Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson (2017) BBFC cert: 15

Brace yourself for a ferocious return to the apocalyptic wonderland of Alice and the Red Queen.

The sixth in this zombie action franchise of variable quality, this demented trip improves on all but the brilliant first Resident Evil, which came out way back in 2002. It follows on directly from 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution.

As Alice, Milla Jovovich once again teams up with her favourite writer and director, Paul W. S. Anderson. The talented Geordie is also the star’s husband and their daughter Ever Gabo Anderson, plays the scheming Red Queen.

So Alice sets off to the giant underground bunker, the Hive, where her adventures first began. Among the many threats facing Alice, are mutant pterodactyls and an army of rabid zombies.

With a love of the material feeding his down to earth showmanship, Anderson fills the screen with many inventive action sequences, all set to a thunderous soundtrack.

Refusing to worry about what he clearly considers to be silly and inconsequential things, such as plot holes, Anderson powers over them at a frantic pace, dragging us along behind him.

It’s not hard to detect the positive influence of British cult comic 2000AD in the sardonic response to the gleeful showers of ultra-violence.

The principal creatives claim this will be the series finale. However Sigourney Weaver starred in the Alien series at forty eight years old, and this year Kate Beckinsale starred in the latest of her Underworld films at forty three. Jovovich is only forty one, so age is very much on her side.

And with this degree of adrenalin fuelled entertainment, I hope this isn’t the final chapter.

@ChrisHunneysett

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Director: Ridley Scott (2014)

Striding into cinemas on a mission from God, Exodus is a handsome and monumental retelling of the Moses bible story.

Ridley Scott combines typically impressive design with spectacular action and even makes a couple of successful stabs at humour.

But he fails to broaden our understanding of events . Remaining true to the spirit of the story he fails to put an interesting spin on it. There is, of course, the parting of the Red Sea and the carving of the Ten Commandments.

Surprisingly for the director who gave cinema Ellen Ripley, G.I. Jane and Thelma and Louise, Scott provides no memorable female characters.

Although Indira Varma as a High Priestess makes an impression, Sigourney Weaver appears briefly and to no great effect as as Ramses’ mother Tuya. Love interest Zipporah (Maria Valverde) is forgettable. Even Scott’s recent and deservedly maligned Prometheus gave us two entertaining female roles.

In a nothing role Aaron Paul continues to cash in on his Breaking Bad kudos – but the likeable actor needs to start banking decent roles soon.

Egyptian general Moses (Christian Bale) is troubled when told he is the son of a Hebrew slave. His foster brother King Ramses II (Joel Edgerton) sees him as a threat and casts him into the wilderness

God appears to Moses in the controversial guise of a haughty and petulant youth – a confident and spine-tingling performance by Isaac Andrews.

He tells Moses to return to Egypt and free the chosen people but the prince-turned-prophet takes his time about it. So in the movie’s stand-out sequence, God lets loose a terrifying series of plagues including crocodiles, frogs, boils, flies and locusts.

All the children of Egypt are killed, including Ramses’ own son, and he orders the Hebrews to flee. But he chases them and they end up trapped between the sea and his bloodthirsty army.

Bale, with his usual intensity, successfully turns from sceptical young warrior to devout old leader – though his wildly changing circumstances barely phase him.

He’s not even surprised when he is unexpectedly introduced to his adult brother Aaron (Andrew Tarbet) for the first time.

Chappie

Director: Neill Blomkamp (2015)

This socially aware sci-fi flick about a rogue robot suffers clunky construction, short-circuiting serious ideas with silliness.

A muddled exploration of what it means to be human, it lacks soul. Chappie the robot is annoying while human characters are unlikeable and thinly written.

It’s also determinedly derivative, poorly plotted, unintentionally funny and ends unconvincingly.

However there’s some great design, good action and an entertaining bad guy.

The crisp light of South Africa allows for fresh cinematography by Trent Opaloch and it’s edited with haste to keep the pace upbeat.

In his previous films District 9 and Elysium, director Blomkamp tackled racism and inequality. Here it’s the criminalisation of children, with echoes of Pinocchio and Oliver Twist.

In the near future, crime in Johannesburg has fallen dramatically due to the successful deployment of Scouts; heavily armed android police officers.

They’re designed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) who works at the Tetravaal corporation.

Rival designer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) believes his beast of a machine – called the Moose – to be superior to the Scouts and is frustrated CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) won’t provide the development funds he needs.

The contrast between the two different designs is remarkably similar to the two robots in Paul Verhoeven’s far superior 1987 classic Robocop.

It’s great fun to have Jackman as a bullying bad guy and there’s a little hint of Blade Runner’s JF Sebastian in Patel’s lonely Deon who builds toy robots for company at home.

Weaver is powerless to deliver anything interesting. Her ability, charisma and sci-fi cultural capital from playing Ripley in the Alien franchise is squandered.

While on a drugs raid, robot officer 22 is damaged and ear-marked for scrap. His battery is irreparable and only has five days of power remaining.

Deon rescues the robot to test his unapproved artificial intelligence program.

Meanwhile tattooed criminals Ninja and Yolandi (real-life rap duo Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser) and their accomplice Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) are in a tight spot.

They have to pay gangland boss Hippo (Brandon Auret) 20 million Rand within seven days or face his violent wrath.

The’re so edgy they live in an abandoned warehouse decorated in day-glo graffiti and drape themselves in the Stars and Stripes.

Their plan is to force Deon to switch off the city’s police robots to facilitate their robbing an armoured bank truck.

When they discover 22 in Deon’s van, it’s decided he would add muscle to their scheme.

22 is reactivated with his newly programmed artificial consciousness and renamed Chappie – but he is naive and emotionally under-developed.

Sharlto Copley provides his voice and mannerisms through a motion capture performance.

Deon and Ninja are equally unsuitable father figures fighting for influence over their ‘child’. One teaches art and literature, the other swear-words and violence.

We pity Chappie as he’s exploited and abused – but he quickly becomes a petulant teen with an irritating gangster persona and styling.

Playing the gangsta attitude for laughs undermines the script’s earnest warning of learnt criminality.

There are heroic security failures, eruptions of comic-book violence and a mysteriously disappearing riot. A plastic chicken features frequently.

A jerry-built not custom made script fails to offer memorable scenes or dialogue. Except for the South African setting it’s all extraordinarily familiar and disappointingly tame.

★☆☆☆