“Resident Evil Death Island” Offers Enjoyable Fan Service – Movie Review

Resident Evil Death Island trailer 2023
Resident Evil: Death Island (Image: Trailer Screengrab)

Having watched Resident Evil Death Island, I have to say that I found the latest animated feature film to be more enjoyable than expected. And yes, I hope we get another animated Resident Evil movie soon!

Spoiler Warning: This review of Resident Evil Death Island contains major spoilers. Tread carefully!

Fans of the long-running Resident Evil franchise haven’t had the best luck when it comes to the recent non-video game-related content. The live-action Resident Evil series on Netflix in 2022 was bad. No one wanted the live-action RE movie reboot in 2021. And 2021’s RE: Infinite Darkness was a severe letdown. So, I can understand the fandom being a bit hesitant about Resident Evil Death Island, even if the trailer looked good.

Well, fortunately, RE Death Island delivered. Not only was it fun to watch the iconic characters from the video games finally share the screen together, but the narrative made sense, too. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not the most well-written story out there. But it still worked and was far better than most of its predecessors.

One of the things I liked about RE Death Island was the change in the villain. While previous RE villains have been about world domination and greed, Dylan Blake (who looked a lot like actor Kevin Bacon) was different. He was operating due to grief. And while I’m not the biggest fan of flashbacks, I enjoyed seeing the film slowly reveal Dylan’s past and what led him to his current state.

Connecting Dylan (Daman Mills) to the Raccoon City incident in a very intense manner helped give something in common with our heroes. Just like them, Dylan had experienced his share of horror during the zombie outbreak and was trying to manage the trauma in his own way.

The writers making Dylan, a mercenary working for the Umbrella Corporation, be ordered to kill his infected friend allowed the narrative to draw certain parallels between Dylan and Jill Valentine (Nicole Tompkins). Due to being controlled by Wesker during the events of Resident Evil 5, I liked how RE Death Island took some time to explore Jill’s feelings. Jill was, understandably, still not over how she had been forced to kill Chris and Sheva (and other people while under Wesker’s control). While Chris and the rest had forgiven her (they knew it wasn’t her fault to begin with), Jill was yet to forgive herself.

I wonder how Jill would have lived out her life if she, similar to Dylan, had managed to kill Chris (Kevin Dorman). What would that level of grief have done to Jill?

However, I think it’s important to make a distinction. There’s a difference between killing a friend because you were ordered to do so by your boss (in Dylan’s case) and being forced to kill someone you love because you are literally being mind controlled (as in Jill’s situation). In a way, no one really made Dylan murder his friend in such a brutal fashion. He still had a choice not to go through with it. And instead of accepting his decision, he decided to take it out on the rest of the world, especially the people in power who think of human beings as numbers and resources.

I also liked how Dylan called out Chris, Claire (Stephanie Panisello), Jill, and Leon (Matthew Mercer). I mean, Dylan had a point. Leon was working for the US government while being fully aware of the government’s dark history. Chris and Jill were kind of in the same boat while working for the BSAA. Even Claire’s work for TerraSave was about putting a band-aid on the damage caused by bioterrorism to make herself feel good instead of doing something to permanently bring down corrupt politicians and corporations.

As I said, I liked how the writing team handled Dylan as a villain. Of course, his methods were wrong, but you could still understand where he was coming from.

My only gripe would be how it made no sense for Dylan to infect himself with a new strain of T-virus and then mutating into a giant monster during the finale. How the heck was he going to get rid of corrupt people around the world while looking like that? I get that every RE story requires a boss battle. But using Dylan in such a manner just didn’t feel right.

Okay. Enough about the villain. Ha!

Coming to the premise, set in 2015, RE Death Island was about Dylan kidnapping a robotics engineer named Dr. Antonio Taylor in order to use Antonio’s nanobots to spread a modified T-virus. The differences in the virus included Dylan being able to decide whom to infect and when to make them turn. The zombies were faster and more agile, being able to climb and stuff. Also, the virus couldn’t be spread via zombie bite.

Leon came into the story because he was tasked with rescuing Antonio. During his first rescue attempt, he’s met with resistance from Maria (Glenn Arias’ daughter, thus connecting RE Death Island to RE Vendetta).

While that’s happening, Claire gets called in to inspect an orca carcass on a beach. What’s strange is that the fatal bite on the orca isn’t from any known species of shark. So, Claire reaches out to Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill) and it’s revealed that the bite contained a strain of the same T-virus found in the zombies Chris and Jill have recently encountered around town. 

According to Rebecca, the infected people made a trip to Alcatraz Island. So, Claire, Jill, and Chris visit the island to investigate and that’s where they run into Leon due to the island being Dylan’s base of operations.

It’s a simple story. But the narrative structure and pacing made it all work.

The reveal that Dylan wanted Chris, Jill, Claire, and Leon to be together on Alcatraz island was a nice touch. He had been monitoring them for a very long time and our heroes did fall into his trap.

The simple yet effective story in RE Death Island was improved due to a bunch of character-focused moments. Seeing Jill trying to deal with what she’s been through was managed well. I liked the conversation Chris had with Jill about her habit of rushing in. He understood she wanted to save people. But that didn’t mean she should put her life on the line in such a manner.

Chris had lost countless people and he wasn’t ready to lose Jill again.

The line from Chris warning Jill about not going numb due to facing zombies for decades hit hard. People like Chris and Jill needed to hold onto their humanity… their soul. 

And yes, Chris mentioning Piers to Jill and how he wanted Piers to take over for him really excited my shipper heart!

Claire’s kindness and compassion were showcased a bunch of times. During the zombie outbreak on Alcatraz island, she tried to create a safe place for the survivors. She failed. But at least she tried to prioritize other people’s safety. Claire also got a scene where she tried to stop Antonio from bleeding to death due to a gunshot wound while being infected by the virus herself.

Claire’s pure heart is what led to Antonio giving her a way to override the nanobots to put a stop to Dylan’s plan to wreak global havoc.

Along with being compassionate, the story remembered to give Claire a handful of action sequences to showcase that she is more than capable of handling bioweapons while looking out for others.

My only complaint, when it comes to the relationships between characters, would be how Jill and Leon were handled. Fans have been waiting for decades for the two to meet. And, in my opinion, it was disappointing to see Jill and Leon having an already-established relationship offscreen. Apparently, they knew each other quite well and were able to work effectively together against aquatic lickers and other enemies.

Leon having so much faith in Jill, after he, Chris, and Claire got infected by Dylan’s nanobots, felt weird. Especially because as a viewer, I have never seen the two interact with each other before RE Death Island. I hope we get some content down the line that shows Leon and Jill meeting for the first time and maybe going on a mission together.

Unfortunately, Leon didn’t get much in the character development department. But at least, he got some cool action sequences. His hand-to-hand fight sequence with Maria was good.

Rebecca was served a similar fate. Not much to do character development-wise. However, she arrived in the nick of time to offer some backup and of course, she brought vaccines to help cure her teammates. Though I do have to say that seeing the soldiers accompanying Rebecca being killed by the shark monster made me chuckle. I get why it needed to happen. But I think the writers could have come up with a better way to have Rebecca be the sole backup for our heroes as the finale drew closer.

In a way, RE Death Island was about focusing on Jill addressing her past and being able to move on. She and Dylan were supposed to mirror each other. So, most of the character development was given to her. And I’m okay with it. The fandom’s been waiting for Jill to get some time under the spotlight. So, yay, to RE Death Island for giving it to her.

I have my fingers crossed that the rumored Resident Evil 9 video game features Jill Valentine.

All in all, Resident Evil Death Island struck the right balance between fan service and delivering an action-filled story the fandom could actually enjoy. And as I said at the beginning, I hope we get another well-written RE animated movie soon.

RE Death Island is rated R for bloody violence and language. It has an approximate runtime of 91 minutes.

What did you think of Resident Evil Death Island?

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Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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