A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 376 – Resident Evil (2002)

Resident Evil (2002) – March 11th, 2011

This morning we went to the keynote speech for the convention we’re attending. In it, Jane McGonigle said many interesting things about how video games can enrich our lives and make us better people. And in large part I agree with her. It’s hard to deny some of the results of the studies she cited and effects I’ve personally experienced. However. There was one point she made that I must disagree with, at least in part. According to her, studies have shown that gamers have more lucid dreaming episodes (no argument there) and in general have fewer nightmares than non-gamers. Now, in general? Fine. But when she said that horror games don’t actually give us nightmares? Bullshit. Because Resident Evil 4 (the game) gave me horrific nightmares beyond compare. The only nightmares I have ever had that come remotely close are snake dreams, and I think my review of Snakes on a Plane made it abundantly clear how I cope, or don’t cope, with snakes.

Perhaps the nightmares from a zombie game are part of the reason I shy away from zombie movies as a genre. The constant feeling of being hunted, the tension, the suspense, when you know there’s something coming and it’s close and it’s going to pop out from behind you or in front of you or above you and oh my god where is it and when is it going to happen? That lingers with me and invades my subconscious until I am a quivering mess of nerves. So! With that in mind, I was a little wary of this weekend’s trilogy. I know the Resident Evil games. I know the universe has that mood to it that gets to me. The chainsaw in the distance from RE4 will remain with me for years, I’m sure. And so I figured if the movie managed to capture the tone of the games, I was in trouble. And, well. I might be in trouble because I was pleasantly surprised with how well the movie emulated the games, bringing a feel of the world without feeling like an extended cut scene. Of course, it helps that the movie is live action. It always feels more like a cut scene when the movie’s animation is only a step or two above (or equal to) that of the game’s scenes.

Really, though, I was impressed with the tone and while I might end up having some unpleasant dreams tonight, it’s not a sure thing because this movie managed something I hadn’t really considered possible. It balanced the tension and horror well enough that it wasn’t overwhelming. When you play a game like that, part of the experience is the tension and suspense. That’s the point. Tense running around followed by brutal action scenes. But a movie isn’t a game and a game isn’t a movie and they shouldn’t be the same experience. As movie watchers we’re stuck in a far more passive role than game players are, so we have no control over who in the party lives or dies or gets munched on by zombies. And this movie handles it all quite well. If you know the games, you can see their influence on the visuals in this movie, from the creature design to the costumes to the sets. This is no passing nod to the games. It’s the world of the games made real and I really appreciate that. Add that to the balanced horror and action elements and I’m impressed.

The story involves what all Resident Evil stories involve: An outbreak of the zombie-causing T Virus and the covering up of said outbreak by the Umbrella Corporation, which created it. In this movie, the outbreak happened inside an underground facility run by Umbrella, which caused the facility to be locked down completely. Everyone in the facility dies and then we meet our main character, Alice, who’s suffering from some mild memory loss due to a security measure that released some nerve gas into her house. Alice and her not-husband are two Umbrella agents placed in a mansion that is the entrance to the underground facility. When the facility is locked down and commandos sent to get in and find out why Alice and her not-husband go with them, along with a cop who’s just sort of shown up. Obviously things in the facility are Not Good and half the team gets killed in fairly short order. Such is the way of things.

Over the course there are all sorts of secrets about the virus and how it got loose and why the computer went into lockdown and killed everyone and what else Umbrella’s been doing down there. That’s part and parcel of the world it’s set in. But I liked how this particular movie set it all up. Oh, it’s nothing shocking or unexpected, but it’s fun and it feels appropriate to the world. The zombie reveal is one of the most obvious I’ve ever seen, but then, why bother to have a shocking reveal? It’s not like we don’t know what’s going to happen sooner or later? How many people actually saw this who didn’t know what Resident Evil was? And I liked Alice. Of course, I love Milla Jovovich and I love seeing her play a character who gets to kick a lot of ass. She’s good at these characters and I think she’s fantastic. The rest of the cast was fine, though I will give some props to Michelle Rodriguez, who plays one of the commandos, Rain Ocampo. The guys? Well, most of them are sadly difficult to tell apart. They’re all decent enough actors with short brown hair and strong facial structure. It’s the women who really shine here, getting some of the best lines and moments of action and stubborn will.

The only things I wasn’t too fond of in the movie were the corporate espionage plot, which could have been good but wasn’t given enough time, and the sort of second stage zombie creature. Now, these abomination things are nasty as all get out and they’re dangerous and have tongues they can use like whips. But they are the Chekhov’s Gun of this movie. Alice sees them in their cages and you know damn well at least one’s going to get loose and cause some fuss. And I guess while they are foreshadowed and all, they just felt tacked on to me. Like they could have been incorporated in a much more organic fashion. But honestly, those are my biggest critiques. And for a zombie movie, reviewed by me, that’s a big deal. Now I just have to hope I can get a good night’s sleep after watching it.

March 11, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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