After a popular game and seven live-action movies (including a reboot last year), “Resident Evil” makes the seemingly inevitable migration to Netflix as a very bleak series. Unfolding in the present and future, it’s not particularly engaging in either time frame, feeling less like an evolution than an uninspired variant of what’s come before.
The show stars Ella Balinska (the 2019 version of “Charlie’s Angels”) as Jade Wesker, a scientist who is battling to survive in 2036, joined by characters there’s not much reason to care about running from computer-generated creatures.
“The world ended a long time ago,” she says somberly near the outset, before the story begins cutting back and forth between what happened then in Raccoon City – that is, way back in 2022 – and the monster-laden world as it exists for her grown-up self.
The past, alas, largely plays like yet another teen genre show, mixing high-school-type issues for Jade (played at that age by Tamara Smart) and her half-sister Billie (Siena Agudong) with strange doings at the facility that employs their father (“The Wire’s” Lance Reddick), run by Umbrella Corp.
Nothing good ever happens at this sort of lab, and the question – teased out too slowly at first, before gaining momentum and adding some peculiar twists – is how the deadly virus unleashed there has led to the ornate hell in which the adult Jade finds herself. Not that there’s much reason to sweat the details or worry too much about the longevity of anyone other than her.
“Resident Evil” has a proven following, but as assembled everything about the show feels generic, from the teen angst in that half of the story to the strange operative (Turlough Convery) on Jade’s tail and the hideous threats – seemingly cobbled together with used parts from other horror fare – that the virus has spawned.
Balinska is a solid enough lead taking into account the confining nature of the writing, as Milla Jovovich could probably attest after her half-dozen action-laden outings. Give the producers some credit for playing with the material, but this is one of those concepts that behaves as if the right to use the “Resident Evil” name was more than half the battle.
That might be true strictly for Netflix’s purposes in terms of connecting with fans. Nevertheless, like the pre-virus world that Jade mentions, this latest adaptation suggests that any aspirations beyond branding and commerce ended a long time ago too.
“Resident Evil” premieres July 14 on Netflix.