We’ve talked a lot about video game movies and how Hollywood has mostly failed for the last twenty-three years to make a viable top-tier franchise from a video game property. But there is one quasi-exception. Sony’s Resident Evil franchise isn’t just the exception to the rule in terms of video game movies, it is something of an anomaly in any number of ways.
First of all, it’s a (now) six-film series in an era when many would-be franchises top out at two or three. And it’s actually ending on its own terms, which, reboot or no, is almost heartwarming in this day-and-age. It’s also the only live-action video game-based film property to get more than one live-action theatrical sequel. With Paul W.S. Anderson directing four out of the six installments and writing all six of them, this franchise has a stamp of authorship that is becoming all the rarer in our brand-driven franchise world. And did I mention that it’s an R-rated series that has thrived in a distinctly PG-13 environment?
Oh, and with five films grossing a total of $915.9 million worldwide, it is the most successful horror franchise of all time (suck it, Hannibal Rising!). Did I mention that, save for The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games series, this is one of the most successful female-led franchise of all time? Because, yeah, this has been the Milla Jovovich Show from the beginning back in 2002, when Resident Evil earned $102m worldwide on a $33m budget. The franchise peaked in 2010 with Resident Evil: Afterlife, the first 3D installment, which earned $60.1m domestic and an eye-popping $296m worldwide sum on a $60m budget.
It’s funny how we all fret about the bankability of female superhero movies and yet Resident Evil is six movies strong while Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld will also be dropping a fifth film next January. Oh, and Scarlett Johansson’s Lucy made $458 million worldwide on a $40m budget two years ago. And, by the by, with all the fretting about the future of video game movies, maybe we should notice that two of the more successful ones, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Resident Evil: Retribution ($240m) and the first Tomb Raider ($274m), are female-fronted action/sci-fi pictures.
We’re going to get a lot of video game franchises in the next few years, so maybe we should acknowledge that Bayonetta may be a safer bet than Uncharted. I didn’t care much for the first film back in 2002 and only caught up with the rest when Afterlife was about to drop in theaters. I have a certain fondness of the ongoing franchise as I think there is an important role for B-movie franchises that don’t need to crack $500 million worldwide to break even. Come what may, I’ll be there until the end.
Anyway, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (we’ll see about that), opens January 27, 2017. It co-stars Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Shawn Roberts, Ruby Rose, Eoin Macken, William Levy, Fraser James and Rola. As always, we’ll see, but I’m weirdly excited to see what amounts to a series finale for a franchise that started back when I was in college.