Spotlight on Resident Evil

6

Now there’s zombies more than ever, all thanks to my Umbrella-ella-ella hey hey hey…

A fantastic gaming series, a homage to George A. Romero so popular that “the godfather of ghouls” himself once directed an advert for an instalment in the gaming franchise and just a great mix of creepiness and action moments utilising everything from the standard zombies to giant bugs to genetically mutating uber-zombies, Resident Evil is known to many people even if they’re not that interested in the horror genre or computer games. With the fourth instalment looking to take things a step further with the new 3D technology, I decided it was time for an overview of the movies so far.

Resident Evil was written and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson and while it may not be anywhere near the best movie ever (or even the best ZOMBIE movie ever) it IS a very good video game adaptation for fans of the popular Resident Evil franchise. After a great opening sequence, showing the contamination and close-down of the Umbrella Corporation’s secret installation known as The Hive, we get to meet Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) as she wakes from a gas-induced slumber. It’s not long before we meet the other characters, including a military unit sent in to find out what happened. Then it’s straight into The Hive we go to fix the situation, deal with a homicidal computer, find out what exactly Umbrella has been up to, discover hidden agendas and to realise that being dead isn’t quite the handicap it used to be.
If you’re not a fan of this franchise then you’ll probably find little to appeal to you here. It’s not a bad zombie movie but there are many, better efforts out there so it helps to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the little touches that have been carried over from the games themselves.
Jovovich is very good as Alice, looking good and displaying great survival skills when called upon. Everyone else . . . . . well, you just know that they’re disposable and the shallow characterisations remind you that this IS a video game adaptation. The only other memorable character is, unfortunately, played by Michelle Rodriguez (and I am still baffled to this day by the fact that she even has a career).
While script and characterisation are lacking, we get some compensation from individual moments. Killer zombie dogs are always menacing, a laser-grid security system provides one memorable moment and there are some decent zombie scenes dotted here and there. There are also a number of fun references to “Alice In Wonderland” which the more observant viewer may try to spot.
Not a great movie but one of the better video game adaptations of recent years. Which may be damning it with faint praise but there you go. I gave it a solid 7/10.

Then came Resident Evil: Apocalypse and all I can say is “Ouch”. Following on almost directly from the first movie (and written once again by Paul W. S. Anderson although directed this time around by Alexander Witt, a first-timer and it definitely shows), we now get to see the zombie epidemic affecting the infamous Raccoon City on a massive scale and we also get to see exactly how the “Nemesis” project turns out. Throw in a few more memorable characters than last time and it should be a blast. That’s not how it turns out though.
Jovovich is back and still does a great job as the heroine, Alice. Sienna Guillory adds to the eye-candy and kicks ass as Jill Valentine, a much-loved character from the video game series. Oded Fehr is very likable as Carlos, another character from the series, and Mike Epps is fun as L.J. (though he may grate on some viewers). Then we have a far more overshadowing presence from the Umbrella Corporation and it’s shady scientists.
Packed full of even more familiar nods and references to the video game series, this could have been the best game adaptation ever. Instead, it’s a headache-inducing mess. So what went so horribly wrong? In short, it’s all the poor editing. And by poor I mean extremely hyperactive. Imagine watching the car chase from The Rock on a loop for 90 minutes. This movie barely has one moment that lasts five seconds and most shots are about half that length at most, it really is painful to watch in places. Which is a shame because some of the twists and plot developments (carrying on from the first movie) are pretty good. It’s obvious that the writer has more care for the material than the director does but I guess that’s the sad truth on many occasions. I gave it a generous 4/10.

Resident Evil: Extinction was the third movie in a series that may surprise a lot of people by not only being very good in a pure popcorn pleasure way but by also being, arguably, the best of the bunch.
There are less nods to the franchise here, beyond the basic overall story arch and a few characters (Ali Larter appears as Claire Redfield while Oded Fehr and Mike Epps return alongside, obviously, Milla Jovovich), but there are new revelations and twists that tie up the whole series and point the way towards a very satisfying conclusion.
After an intriguing opening sequence we are briefed on the situation as it is now: the infection could not be contained and has subsequently ravaged the world and it’s populace. People struggle to survive in arid conditions while the zombies thrive. Some of the survivors include a convoy “led” by Claire Redfield and you just know that it’s only a matter of time until they meet up with Alice. Added into the mix this time around are even more “mad scientist” moments, savage people trying to trick innocent victims and some genetically-altered “super-zombies” who move quicker, possess greater strength and are even supposed to have a bit more intelligence. Luckily, Alice has some more tricks up her sleeve too thanks to the scientists who made the mistake of letting her slip through their fingers.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy, this is a vast improvement over the previous movie in the series and almost makes for a great standalone entry into the apocalyptic horror subgenre. The acting is a notch above the previous entries, the effects work consistently impresses and the story actually comes together in a way that, while not brain-bustingly ingenious, certainly provides a little bit more food for thought than some “popcorn” flicks.
A great movie in it’s own right and a decent film for the fans of both the games and the previous instalments. It receives a deserved 8/10.

Resident Evil: Degeneration is a separate entity from the live-action Resident Evil trilogy of movies but it looks like this film will appeal to the gamer fans more than anyone else.
The plot is . . . . . . well, it’s familiar to all who have played the game series from part one to it’s latest incarnation. A big chemical (bio-chemical?) corporation gets it’s hands on the latest virus and thinks it can handle the power of it. It can’t so it’s left to others (Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy, two characters well-known to fans of the games . . . . yes, Claire Redfield was in the third live-action movie but this is the pixelated Claire and so gets to have much more baggage thanks to her participation in the game storylines) to clean up the mess.
You know when you play a video game and it has those fantastic storyline moments in between the gameplay nowadays? Well, this movie seems to be made up solely of those moments. I kept wanting to pick up a joypad and start shooting some zombies. Maybe that was the whole point but it makes for an end result that’s ultimately disappointing.
A few moments (a spectacular airplane crash springs to mind) end up changing the landscape and leaving the environment looking just like the starting point for an exciting game level.
Director Makoto Kamiya seems to do good enough for Resident Evil fans (judging by the love I have seen this film receive) but he certainly has a long way to go before he can do enough for movie lovers. Only 5/10, I’m afraid.

Perhaps the fourth live-action movie will surprise us all by pleasing everyone and providing some genuinely impressive visuals or perhaps, as I worry may happen, it may turn a decent trilogy into a below-average tetralogy. Only time will tell.

Game over?

Like the review? Want the films? Buy the Resident Evil 1-3 boxset here

And Get Resident Evil – Degeneration Here

6 Comments
  1. Tue Sorensen says

    🙂 I haven’t seen Degeneration, but I agree with you about the first two movies. The third, however, I absolutely hated. Gave it 2 out of 10. So the first is still the only really enjoyable one for me.

  2. Kevin Matthews says

    I am surprised by that although the first one was more of a survival action flick so maybe that’s why (?). See Degeneration if you absolutely love the games but it’s not a great movie.

  3. Justin Smith says

    This series of films has managed to slip past me, but a couple of my friends have been on me about seeing them. I’ve played the first game a few times, that counts for something, right?

  4. Kevin Matthews says

    I used to love the games. If you enjoyed them while playing them then I’d say that you’ll certainly get a kick out of the many little touches scattered throughout the films.

  5. Robin Yacoubian says

    I’ve only seen the first two movies myself… I’ll have to check out the third… but I think I’ll skip Degeneration!

  6. Kevin Matthews says

    I once sat there while watching the second movie and properly counted the time in seconds between cuts/edits and my comment about it being no more than 5 seconds is painfully accurate (even generous for most of the duration).

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