Despite the fact most games in the series stand alone, Resident Evil has maintained a strong sense of continuity and chronology since the PlayStation original. The average fan isn’t here for the story, but the fact of the matter is that Resident Evil is a decades long franchise that stretches across multiple different mediums: from video games, to books, and even movies.
It may not seem like it, but continuity does matter in Resident Evil and each mainline game references at least one other in the series. Resident Evil 7 in itself is one giant homage to the original, down to its level design, pacing, and game design priorities. Although rare, Capcom has been known to fill in Resident Evil’s narrative gaps with animated movies – often bridging together important characters & story beats.
Unlike the live-action movies which are loose adaptations of the main games, Resident Evil’s animated films are firmly canon and often star Leon. Whether they’re any good is another matter entirely, but Resident Evil’s animated movies offer interesting insight into the franchise’s world that can’t be gleaned from just the games alone – and at their best, the movies capture a level of mania Resident Evil has made a key part of its identity over the years.
Edited on July 25, 2021 by Renan Fontes: Netflix's take on Resident Evil, Infinite Darkness, is finally out. Although the studio promised a TV series, Infinite Darkness was ostensibly a movie like the rest of the Resident Evil animated canon. Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is split across 4 roughly half-hour episodes that ultimately cover the same ground as films like Degeneration or Vendetta. Although Infinite Darkness brought Leon and Claire back together for the first in years, the series fails to do much other than remind audiences of better Resident Evil stories.
4 Degeneration (2008)
The first animated movie in the series, Resident Evil: Degeneration released in 2008 and is set one year after the events of Resident Evil 4. Notably, Degeneration establishes Tricell as an in-world presence before Resident Evil 5, offering some context into Chris’ future plight in Africa. Starring alongside Leon, Claire plays a major role in the movie – albeit in a passive capacity.
Degeneration is the most grounded of the three animated movies, for better or worse. While the movie is tonally in-line with the Code Veronica/Resident Evil 4 era, Leon gets so much action that any tension stemming from the zombie outbreak all but vanishes before the halfway point. Not helping matters is how poor the animation has held up, with character models simply not fit for human emotion.
If nothing else, the references to Resident Evil 2 and 4 are enough to keep longtime fans engaged, and there’s definitely a charm to seeing Leon working with Claire again. While the second game’s remake is fresh in audiences’ minds, Degeneration was the first time Leon and Claire were together on-screen since the original Resident Evil 2. It’s important context to remember while watching the movie.
3 Damnation (2012)
Taking place between the events of Resident Evil 5 and 6 while (slightly) setting up Leon’s campaign in the latter, Resident Evil: Damnation was released in 2012 and is marginally better than Degeneration. With a few years of technological improvements on hand, Damnation doesn’t suffer from the same stiff character movements and expressions that plagued Degeneration.
This also means the action is far more engaging to watch without being out of place. Damnation also manages to juggle a stronger cast than Degeneration, trading Claire for Ada and throwing Leon up against a host of new characters who fortunately benefit from a script with tighter dialogue (although not by too much).
Damnation also features references to Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 4, and Resident Evil 5 that help flesh out their respective stories. Damnation does raise the stakes considerably coming off of Degeneration and is very much reflective of Resident Evil 6 at its worst, but it’s an entertaining movie that uses its setting well while throwing fans a healthy amount of subtle fanservice.
2 Vendetta (2017)
The most recent animated movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Vendetta released in 2017 and is set between the events of Resident Evil 6 and Resident Evil 7. While Vendetta is often referred to as a prequel to Resident Evil 7, this isn’t actually the case and the movie arguably features the least amount of build up for its subsequent game (arguably fitting considering Resident Evil 7 fashions itself as a soft reboot of sorts).
Along with bringing back Leon, Resident Evil: Vendetta marks Chris Redfield’s debut appearance in the movies and Rebecca Chambers’ first appearance since Resident Evil 0 period. Rebecca’s role actually isn’t too exciting and she spends the back half of the story doing little of value, but the interactions between Leon and Chris make Vendetta worth watching. Arguably the movie’s greatest strength, Resident Evil: Vendetta has proper character arcs for its leads.
Leon is at rock bottom and Chris – having just experienced the events of Resident Evil 6 – is there to help Leon find himself again. It’s wholly derivative of Chris’ arc in RE6, but Vendetta does make it work for the most part. Above all else, though, Vendetta leans into where the movies shine the most: action. Featuring the best animation in the films yet, Resident Evil: Vendetta is easily the best of the bunch. Even if it’s still narrative gibberish half the time.
1 Infinite Darkness (2021)
Set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, Infinite Darkness explores Leon's time working as a government agent along with following up on what Claire has been up to since Code Veronica/Degeneration. In many respects, the very premise for Infinite Darkness feels like a retread of Degeneration, albeit with more focus. Netflix's series received quite a bit of pre-release hype, in large part due to Leon and Claire's remake actors reprising their roles along with promises of expanding the lore through a TV show instead of a movie.
Unfortunately, Infinite Darkness falls victim to the same problems as the other Resident Evil films, if not even worse. Degeneration, Damnation, and Vendetta at least have a self-contained charm to them, but Infinite Darkness tries to leave lasting consequences on the franchise. Not so much in regards to lore – Leon does everything he can to preserve the status quo – but in regards to character relationships. Infinite Darkness notably ends with Leon and Claire parting ways on bad terms, killing their dynamic entirely.
To make matters worse, Claire barely feels like a member of the supporting cast in Infinite Darkness, let alone the main character. This is very much Leon's story with Claire as a bit player to offer some context and challenge Leon's character for the worse. Infinite Darkness is nothing short of a disappointment and bodes poorly for Resident Evil's animated future.
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