Like each of Capcom’s Resident Evil games, Netflix’s new Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness series tells a story about a group of people from different walks of life whose fates all become entangled thanks to global superpowers and megacorporations obsessed with developing cutting edge weapons of war. But unlike the games and the franchise’s wildly successful cinematic franchise, Infinite Darkness is markedly less interested in scaring you with zombies or ghouls, and more focused on illustrating the quietly monstrous things that humans themselves are willing to do to one another in their pursuit of power.
Set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, director Eiichirō Hasumi’s Infinite Darkness follows as familiar characters like Leon S. Kennedy (Nick Apostolides) and Claire Redfield (Stephanie Panisello), as well as newcomers Shenmei (Jona Xiao) and Jason (Ray Chase) become involved in a series of strange, zombie-related incidents in 2006. Following the outbreak of a civil war in the fictional country of Penamstan, nations across the world are still uneasy about the US occupation of the still-recovering nation and suspicious about what ulterior motives the American government’s hiding.
While on the ground in Penamstan working for the UN, Claire witnesses first hand how the country’s most vulnerable citizens do need humanitarian aid and support, but her previous experiences in Racoon City and other T-virus outbreak sites clue her in to how whatever happened in Penasmstan is likely far more serious than most of the public knows. In Washington, DC, Leon, who first met Claire during the Racoon City event, begins to develop similar concerns about a zombie reemergence, and it isn’t long before both Americans’ fears are confirmed in horrific ways.
Though Infinite Darkness works fine as a standalone story, its story has more weight to it the more familiar you are with the franchise’s larger lore. As large as Racoon City looms in the minds of many of its characters, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness highlights how easy it was for much of the world to lose sight of just how dangerous the Umbrella Corporation’s actions were before the corporation was ultimately exposed and put on trial prior to the events of the series. The US’ culpability in the spread of zombies in previous Resident Evil stories isn’t something Infinite Darkness spends much time unpacking across its four episodes, but it’s woven into both Shenmei and Jason’s plotlines in ways that give them a narrative heft that Leon and Claire’s largely lack.
As video game adaptations go, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness’ does an excellent job of translating much of the experience of play-shooting one’s way through zombie-infested building with precious little ammunition. Though the movie’s action sequences aren’t always especially busy and frantic the way the Resident Evil movies are, it works in the series’ favor to make its heroes’ battles against many classic Resident Evil monsters feel somewhat more grounded in a believable reality.
What’s also likely to feel quite reminiscent of our reality is Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness’ larger story about domestic politics, international relations, and war—all of which have been hallmarks of the franchise since the very first game. At a time when the world is still in the midst of a global pandemic that’s left millions dead, all zombie stories hit very, very differently, but some of Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness’ specific geopolitical details do feel like pointed pieces of commentary about the real world.
As political allegories go, Residen Evil: Infinite Dark’s can be read in a fairly straightforward way with the story’s zombie element only underlining the reality that we’re living through multiple global health crises. But again, this is similarly true (to varying degrees) of many series within this space, and the reality is that all new zombie movies and shows released post-covid-19 carry a different significance to them regardless of the creators’ intentions.
The darkness pervading the series isn’t just literal, it’s existential, and anchored to the idea that the only real defense the public has against the evil of organizations like Umbrella is light in the form of truth and information. By the season’s end, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness introduces a number of ugly truths about both its heroes and its villains that reinforce how precarious a situation the world is in.
Resident Evil: Infinite Dark hits Netflix on July 8.
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