Halloween Endurance Test: Resident Evil (2002)

What a mess.

[DISCLAIMER: Okay, before I launch into what this film’s, Resident Evil’s, deemarits are, I should first start this off with a big thank you. So thanks are in order to my cousin Matt, who, after finding out I was embarking on a month-long horror movie marathon way back in 2007, loaned me a copy of the movie in question. I love franchises, especially those that begin as train wrecks that never correct themselves.]

This movie could have been so good. Resident Evil, the game, was one of the first big blockbusters for the Playstation. By single-handedly creating the “survival horror” genre of videogames, and also breathing another breath of life into zombie-dom’s stale corpse.

(The game came out in ’96, back when horror movies in general, and zombie flicks in particular, weren’t very popular. The big franchises of the ’80’s Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street had played out their runs, and horror films had fallen victim to “psychological thrillers.”)

Resident Evil helped change all that. Coming out years before Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later-led zombie resurgence, it helped revitalize the sub-genre. So much so that George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead), i.e. the man responsible for the 1st zombie resurgence, signed on to do make a commercial for the Japanese version of the game, Biohazard.

This was huge news back in the day. The world’s biggest zombie director agreeing to stop making shlock-y Creepshow filler and going back to his roots? This commercial, while never aired in the US, would feed the Fangoria rumor mill for years.

Encouraged by the response, both popular and critical, Romero went on to revive his own franchise with Land of the Dead. Years after that, Sony Pictures finally found a story, and director, for the property that should have led the charge.

What we ended up with, after all that time, was a kick in the balls courtesy of director Paul W.S. Anderson. Who made a zombie film practically without zombies! How does that work, you wonder? It doesn’t. Why would anyone do such a thing?

Anderson has gone on record, on the commentary track, to explain how, since everyone already knew Resident Evil was based around zombies, he would hold off on showing any for the first 40 minutes of the film. To build anticipation for the thing the audience had already been waiting a decade for.

Seriously. Rather than give us the Raccoon City from the game, overrun by the undead, instead we get a paramilitary group investigating a futuristic compound that could’ve been recycled from Leprechaun 4.

True to its video game origins, none of the film’s characters have any depth. The two you feel any connection to are Alice (Milla Jovovich) and Rain (Michelle Rodrigeuz), and this sympathy is derived primarily from name recognition.

Everyone loves Michelle Rodriguez because she has charisma. Unfortunately she’s created quite a reputation for herself with her off the set antics, so that there’s no way anyone would center a franchise around her.

That task falls upon Milla, who plays the same character here as she did in the Fifth Element; the same role that made her famous. She’s a (eventually) genetically enhanced super-soldier/saboteur/spy with amnesia, who wanders around frail yet invincible. Her only bit of originality stems from the fact that she plays both the heroine and the sex symbol. Where most films will bring in a no-name blonde to act as eye-candy, here Milla strips down a few times.

Apologists will note that Paul Anderson has also gone on record stating how he meant for this film to be the game’s prequel. Which explains all the lack of zombie-ness. Which would be great if half the fun of zombie films wasn’t watching the characters frantically try to piece together the backstory as they fight for their lives.

Plus, when your film is based off a popular game franchise, everyone already knows the backstory.

—More Resident Evil(s)—

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Resident Evil: Extinction

Advertisements

Is ShenaniTims full of shit? Tell him now!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: