WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, now streaming on Netflix.
While the latest Resident Evil video games have consistently received high praise, the franchise’s other storytelling efforts haven’t had such luck. Both the live-action and animated Resident Evil movies are notoriously bad; few fans are able to stomach the silly plotlines of these action-packed blockbusters. As a TV series, there was more hope of success for Infinite Darkness, but sadly, the four-part series is basically another inane movie broken up into short, lackluster parts.
The plot of Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness explores always-fun zombie concepts like bioweapons and political conspiracies, but the story ultimately falls flat as an inconsequential adventure to fill the gap between Resident Evil 4 and 5. Fan-favorite characters Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield lead the story but bring nothing new to the table, while newly-introduced characters fail to hold their ground. Wrought with plot holes and cringeworthy messages, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is a letdown – but anyone could have expected it.
The Movie-Length Infinite Darkness Series Is a Missed Opportunity For Resident Evil
Given the trend of popular video game-based TV series hitting Netflix like The Witcher and Castlevania, there was more hope for success when Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness was announced. However, the series is so short, clocking in at less than two hours total across all four episodes. It seems like a faux series, a movie in disguise.
There’s a reason why TV adaptations of video games like Persona and DOTA: Dragon’s Blood have been so much more well-received than widely disliked movie adaptations like Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft. The series format is often helpful for adapting the stories of video games, as episodic storytelling allows for more gradual character development and natural breaks to divide up the action. Many of the cutoffs between episodes of Infinite Darkness felt awkward – forced cliffhangers and jarring openings. TV series make the intrigue and adventure easier to digest instead of cramming a whole arc of exposition, climax and denouement into one sitting.
Infinite Darkness may be split into multiple sittings, but it fails to create a story that works with the episodic format. No one would notice if the breaks were edited out, each episode sewn together – the climax and resolution, for example, are squished together in Episode 4, just like a movie. As a result, the “catharsis” is heavy-handed and forced, with fanboy Patrick quickly convincing Leon that he’s a hero and saved everyone’s life – even saying he “helped the president decide the course this country's going to take for years to come.”
Infinite Darkness' Characters Are Either Recycled or Disposable
A part of what made Resident Evil fans interested in Infinite Darkness is the familiar faces from the games they know and love: Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. While bringing back old characters can be appealing, it’s important that they fill an influential role and grow from their experience – especially if they only have a movie-length run.
Claire’s presence as an investigative reporter interested in Penamstan seems too conveniently tied to Leon’s run-in with Penamstan military veterans. Other than pressuring politicians and being kidnapped, Claire has no real impact on the story – she's merely a recycled tool to attract an audience. The two new characters introduced, Shenmai and Jason, are both major players in the story but have “temporary” written all over them, as they are snappily written out just in time to reach status quo for Resident Evil 5. Secretly in a vengeful zombie stasis, Jason transforms into a monster and becomes Leon’s final boss; while he’s at it, Jason also snaps Shenmai’s neck when she tries to appeal to his humanity.
Leon, of course, takes down Jason, but Shenmai’s violent death doesn’t sit right. Perhaps Infinite Darkness’s most intriguing character, Shenmai was a federal agent seeking to expose Wilson’s horrific zombie soldier operation which tragically infected her brother. Yet, all her death seemed to signify was how evil Jason turned out to be – a total waste. Moreover, Leon ultimately chose not to unveil the conspiracy like Shenmai wanted, meaning her entire reason for being in the series is moot.
Infinite Darkness Is a Mess With a Hokey Message
Akin to its Resident Evil movie predecessors, for all its flash, many elements of Infinite Darkness’s plot don't make sense. Instead of leaving fans in awe of the events that unfold, all it gives us are questions. How did Leon survive a sub explosion? How did he keep from falling into a pit of acid after dangling off falling platforms? How was the president convinced by Patrick’s account of the conspiracy after Leon’s quick phone call? Most importantly, why didn’t Leon expose the conspiracy to the press?
All the evidence he needed of the U.S.’s military plans was in a small microchip Shenmai had – it was inserted into soldiers so they could be transformed into bioweapons. Claire wants to share the microchip and expose the conspiracy, but Leon decides to withhold it. His reasoning for rejecting Jason’s mission is obviously connected to the idea of not spreading fear to incite terror, as Jason’s message sunk in. But the concept doesn’t track – why cover for such horrific actions if potential continuation of them could incite more fear?
The try-hard message about spreading fear and terror has the potential to be interesting, but Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness lacks the depth to explore it. Instead, the series relies on Jason’s repetitive dialogue to hammer in the concept until the audience is convinced it has thematic significance. Even when Jason gets deep-fried after falling into the corrosive acid, he can’t stop his annoying talk of “fear” and “terror.”
It’s important to note that these two words are synonyms, the one difference being that “terror” is worse and potentially more widespread. Thus, his argument is conceptually basic and uncompelling. Jason’s intention was to make America know the true terror of Penamstan, but Leon’s “heroic” refusal to cull fear seems short-sighted – merely done to light up fan forums with debate.