At this point, the Resident Evil movie franchise is kind of like a family business. Obviously, star Milla Jovovich met her future husband in director Paul W.S. Anderson when he cast her in the very first film, making it zombie-killing marital bliss across 15 years and half-a-dozen movies ever since. However, within the growing supporting cast over just as many films, some faces have become like an extended tribe for the franchise’s many fans, and none have been more popular than Ali Larter as Claire Redfield.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter supposedly ends the story for good in 2017, putting a cap on a series that’s exponentially swelled with every entry like one of its many mutated Umbrella creations. But it can only be a proper sendoff if some of its best elements are revisited, including the dynamic between Larter’s Claire—who has been MIA from the franchise after vanishing in a helicopter crash during 2010’s Resident Evil: Afterlife—and that of Milla Jovovich’s resilient Alice. As Larter points out to me herself when we sit down for a few minutes in Madison Square Garden (just moments before she takes the stage at New York Comic Con), Jovovich, Larter, and the Resident Evil series as a whole has been offering the image of empowered, strong female characters in action movies for over a decade before it became popular.
We also discuss why fans will not be seeing Claire’s brother Chris Redfield in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, and just what it is like saying goodbye to a world filled with zombies, monsters, and the women who kick their ass.
So this is the last Resident Evil movie?
Ali Larter: Yeah.
Who knows? [Laughs] I think that we definitely went in planning that. And so I think it is. As far as I know, it is. It is the biggest in scope; it is the rawest and grittiest of them all. The other ones have had more special effects. They’ve had a glossier feel to it. This one is very pared down, stripped down. I guess the biggest difference being that the last one I did, we shot on a soundstage in Toronto. So you’re in a black box. You have very limited space, you’re in an air conditioned room, you don’t get to have the extremes of the elements around you. And that to me is something that I think is so important for a film like this.
This is your third film in this franchise. What’s it like to come back, because at this point it seems like an almost extended family of rotating collaborators.
It is. You know, it’s like an honor to come back, and I know that might sound silly and crazy, and over-serious, but I love being part of this. I love Paul and Milla. I’ve been working long enough now to know how hard it is for films to get made—number one—for six of anything to get made. And the fans love them. So for me, I love being part of something that lets people escape their reality. They love being—I mean, it’s like the fantasy element when you come for the zombies or any kind of post-apocalyptic setting. People are working out their own fears in life, they’re working out their own relationship with life and death.
So when you look at it, and allow it to have that kind of bigger, thematic heart to it, it can be more exciting.
If this is the last one, how was it being there for the final day of shooting or even the wrap party? Because with Paul and Milla this is like a family business.
It is definitely a family business. And now with, Ever [Gabo J. Anderson] in it, their daughter, which is so incredible. She’s wonderful in the film. They’re such a talented family. You know, my last day, I got a little teary. I get a little teary at the end of everything that I do, because it’s a portion of your life. You’re going into the film, but you’re also taking time away from your family, and you kind of connect with the people that you’re working with. And you know that you’re probably not going to see them again.
You’re like, “We’ll have dinner! We’ll try!” But in reality, everyone goes back to their busy lives.
In this movie, you’re Claire again, and Claire wasn’t in the last movie. Could you talk a little bit about what she’s been doing off-screen?
Yeah, so the last time you see Claire, she’s in the helicopter crash and she’s found this group of survivors that she’s been living with. And the way that Paul weaved that story in is actually what excited me about The Final Chapter, because you take someone who’s been on the edge of her seat just trying to survive, and you drop her into this world where there’s a bit of a feeling of security—there’s a moment, like a blink, where she can relax, a moment where she can actually have some real emotions, where she can connect to a different level.
There’s some humanity to it, not for long, let’s remember this is Resident Evil [Laughs]. But there’s just enough to kind of steer the course and bring in another layer to the character. And to see her have some kind of connections is cool.
Well, the movie itself is obviously going back to Raccoon City. What do you think Claire is seeking to go back where this all started?
I think that she is there to help her girl find the answers to her past, and that to me is what it is. Claire has always been there to support Alice, and the fact that she wants to have this understanding of where she’s from and what she is, Claire’s there to support her.
I know one of the things fans love about this franchise is Claire’s relationship with Wentworth Miller’s character, Chris Redfield. Is that addressed at all in this movie?
No, we don’t know where he is. So I guess that door is still open. Is he alive? Is he dead? Who knows. But I think that’s one of the things too that you don’t fall into the trap of—well, number one, you rarely see female led movies. And when you do—this genre has been incredibly supportive of that [more] than any other, but the fact that we don’t fall into the catfights and that we’re there to support each other in a sisterly way, that’s interesting to me.
Could you talk then about the dynamic between your character and Alice, and what new biological terrors do they have you fighting?
I mean, you can never, never look back is what it is. But the zombie dogs are back, and it’s like you’re going through grinders and chutes, and falling things, and swimming through swamps. It’s never ending.
Are there any new monsters in this that haven’t been in previous films?
I think that there are. I don’t know if they’ve been in previous ones or not, or what’s from the video games. That’s a good Paul question.
I actually was going to ask are any of them from the newer games.
I beat you to it.
As you said, it’s hard to get six films made in a series. What do you think it is about the Resident Evil franchise that keeps bringing the fans back?
I think the fact that it starts from a video game gave them a great platform to be inspired from, to write the story from. But I think within the Resident Evil world that they, people, have connected with Alice and connected with her story, and that we never veer far from the last one. Just enough that you’re excited to see it again. But it still has enough connections to the video game, enough connection to what people love about it, which is like kick-ass, crazy stunts, zombies, gore, end of the world rollercoaster ride.
And I think people are busy and people are tired, and they want to go to the movies and they don’t always want to have this serious, small intellectual drama. They want to have fun. And that’s what these movies represent, and everyone deserves that.
They get more popular with each new one.
It’s crazy, and I hope people like this one.
Thank you so much.
Thank you, pleasure to meet you.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opens Jan. 27, 2017.