A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Resident Evil

March 11 2011

Resident Evil

A year ago, when we were attending PAX East for the first time, Amanda and I had just started our daily movie project. It was the first real test to see if we could stick to the rigorous schedule of reviewing a movie every single day even when we had a lot of other things to do. We reviewed Stand By Me (because Wil Wheaton was the keynote speaker) and a couple video game inspired CG messes. We also laid plans back then to make this year’s PAX bigger and better in every way. This included taking more time off surrounding the convention (to allow us to prepare and decompress) getting a hotel room in the hotel connected directly to the convention center (so we could play games in the loby with other gamers after the convention hall closed) and buying the Resident Evil trilogy so we’d have video game based movies to watch. (If our project reaches into a third year I am very much affraid we may have to watch some Uwe Boll movies. Although that probably won’t happen because Amanda would never, NEVER let me pay money for a copy of Silent Hill.)

Anyhow – tonight’s movie is the first of several Resident Evil movies starring Milla Jovovich and written and directed by her husband Paul W.S. Anderson. None of which I had seen before we put this in tonight. I have to say, and this is as somebody who has played all the way through several of the early games in the series when they were re-released on the Gamecube, I was pleasantly surprised how well this movie fits with the game universe.

The Resident Evil games are the great grand daddies of the “survival horror” genre of video games. They’re also famous for putting eye candy and atmosphere before gameplay. In the first two seminal games in the series Capcom used a nifty trick which took advantage of the much higher storage capacity of CD games on the Playstation to create detailed pre-rendered backgrounds for the heroes and zombies to play on. The actual characters were simple polygon models created in real time but the backgrounds were mostly static with maybe a touch of animation here and there to give them life. The result was that all the processing power of the Playstation could be concentrated on making the player and zombies look as good as possible because the setting they appeared in was already pre-generated. In short they were the best looking games on the console. Of course the controls were awkward (Jill Valentine and company lumbered about like tanks with left and right on the controller making them rotate laboriously in place and forward and back making them stagger in a straight line) but part of the appeal was that you were in constant danger of being overtaken by shambling zombies who could barely walk – the games were more about creating a mood and looking cool than about being playable.

Which brings me (finally) to tonight’s movie. It’s all about setting a mood and looking cool. It doesn’t necessarily have much in the plot department, but it’s sure fun to watch. It even keeps several recognisable and iconic locales from the first two games. The movie starts out in a mysterious lab run by the terrifying Umbrella Corporation which is behind every sinister in all of the games. It features the mansion that is the setting for the first Resident Evil game and it ends in the burnt out husk of Raccoon City which is the setting for the second game. (I don’t think it’s a spoiler of any sort to say this since the opening crawl which introduces the world to moviegoers who might be unfamiliar with the games talks about the upcoming Raccoon City disaster.)

The movie doesn’t concern itself with being slavishly faithful to the games though. It pays homage to them but it is very much its own beast. For one thing the characters here are completely new. No Chris or Claire or Jill. The plot revolves around the original outbreak of the T-Virus which allows for the re-animation and mutation of organic matter. When mysterious terrorists bent on bringing down the Umbrella Corporation infiltrate a top secret and somewhat shady lab that’s doing work on military applications of zombies (seriously) the A.I. that runs the facility goes into lockdown and kills everybody on site. Well everybody except two agents living under the guise of a married couple in a mansion that sits atop one of the entrances to the vast underground complex. They were simply knocked out by a nerve toxin that erased their memories. One of these is our hero Alice, who wakes up with no memory in the mansion just before it is invaded by a swat team that has been sent by Umbrella to figure out what went wrong at the facility. The other is some guy named Chad, who Alice and the mercs find in the train that runs between the mansion and the facility. There’s also an interloper named Matt who is also in the mansion for some reason.

Of course all of them traipse directly into the top secret high-tech lab and attempt to shut down the supposedly haywire computer to figure out just what has gone so catastrophically wrong. And they proceed to die. At first it’s a kind of 2001 situation with them attempting to deal with the computer which is simply trying to kill anybody that interferes with its programming. Then of course they have to deal with hordes of zombies when all the deceased employees in the lab get up and start trying to eat them. (Apparently none of the mercenaries have ever seen a zombie movie in their lives because when the dead people start shambling after them they spend a ridiculous amount of ammo shooting the zombies in the torsos. There should be something in a military training handbook somewhere that clearly states that if your deceased opponent gets up and continues to walk towards you the best course of cation is to SHOOT IT IN THE HEAD!)

This movie is formulaic and predictable. The characters are stock types clearly recognisable from any number of other movies. And yet it is still entertaining and enjoyable, and I it’s all thanks to Milla Jovovich. As Alice begins to regain her lost memory she discovers that she used to be some kind of crack commando badass, and when things start to go bad she takes charge and sets out to get the survivors out alive. It’s a kick ass role and Milla fulfills it perfectly. I wouldn’t say that this movie is really survival/horror like the games it is based on. It has all those aspects, but it’s really much more sci-fi action with zombies in it. (Pretty amusingly stupid zombies for the most part too. One plot point involves them being unable to climb up a few feet to some pipes overhead that our heroes have escaped to – the zombies just stumble along beneath them reaching up hopefully for their lunch to fall down into their waiting arms.) And you know what? I don’t mind that it’s not horror. I love a kick ass female lead shooting and kicking her way through hordes of the undead. I’d watch that any day of the week. Indeed I’m pretty sure we’ll be watching exactly that again tomorrow morning before going back to the con. I’m looking forward to it.

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

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