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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

REVIEW - RESIDENT EVIL (2002)

Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius
Music by: Marco Beltrami, Marilyn Manson
Release date: March 15, 2002


It's pretty safe to say that video game movies are cursed. Despite the fact that there are oceans of franchises out there with unique cinematic potential, an above-average video game movie has still never seen the light of day (sorry nostalgics, but there is no way you can say with a straight face that the first Mortal Kombat movie is actually good). Resident Evil is a genre-creating legend in the world of video games, and its first live-action adaptation has spawned an absurd number of still-ongoing sequels and has gained something of a cult following. But in terms of its actual quality as a movie, how does it hold up?

A deadly virus has permeated a secret facility called "The Hive", transforming its staff into flesh-eating zombies. An elite military unite is sent in, and they meet the Alice (Milla Jovovich), who is suffering from amnesia due to exposure to nerve gas. The military and Alice embark on a mission to stop the virus from escaping its confinement and spreading across the entire world, but to do so they'll have to fight their way through hordes of zombies and stop the out-of-control supercomputer, The Red Queen.


Despite its theatrical release at the turn of the new millennia, Resident Evil is very much a product of the 90s. It's full of annoying ineffective jump scares, and it's loud and violent, attempting to pacify its adolescent target audience with an emphasis on the "cool" and "edgy". All while accompanied by an intrusive and sometimes out-of-place soundtrack partly composed by Marilyn Manson, and a nice angsty Slipknot song playing through the credits that ensures the nu-metallers have their fill.

When you look past the legions of flesh-eaters this isn't a zombie movie, but a more of what a heartless 90s remake of Aliens would look like. Except the title would supposedly be "Zombies". Or maybe not, because they never actually refer to them as such.

There's a scene featuring Alice fighting off a number of infected dogs, yet all you see is one or two quick flashes of the bullet hitting its target, and the rest is just made up of shots of her firing her gun at something that we can't see. Another scene - which is one of the very few entertaining parts of the movie - features a fairly creative character death, in which one of the military team is sliced into cubes by a laser net. Yet, for some reason, the bloodier moments appear out of focus. For an R-rated movie trying its hardest to appeal to the lowest common denominator, Resident Evil is surprisingly and unnecessarily shy when it comes to showing the gore. Certain scenes of zombie mayhem are also ripped practically shot-for-shot from Day of the Dead (1985), and the zombies themselves are never used effectively, making the whole thing feel mundane and uninspired.


Alice is our protagonist, but only because the movie says so. While Milla Jovovich isn't quite as bland as most of the cast and Michelle Rodriguez is still a cooler action star than most of her male peers, Alice doesn't do a lot other than walk around in little-to-no clothing and occasionally shoot things. I'm also 98 percent that certain her name is never uttered once throughout the entire movie, and even though she has amnesia, she's still apparently capable of remembering how to jump off a wall to kick a zombie dog in the face in slow motion. Amnesia should only be used as a plot device if we're actually going to discover more interesting things about the character as he or she does herself, but by the end of the movie, the payoff is nonexistent. She remembers a few things here and there due to pure coincidence, but you still don't really know her when all is said and done.

While Resident Evil does sport a fairly slick look with some polished-looking sets, I'm going to give that credit to the production design team rather than director Paul W.S. Anderson, who should quite honestly be in some other section of filmmaking, if at all. His chaotic direction is thoroughly flawed - offering nothing more than some passable action sequences - and his filmography is sizeable yet the best thing he's churned out is probably the Mortal Kombat movie - which is nothing more than cheesy, dumb fun (emphasis on "dumb" here) - and the rest consists of first-class duds such as Alien vs. Predator, and an abundance of terrible video game adaptations including this movie, its five sequels, and DOA: Dead or Alive. Nevertheless, quite a few of his movies have developed cult followings, so he must be doing something right... I suppose.


But Resident Evil is not one of them. I like to think of this movie and those of its ilk as necessary evils before video game adaptations actually prove that they can be something of worth, but nevertheless the characters are wooden, the plot is wafer-thin, the dialogue is awkward, it bares very little resemblance to its source material and it is irksomely self-assured. This is nothing more than mindless fodder for bloodthirsty teens, who would be better off playing the games if they want relentless zombie action. At least there you can do the shooting yourself.