The Resident Evil franchise revolves around the Umbrella Corporation. While seemingly benevolent, Umbrella produces “viral weaponry” that turns humans into flesh-hungry weapons of mass destruction. The evil corporation is a familiar zombie film convention, but the Umbrella Corporation recalls real-world institutions like Halliburton Company, as well as the multi-national media conglomerate that produces the Resident Evil film series (Sony Pictures Entertainment), significant connections given the role such corporations play within the Resident Evil films’ universe: they are the preconditions for narrative development.
In the first film, the film’s protagonist Alice tells an anti-Umbrella activist, “You have to guarantee me you’ll bring this corporation down.” This stated goal drives the entire series, but it’s one that neither she nor any of the characters seem capable of accomplishing, as the corporation is always one step ahead of the good guys and in a position to undo any progress made against them, insuring the story will continue (as the accompanying video, featuring the final moments of each film, demonstrates).
In Resident Evil, after escaping a zombie-infested laboratory, Umbrella captures Alice and experiments upon her, a sequence of events reproduced in the sequel. Even when she escapes, she remains under corporate control. In Resident Evil: Extinction, she defeats one part of Umbrella, but the larger corporation persists, requiring another film, Resident Evil: Afterlife for her to take them on again, where once more the corporation wins in the end. In the most recent film, though Umbrella seems to be destroyed, the final moments reveal that it persists, operating autonomously under control of a self-aware anti-human computer. The corporation persists and destroys Earth in the process.
The narrative’s dependence on Umbrella’s persistence mirrors the franchise’s dependence on the persistence of the real world corporations that ensure its expansion. The films thereby dramatize capitalist expansion, a process the Resident Evil franchise depends upon and emerges from, but denounces, identifying it as a destructive force.
The film’s narrative thus introduces a political problem, but one that it cannot solve. Alice never brings the corporation down, nor are the films ever going to bring down corporate capitalism. The films present protracted struggle, something closer to the reality of anti-corporate activism. It seems that the only way to accomplish Alice’s goal, to bring Umbrella down, and resolve the narrative is to bring down the corporation that produces Resident Evil itself.