The Resident Evil movies were good fun, but from the beginning, the dramatically veered away from the source material. After six installments, Paul W. S. Anderson's film series has come to a close, leaving room for new cinematic ventures based on the property. One of the new endeavors is a Netflix series which will forge its own path, disregarding any of the lore of the Anderson movies.
Since Netflix is making its series entirely from scratch, it has the chance to produce something that rectifies a lot of the issues fans of the video game series had with the Anderson films. The sky is the limit with Resident Evil. Not only is there a ton of lore to draw from, but there's a lot of space in the RE universe to explore that hasn't been covered in the franchise's canon. Details are sparse on just what the Netflix Resident Evil series' plot will be, but we've put together what we think Netflix needs to do to make the new show a winner.
It should be canon
There are few franchises as ripe for multimedia as Resident Evil. However, to date, outside of the games, CGI movies, and a few books, there's very little that expands the series lore. The Netflix series needs to be grounded in what the games set forth and draw on that material with the idea of expanding it instead of exploiting it.
So many aspects of the RE canon are left unexplained, and it would be amazing to see some things explained on film. The inner workings of Umbrella, for example, are only touched upon in the games, as are the events during the three months between Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2.
The Netflix series should be developed with the idea that the Resident Evil canon would enrich the show by allowing it to draw on the beloved lore of the games, and in turn, the show could help give backstory and details that would make the games even more enjoyable to play. It would be a win-win situation and a boon to the franchise.
It needs to channel survival horror
One of the biggest reasons the Anderson films were so hard to take seriously was the fact that they weren't even close to being a possibility in the established Resident Evil universe. The thing that makes Resident Evil so tense is that it puts real-life people in horrific, deadly situations.
In the classic quadrilogy (Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, and Code Veronica) in particular, you play as an average person who is forced to survive terrifying monsters and creepy locales, and it really puts you in the moment as these player characters are so easy to relate to.
The Anderson movies were over-the-top action fests that had no horror elements to speak of. It doesn't really matter if zombies are around if you can just have Alice bicycle kick everything within a square mile to death.
The Netflix series needs to make any action onscreen pointed and concise. When you fire a gun in the games, you have to remain aware of the limited ammo you get and make each shot count. The same principle should stand in the new show.
It needs to avoid the main characters from the games as much as possible
I love Chris, Jill, Claire, Leon, Sherry, Ada, Wesker, and everyone else to death. I grew up with these characters, and they're among the most iconic in video game history. That's why the Netflix Resident Evil series needs to avoid them like the plague.
All the main characters from the various entries in the Resident Evil series have had a lot of screen time, and we know their personalities and histories pretty well. Another big mistake the Anderson movies made was introducing characters lightly based on ones from the game with entirely different backstories.
Where the Netflix series might do itself a service is by drawing from supporting characters from the games. There's a slew of people whose stories we only saw pieces of in the games that would be great to write a show around. The RPD before the Raccoon City outbreak, for example, has fantastic characters like Marvin Branaugh (the real hero of Raccoon City), Rita Phillips, Kevin Dooley, and creepy Chief Irons.
Showcasing supporting or new periphery characters would be a great way to expand the franchise's lore without contradicting already established events. It also gives the showmakers a chance to do their own thing while remaining faithful to the source material.
It needs to be set before the Raccoon City outbreak
Every game in the Resident Evil series, besides the original and Resident Evil 0, were set during or after the t-Virus outbreak that destroyed Raccoon City. Post-Raccoon City has been covered very heavily by the games and CGI movies, so Netflix should take the opportunity to explore what happened beforehand.
Many files in Resident Evil 0, 1, 2, and 3 hint at how Umbrella operated, the corruption of the Raccoon City local government, and the twisted things happening behind closed doors. The Netflix series could get a few seasons out of just exploring these concepts in depth.
Imagine a True Detective-like show where two RPD detectives are trying to solve the mystery behind a string of murders in the Arklay Forest bordering the outskirts of Raccoon City and having to deal with not only the dangers lurking in the dark woods but also the risks from their own co-workers who are on Umbrella's payroll.
It shouldn't shy away from gore and violence
Umbrella is full of psychopaths and monstrous human beings. The Netflix Resident Evil series shouldn't side-step showing that carnage on screen. The process behind creating the creatures seen in the games are macabre to the extreme, and Umbrella regularly conducted violent human experimentation, often leading to a subject's injury or death. Those that lived were often changed into mindless, twisted monsters with no agency or desire other than to eat or kill.
The Resident Evil games put the monsters center stage, the mutated William Birkin, the Tyrants, and the zombies are just as integral a part of the experience as the protagonists are. The series needs to establish itself from the start as a mature show for mature viewers, and it needs to tap into the hideous (yet fascinating) enemy design that the games are known for.
That being said, as stated above, the show should also know when to show restraint. The horror in Resident Evil games is just as much about the anticipation of monsters appearing as it is about actually having them show up. Nuance is critical here, and though the show shouldn't shy away from gore and violence, it should use it in meaningful and impactful ways.