Written by Tim Waggoner
Distributed by Titan Books
Back before VHS and DVDs novelizations used to be one of the only ways to relive the experience of a movie. These books tended to be based on an early draft of the script too, meaning they could differ in significant ways from the end product, offering a unique insight into how it changed during production. These books are often seen as cheap knock-offs, but the best ones manage to fuse the author’s sensibility with the screenplay, creating compelling novels in their own right.
Alan Dean Foster’s novelizations of Alien and The Thing are essential reading for fans of those movies, while Hank Searl’s novel of Jaws the Revenge manages to – somewhat – make the ridiculous premise kind of work. Novelizations have naturally dipped in popularity since their heydey, but they still have a fanbase and the occasional big movie will put one out.
The latest is Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, which is presumably the last instalment in the series. These movies have never been big on plot, character development or subtext, tending to rely on Milla Jovovich punching zombies in the face for their appeal. This robust formula brought the series to six movies so far, so it obviously works.
Anybody who’s followed the series will know Paul W.S. Anderson – the writer/director of the franchise – is good with dreaming up cool visuals or setpieces, but not so much with story. So it’s to the credit of author Tim Waggoner that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter manages to breathe some life into the stock characters of the script while covering some of the plotholes inherited from previous instalments.
One of the glaring issues with The Final Chapter movie is the way it glossed over the finale of previous instalment Retribution, leaving the fate of certain characters ambiguous. Since it was supposed to be the last instalment this was slightly galling, but the novelization fills in the blanks, dedicating the first part of the book to the previously unseen Washington battle. This section even adds a monster unique to the novel, which seems to be a tribute to the final boss of Resident Evil 2. It may not seem like much but at least it ties up loose ends and makes series villain Wesker a bigger part of the story, since he’s reduced to a henchman in the movie itself. The book even has an epilogue more organic than the sequel baiting final scene of the movie,
Aside from adding a few subplots, the book is a faithful rendering of the script. The same series of events happen in roughly the same order, and the clunky dialogue and character development are also ported over. That means it moves at a fair clip, rarely pausing for breath between major events. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter helps humanise some of the action, though, detailing the physical toll taken on the characters, and making the horror feel more visceral. It fleshes out some of the side characters too, including the poor hostages Isaacs used as zombie bait.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is ultimately a brisk, flab-free rendering of the movie for fans; it adds cool details that didn’t make the movie while giving the more cartoonish antics some grounding. If you hated The Final Chapter this will do little to change your mind, though. Resident Evil fans should dig it, and credit goes to Waggoner for injecting it with some personality, instead of cranking out a quick tie-in.