At best, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is a curious detour, non-required viewing for even the series’ most hardcore fans. Set between the events of Resident Evil 4 and 5, the four-part miniseries tells a story about shady government cover-ups that lacks substance or anything particularly interesting to say. Even series favorites Leon S. Kennedy (Nick Apostolides) and Claire Redfield (Stephanie Panisello) can’t save this CG monstrosity from animated mediocrity.
Infinite Darkness sees our heroes covering familiar territory from opposite directions. Leon is now fully under the employ of the U.S. government after saving the president’s daughter from Los Iluminados in Resident Evil 4, and he even wears a suit while stopping a zombie outbreak inside the White House. Meanwhile, Claire works for an NGO in the fictional nation of Penamstan, which was torn apart by a civil war fueled by American interests and a few biological weapons. Despite hardly sharing the screen throughout the four episodes, Leon and Claire are both on the same mission to uncover a secret plot to unleash a new zombie virus overseas just as tensions between the U.S. and China are reaching a boiling point.
Conspiracies about biological weapons grown in labs, virus outbreaks inside the White House, tensions between the U.S. and China, warmongers leading American foreign policy — Infinite Darkness is not so subtle about its influences, even as it tries to wrap them up in a tale of espionage and Black Hawk Down-style rescue missions involving lots of zombies. But this is largely a story with no bite, happy to reference current events while too afraid to say anything new or interesting about them. Yes, Infinite Darkness may trigger a few viewers, but this show hardly deserves the discourse.
Beyond Leon and Claire, Infinite Darkness introduces a few new characters to the Resident Evil family. Former U.S. special forces operatives Jason (Ray Chase) and Shen Mei (Jona Xiao) are at the center of the story. Both have dark pasts that tie back to the civil war in Penamstan, where a mission gone terribly wrong has far-reaching consequences that unfold throughout the four episodes. While it’s unlikely that either will become a mainstay of the franchise, Jason and Shen Mei add just enough to Leon’s adventure to propel the convoluted story forward.
I say “Leon’s adventure” because while he and Claire share top billing, Leon, Jason, and Shen Mei enjoy most of the screen time, while Claire’s investigation is relegated to a B-plot until the final episode when all their paths converge for a final boss fight with the big bad. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but you’ll likely see most of them coming. In fact, the miniseries plays its best card in the second episode, with the final two dealing with the fallout.
Genuine scares are few and far between, with Infinite Darkness mostly adapting the action movie tone of later installments in the video game series, but there are a few standout moments of horror. The scariest sequence involves flesh-eating rats inside of a submarine. The way those undead critters swarm their prey absolutely gave me goosebumps. True to the source material, expect some very gruesome scenes, including grotesque moments of body horror.
Meanwhile, flashbacks to a rescue mission in the war-torn streets of Penamstan are basically ripped right out of Black Hawk Down, which makes sense considering Ridley Scott’s 2001 war film was a key inspiration for Resident Evil 5 and the Chris Redfield section of Resident Evil 6, the most action-heavy installments in the game series. The detailed CG animation brings some realism to these battle scenes which start as straightforward military fiction until the zombies show up. Overall, the CG feels like a step up from Resident Evil‘s past animated movie offerings, including 2017’s Resident Evil: Vendetta.
But looks aren’t enough to carry this particularly self-serious chapter, which devolves into an action shooter more often than not. That would normally be par for the course for a Resident Evil adaptation — and it’s likely what most fans will be looking for when queuing up Infinite Darkness — but this miniseries often teases greater ambitions. Infinite Darkness is happy to ask some tough questions but pulls out the guns and the zombies just when it’s time to give some answers.
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness is streaming now on Netflix.