn’t do much to make the confounding Jason much better, but as the de facto “bad guy,” he’s interesting enough and gets the job done. For those who don’t know Resident Evil, Infinite Darkness is still a decent action flick, albeit a possibly confusing one. If you’re looking for something to quickly binge after work or during the weekend, Infinite Darkness is worth your time.

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