Idiot's Guide to the 'Resident Evil' Movies

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Poor Alice. Will her epic war with the undead and the corrupt Umbrella Corporation ever end?

We kind of hope not, 'cause that would mean no more "Resident Evil" movies. Alice (Milla Jovovich) returns in the fifth(!) chapter, "Resident Evil: Retribution," in theaters this Friday. Her journey has been long, hard and more complicated than you might imagine; as such, we thought a refresher course of sorts was in order before you check out her latest battle against the victims — and creators — of that damn T-virus.

So, join us through the many levels — er, installments — of the movie series based on Capcom's iconic survival horror video games.

'Resident Evil' (2002)

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A bad day at the offices (or labs, rather) of The Hive, the top-secret underground genetic research headquarters of the über-conglomerate, the Umbrella Corporation, turns into Judgment Day for the rest of us as the deadly experimental T-virus is unleashed, turning the hapless employees into bloodthirsty zombies (and other monsters you may be familiar with from the games).

But who cares, really, when there's a naked woman unconscious in the shower? Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakens in an abandoned mansion with little to no memory of who she is. Unfortunately, she has little time to indulge in flash-frame flashbacks before she's suddenly recruited by a bunch of military types — including the ever-scowling Rain Ocampo (played by the ever-scowling Michelle Rodriguez) — assigned to descend into the Hive and find out why its artificial intelligence sealed off the facility.

Anyone who even vaguely knows what goes on in a "Resident Evil" video game knows how this mission is going to go. Before too long, the crack cadre of commandos are picked off one by one, either by the hordes of undead waiting for them in the Hive or by the many elaborate booby traps set by the Hive's adorable A.I. hologram, the Red Queen. "You're all going to die down here," she deadpans in a too-cute British accent.

Alice also manages to get a good chunk of her memory back and discovers that she was an ex-employee who masterminded an infiltration of the Hive by a resistance group looking to take down the Umbrella Corporation ... a conspiracy that inadvertently led to the T-virus being unleashed. It's not always wise to Fight the Power, kids.

Following an epic battle with a creature appropriately referred to as the Licker, everyone is pretty much dead and/or turned, except for Matt Addison (Eric Mabius), who is last seen being taken away by Umbrella scientists for something called "the Nemesis Program" (zoinks!). Alice, after being captured and "enhanced" by Umbrella, manages to make her way to the surface of Raccoon City ... only to find the once-thriving metropolis is now an apocalyptic wasteland filled with ravenous mutants, crumbling buildings and burning cars. As Alice, now armed with super-strength and super-agility, cocks her shotgun and Marilyn Manson's screeching score kicks in, she prepares to face — and fight — a Brave New World ...

'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' (2004)

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Fans of the "Resident Evil" video games were delighted to discover that "Apocalypse" featured one of their favorite characters, Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), a tough n' sexy Raccoon City police officer known for her rather, er, custom uniform consisting of a very short sleeveless blue dress (or something) and zombie-stompin' black boots.

It's a good thing about that last accessory, too, 'cause there are plenty of zombies that need stompin'. Jill joins up with a group of Umbrella soldiers led by Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) and some Special Tactics And Rescue Squad (STARS) units to try to keep the undead at bay whilst Racoon City is being evacuated. They're overrun by the beasties and look to make their last stand in a church (got to have some religious imagery in all this, after all), until Alice and her enhanced super-powers show up on a motorcycle and turn the tide.

The ragtag group of survivors, including wacky comic relief L.J. (Mike Epps), get in touch with Dr. Charles Ashford (Jared Harris), the Umbrella scientist who invented the T-virus as a way to reanimate dead cells (and allow his young daughter to walk again) ... and who also conjured an anti-virus when he saw that his invention had certain, heh heh, side effects. Ashford guarantees Alice and the gang evacuation out of Raccoon City in exchange for rescuing his daughter, Angela (Sophie Vavasseur).

Alice and the gang find Angela in an abandoned school and race for the extraction point, only to be confronted by Umbrella higher-up, Major Timothy Cain (Thomas Kretschmann). Cain shoots Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris, nooo!!) and forces Alice to do battle with Nemesis, a powerful creature dispatched to kill all remaining STARS operatives as Umbrella plans to "sanitize" Raccoon City with a nuclear weapon. Alice manages to connect with the man behind the monster (Matt Addison, if you remember) and get the thing to help her open a can of whup ass on the Umbrella forces.

Nemesis is destroyed (or is he? You never know in this series) as Alice, Jill, Carlos, L.J. and Angela escape in a helicopter — but not before throwing Major Cain to the undead masses below. The copter gets caught in the nuclear blast that destroys Raccoon City and crashes somewhere in the Arklay Mountains (you gamers know that area, right?). A badly burned Alice is retrieved by Umbrella forces, though there's no sign of her companions. A media broadcast reveals that Umbrella is responsible for releasing the T-virus and the subsequent destruction of Raccoon City, but the uber-conglomerate has already spun a story that blames the whole thing on a nuclear power plant explosion — and that Jill and Carlos are wanted for questioning.

Weeks later, Alice wakes up naked (again!), but this time in a water tank at an Umbrella research facility. Questioned by Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen), she appears to once again have no memory ... until she realizes that this Dr. Isaacs is the ominous figure that's haunted her visions and dreams since she first woke up back during the first act of the first "Resident Evil" movie. Alice uses her superhuman strength to fight her way out of the building, only to find herself surrounded by Umbrella soldiers on the front porch. It looks like the gig is up and poor Alice is destined to be an Umbrella lab rat the rest of her life ...

Just then, Jill, Carlos, Angela and L.J. pull up in a car, disguised as Umbrella employees and with fake documents that puts Alice into their custody. They drive away, seemingly scott free, until we see Dr. Isaacs ordering to let them go and initiating "Program Alice." In Alice's eye, we see a flashing Umbrella logo as we pull away from the car and all the way back into outer space, where an Umbrella satellite ominously orbits the Earth.

'Resident Evil: Extinction' (2007)

[caption id="attachment_146881" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Screen Gems"]Resident Evil: Extinction[/caption]

Alice and friends get the hell out of Dodge (Raccoon City, rather) and head for the desert in this third installment, directed by Russell Mulcahy (of the original "Highlander," mind you). If you ever wondered what Las Vegas looked like upon the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, well, here you go (and yes, in the film's showstopper moment, there are angry zombie birds).

We begin much like we began in the original "Resident Evil," with Alice waking up in a mansion. She takes on a series of video-game-like obstacles (imagine that!) before being killed by a bouncing mine; her body is then taken outside and dumped into a pit that contains the corpses of many othe clones of the original Alice. We see that the facility's entrance is designed to look like a shack, with the rest of it underground. We're in the middle of the desert — and outside a perimeter fence are hundreds of swarming infected.

Most of the rest of the world looks like this now. Five years after the initial release of the T-virus, the Earth might as well be a dead planet — or an undead one, rather.

The real Alice wanders the earth on a motorcycle ... hunted, despised ... dressed like she's in "Mad Max" and chronicling her various existential conundrums in a diary. She's since abandoned her pals who bailed her out at the end of "Apocalypse," knowing that Umbrella is tracking her via satellite and afraid she'll just bring harm to her loved ones. Meanwhile, Dr. Isaacs is trying to re-capture her, as she has the ability to bond with the T-virus and is therefore the key to a cure for the epidemic, but new Umbrella chairman (and fan favorite) Albert Wesker (Jason O'Mara) refuses to authorize the Alice-hunt and instead orders Isaacs to develop a cure via all the Alice clones.

Meanwhile (and speaking of fan favorites), Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) leads a group of survivors consisting of Carlos, L.J., K-Mart (Spencer Locke), Mikey (Christopher Egan), Chase (Linden Ashby) and Nurse Betty (Ashanti Douglas) as they travel cross-country in search of food and sanctuary. In a deserted town, L.J. is bitten but keeps it a secret and the group is attacked by infected crows (awesome), but Alice shows up and uses her telepathic powers to scorch the undead birdies with a blanket of fire (even more awesome). Alice tells Claire about a rumored "safe zone" in Alaska and they agree to hightail it to Sin City in search of supplies before embarking on such an epic road trip.

Back at the Umbrella lab, Dr. Isaacs' attempts at domesticating the zombies has created a new strain of "Super-Zombie." Obsessed with finding Alice, he disobeys Wesker's orders and unleashes his new horde on the convoy. Chase and Mikey are killed and Carlos is infected by L.J. as he turns. Alice turns the tide and Dr. Isaacs becomes infected as he flees in helicopter, which Alice and K-Mart track right to Umbrella's underground headquarters.

The convoy arrives at the Umbrella HQ, where Carlos sacrifices himself by driving the truck into the infected mob, giving Alice and Claire time to load survivors into the helicopter. Alice stays behind and confronts Isaacs, who has mutated into a Tyrant monster (ooo! Those are tough) after injecting himself with massive doses of Anti-Virus. Alice defeats Isaacs with the help of one of her clones and is told by the facility's artificial intelligence, the White Queen, that the lab is at her disposal for developing a cure for the T-virus.

Wesker has since fled to Japan, though he receives a hologram from Alice stating that she — surrounded by hundreds of pods containing her clones — is coming for him ...

'Resident Evil: Afterlife' (2010)

[caption id="attachment_146882" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Screen Gems"]Resident Evil: Afterlife[/caption]

Evil has three dimensions as original "Resident Evil" director Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the director's chair for this fourth installment in the franchise.

We begin pretty much right where we left off in "Extinction," with Alice and her clones attacking Albert Wesker (now played by Shawn Roberts) at his Tokyo lair. Wesker manages to escape and destroy the base, killing all of the Alice clones, with the real Alice and Wesker facing off on his private aircraft. Wesker manages to use a serum to remove all of Alice's super-Alice powers and the plane crashes; Alice parachutes to safety and Wesker ... well, we know we haven't seen the last of him.

Six months later, Alice is back in North America, en route to a supposed safe haven in Alaska known as Arcadia. She stumbles upon her old pal Claire Redfield, who's being mind-controlled via an Umbrella device. Alice destroys the device and travels with the amnesiac Claire to Los Angeles, where they meet up with a group of survivors — Luther West (Boris Kodjoe), Wendell (Fulvio Cecere), Crystal Waters (Kacey Barnfield), Bennett (Kim Coates), Kim Yong (Norman Yeung), Angel Ortiz (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) — that are holing up in an old prison surrounded by the undead.

Alice discovers that Arcadia isn't one set place but rather a location on the move — it's the name of a giant cargo tanker. Chris (who, as fans know, is Claire's brother) reveals that the prison has an armored car they can use to get to the ship, though their escape is made a bit more challenging by the sudden appearance of a giant axe-wielding creature that begins tearing down the prison gate. Alice, Chris and Claire manage to escape, with the cowardly Bennett abandoning his companions and taking off in Alice's airplane.

After defeating the Axeman, Alice and the Redfield siblings travel to Arcadia and find it abandoned. Claire suddenly regains her memory and reveals that the ship is actually an Umbrella trap designed to lure survivors to be used in further experiments with the T-virus. The trio begin releasing survivors, including the long-lost K-Mart, and Alice confronts Wesker, now mutated by the T-virus and possessing an insatiable hunger and superhuman abilities. Alice, Claire and Chris battle Wesker and his minion, Bennett, which leads to Bennett being devoured by Wesker and the defeated mutant escaping in an aircraft. The plane blows up, courtesy of a bomb planted in it by Alice, though a parachute is seen shortly afterwards ... that Wesker is a wily one, after all.

Miraculously, the group is rejoined by Luther, who managed to survive the attack on the prison. The survivors set to make Arcadia a true safe haven for others seeking sanctuary — and are last seen looking to the horizon as a squad of Umbrella attack copters approach ... led by none other than Jill Valentine, seemingly under the same mind control as Claire had been earlier.

The story continues in "Resident Evil: Retribution," in theaters Sept. 14.