Having watched the four-episode long Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness miniseries, I found myself asking, “What even was the point of this?”
This review of Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness contains major spoilers. You have been warned.
As a fan of the Resident Evil franchise, I was very excited about RE: Infinite Darkness coming to Netflix. Even though it wasn’t a story featuring what Leon and Claire were up to in the present timeline, I still looked forward to seeing them team up during a mission taking place between the events of Resident Evil 4 and RE 5.
However, I was utterly disappointed by what was presented in this four-episode story. With each episode being approximately 24-minutes long, I have no idea why the creative team didn’t make it into a single CG-animated movie. Perhaps then certain pacing issues could have been resolved. There were so many random flashbacks!
Before I get to the main plot, if you were excited about watching RE: Infinite Darkness because of Claire Redfield, well, tough luck. Claire’s role can be described as a glorified cameo. I have no idea why the creatives over at Capcom keep doing her dirty when it comes to non-game CG projects in the RE franchise.
The Resident Evil game series is well-known for giving the world an iconic female cast. Jill Valentine, Rebecca Chambers, and Claire Redfield have driven the main narrative across a number of RE games. But when we look at non-game projects, the female cast continues to be pushed to the side in favor of giving more screentime to their male peers. Claire didn’t get much to do in the 2008’s CG movie RE: Degeneration (taking place in 2005), which ended up being very Leon-heavy. Claire even injured her leg.
In RE: Infinite Darkness (taking place in 2006), again Claire’s a non-factor. She could have been taken out of the script and nothing would have really changed. Claire also ended up injuring her arm this time around while Leon took down the bad guy without a single scratch or a perfect hair strand out of place. Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is yet another Leon Kennedy show and I’m tired.
I have nothing against Leon. He is the most popular character from the franchise. And I like him, too. However, I would like other awesome characters from the series to not be treated poorly just to prop up Leon.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the plot. Taking us back to 2006, Leon’s asked to come to the White House on an urgent assignment involving a system hacking incident. The President completely trusts Leon (after he saved his daughter in RE 4), and he’s become a hero of sorts in certain security-centric social circles.
Upon his arrival, the White House encounters a surprise zombie attack. Of course, Leon’s able to handle the situation. While’s he’s incredibly skilled, I liked how Leon took orders from a new character named Jason aka The Hero of Penamstan (I’ll get to Penamstan in a bit). Leon’s still got a few years before he becomes the top agent we’re used to.
While Leon’s busy at the White House, we see Claire working with TerraSave to help a civil war-torn Penamstan. During her assignment, she comes across a disturbing drawing by a boy who witnessed what happened during the civil war in 2000. The drawing immediately brings forth memories of what Claire experienced during the 1998 zombie outbreak in Raccoon City. Wondering about the drawing and what actually happened during the civil war is what urges Claire to head to the White House for answers and getting to unexpectedly meet Leon.
As a fan of the franchise, I loved seeing Claire and Leon interact with each other. But their reunion is short-lived as Leon heads to China with Jason and Shen May (another new character), while Claire’s stuck in a motel room trying to crack a mystery which, frankly, was quite predictable. The reveal could have been presented through Leon. As I mentioned before, you could delete Claire’s part and nothing would change. Sigh!
The story being told in Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is going to feel timely to many as it uses the political tension between the USA and China for a certain someone (again, the villain’s identity is very predictable) to push things toward globally unfavorable outcomes. The fictional country of Penamstan is supposed to exist between Pakistan and India while touching China’s border. A certain someone in the USA’s political world would like the country to have a foothold in Penamstan to keep an eye on China. That same person is also very interested in raging war with China so more bioweapons can be introduced in the black market. It’s all about creating super soldiers that can’t die during battles. I think that thread connected to what Chris Redfield saw in Resident Evil 8: Village.
Through a number of flashbacks, we get to see Jason and Shen May being involved as soldiers in Penamstan’s civil war. What they went through during that horrific ordeal is what dictates their actions while working with Leon in 2006. While I wanted to like Jason and Shen May as characters, it was made quite clear they were created to be disposed of. I mean, we know nothing was going to happen to Claire and Leon. So, I guess other characters had to die to meet the death quote fans expect from the RE franchise. At least, Patrick (another new character) survived. He’s one very pretty-looking secret agent.
The Resident Evil franchise isn’t known for a lot of thought-provoking storytelling. There’s always a silly and cheesy factor involved. While I respect the long-existing franchise for what it is, I appreciated the more serious tone the team behind RE: Infinite Darkness tried to take. There’s a lot of talk about politics in this offering. There’s even dialogue calling out the USA’s habit of getting involved in the issues of other countries to lend aid and then basically refusing to leave (and making matters worse in certain instances). Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is primarily a political drama that I was ready to become invested in. However, it’s all packaged quite sloppily, complete with poorly-written characters and structural issues.
Not only that, the weird plot conveniences will make your eyes roll. As an example, I groaned when Leon simply walked into Shen May’s family residence. You would think such a rich and big place would have some type of security, but nopes. And Jason decided not to kill Leon because… he’s the main character? At least, try to raise the stakes even if the audience already knows Leon and Claire will survive in the end.
The narrative also tried to explore PTSD through Jason and his Mad Dogs squad. We got a lot of scenes explaining Jason’s motives and how his ways clashed with Leon. But even that could have been handled a lot better.
One positive thing I would like to say about RE: Infinite Darkness is that the story made Leon realize that his profession as a federal agent does kind of go against his core being to protect others. While governments are created to defend the public, we all know how certain politicians are embroiled in greed. They don’t care about people, and that includes willing to eradicate entire cities to get what they want.
The final interaction between Leon and Claire was quite strong, in my opinion. She couldn’t recognize Leon in his federal agent attire and personality. This wasn’t the Leon (the rookie cop) she teamed up with to survive Raccoon City. He made a stand in front of Claire to always take the government’s side while Claire remained concerned with the public’s wellbeing. From this point forward, the two were going to do things their own separate ways. The scene was basically them breaking up as friends and I felt sad things had come to that. They still cared for each other and shared a bond that would always exist as survivors of Raccoon City, but it was time for them to walk away in different directions.
In a sense, Leon should have listened to Claire because we all know things (including government interferences) only got worse down the line. Leon’s lonely and guilt-ridden in 2017’s CG movie Resident Evil: Vendetta.
As for the visuals, they are okay. The close-ups of the photorealistic CG being used is quite impressive. However, the character movements and hair are wonky and do take away from the immersive experience. I did like the lighting choices and choreography of the action sequence between Leon and zombie rats in the submarine, though.
Other thoughts and questions:
- Leon asking Shen May and then, a bit later on, Claire if they wanted to have dinner together was kind of sweet. Someone take Leon out to dinner already. He needs a friend.
- I liked seeing Claire taking down a federal agent. She’s not a top-tier fighter like Leon, Chris, or Jill, but she can definitely hold her own.
- I also liked how quickly Claire figured out how to use the control panel in the underground scientific facility. The scene reminded me of the puzzles present in the RE game.
- The writers could have easily found a way to have Leon and Claire work together to take down the big bad during the finale. The possibility to do so was right there. But, nopes, Leon had to be the main hero.
All in all, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is a “Meh!” offering for fans of the franchise. It’s nice to have another non-game project after 2017’s RE: Vendetta, but the project itself is just not good. It kind of offers nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Here’s to hoping if Capcom decides to continue making miniseries for Netflix, the creative team focuses on other characters to expand the world of Resident Evil.
I would love a miniseries showing what Sheva’s been up to since the events of RE 5. I would like to see Sherry, a Raccoon City survivor, growing up being experimented on, her budding relationship with Claire and Leon, and then becoming the federal agent we saw in RE 6. How’s Jill been doing since what she went through in RE 5? Are we ever going to get a follow-up concerning Natalia after what happened in Resident Evil: Revelations 2?
There’s so much that can be explored if the creative team decides to step away from making Leon or Chris the leads of every CG-animated project.
Directed by Eiichirō Hasumi and co-written by Hasumi and Shogo Moto, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness was released on Netflix on July 8, 2021.
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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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