A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 378 – Resident Evil: Extinction

Resident Evil: Extinction – March 13th, 2011

Yesterday while we were at the panel/meetup/screening for Loading Ready Run I got a chance to talk to Movie Bob and ask him his thoughts on the Resident Evil movies. I don’t quite agree with his preferences for the second over the first, but watching the third tonight, his comments make sense. Because, see, he told me I’d be watching Fallout tonight. And he was right. He was so very right. Not that I didn’t enjoy it! It’s just that it seems to have veered off in an entirely different direction than the games, going post-apocalyptic. And thus it is far closer to the Fallout games than to the Resident Evil games. Not a bad thing, just not, you know, Resident Evil. Which is still in the title. So. Yeah.

As I said to Andy when the movie was over, it was fun but it definitely went a little off the rails. I like the post-apocalyptic setting and there’s a good mood here, with all the deserted towns and Las Vegas buried in sand. The conceit is that the T Virus has spread throughout the world, not just destroying human life but many of the planet’s ecosystems as well. Deserts are widespread and only small handfuls of humans survive, keeping on the move some years after the outbreak. Sadly, since this is set a few years after the last movie, we have to get all that in a voiceover from Alice at the beginning. It’s not too bad, but I wish there’d been a way to do it without the voiceover. But I guess that’s what happens when you decide to skip this far ahead in the timeline.

When we pick up in the movie, Alice is riding through the desert on her own, killing zombies, avoiding packs of homicidal survivors, being generally bad ass. Two of the other survivors from the previous movie are riding with a convoy of armored buses and trucks. And Dr. Isaacs, the villain from the first movie, is creating clone after clone of Alice and running her through bizarre recreations of the beginning of the first movie for no good reason that I could discern. Seriously, he talks about needing her blood to make a serum that will allow for the ‘domestication’ of the zombies, but there’s no real explanation for why he needs to get said blood after having the Alice clones don the little red dress and try to escape through a mocked up hospital full of traps. Investigating memory and communication between the Alices, I assume? Sure, but it’s never really mentioned outright.

Most of the movie involves two plotlines: The convoy’s attempts to find gas and a safe haven and Dr. Isaacs’ attempts to use the zombies for his own purposes, despite the surviving members of Umbrella being opposed to his plans and demanding somewhat different aims. And well, as this is ostensibly a zombie survival movie, you probably know how it’s all going to go. Convoy will find somewhere useful, stop there, encounter Dr. Isaacs’ experimental zombies, shooting and blood will ensue.

And that’s pretty much how it goes except for two fairly large issues: One, the convoy plot ends well before the big climactic battle in the depths of the Umbrella installation in the desert. Andy mentioned at the time that the rest of the movie seemed kind of pointless unless you were invested in Alice. And personally, I think that the movie expects you to be invested in her by now. She’s the only character still with us after three movies and she’s got some personal shit to take care of with Umbrella, like the experiments they did on her and conditioning they’ve implanted. The convoy was really just something for her to do for an hour between the sections that deal with her and Umbrella. They’re an excuse for action and the action is indeed fun stuff. But really, unless you’re super excited to hear the name Claire Redfield (who is from the games) the convoy is just bait. The other issue is one I know Andy mentioned and it’s Alice herself. I’m all for a kick ass woman in a central role. Unfortunately, in order to keep Alice alive through all of the crap the movies put her through and the worse and worse stuff Umbrella throws her way, she’s been buffed to the point of ridiculousness. Never once did I feel like she was actually in danger. Not in the beginning and certainly not after her psychic abilities are fully fledged.

It’s frustrating, really, seeing Alice so overpowered. I really like her as a character and I’d love to see more background for her. More actual character and depth. But instead I get psychic super powers that make everything a non-issue for her. Zombie dogs? Sure! Three-tongued super zombie? No problem! Add all of that to the distinctly non-Resident Evil setting (seriously, it is Fallout without the gangs – there are raiders, ghouls and supermutants!) and it’s really only Resident Evil by dint of its place in the timeline of its predecessors. It’s not that I disliked the movie or didn’t enjoy it. I liked it fine and I enjoyed watching it. It’s just that it has some flaws and one of them takes away from the tension a survival horror movie should have and the other takes away from the mood and tone that the source material has and the first two movies kept hold of. It’s veering sharply and I’m not sure where it’s going to go.

March 13, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | Leave a comment

Resident Evil: Extinction

March 13, 2011

Resident Evil: Extinction

As we watched tonight Amanda and I traded jokes about the pop culture influences that this movie seems to heavily rely on. I’m not sure that it was deliberately modeled on any of them (except for some references to Alice down the rabbit hole) but just about everything in this film felt comfortably familiar. “It’s The Hills Have Eyes. Oh, it’s Mad Max. No, wait, now it’s Fallout: New Vegas. Or Dune. Aha! It’s The Birds. No, no, now it’s Battlestar Galactica.” It has hints of The Prestige. It’s even got the climactic psychic battle from Dark City (in an abbreviated form.) It’s all of these things and more. What it isn’t, really, is a Resident Evil movie. Strange, that.

This movie does follow on the continuity introduced in the first two films. It clearly takes place in the same world and has some of the same characters. It does not, however, have much to do anymore with the Resident Evil games. (Although it does introduce a couple character names that will be familiar to those who have played the games.)

The action picks up five years after Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Umbrella Corp has failed to contain the outbreak of the T-Virus by nuking Raccoon City and in the years following that disaster practically the entire human race has been wiped out. Not just the humans, either. The virus has killed off all kinds of plant and animal life, leaving the planet a dusty and dying husk. What living humans remain survive by staying constantly on the move so the billions of roving zombies cannot find them. Alice is travelling on her own through the wasteland. A couple of her companions from the last movie, L.J. and Carlos, have joined a convoy of souped up vehicles that are wandering the Nevada desert in search of other survivors. This convoy is run by Claire Redfield (a name from the games, although her character has nothing whatsoever to do with Claire in the games.) Meanwhile yet another crazy scientist at Umbrella is obsessed with using Alice’s blood to create a more easily controlled race of super zombies. (He’s been using all the resources Albert Wesker (another familiar name from the games) can provide him with to clone her in search of whatever magic her mutated blood is capable of.

Eventually Alice ends up travelling with the convoy, which endangers everybody when Dr. Isaacs unleashes what appears to be a never-ending horde of super zombies on them in an attempt to capture her. This is where the movie begins to break down for me. I can accept the whole post-apocalyptic thing. It’s kind of cool to see the world after every attempt to hold back the zombie tide has failed. But there are a couple threads of the plot here that are not very well explained and feel only half thought out.

There’s an entire plot about some random scribblings that Alice came upon when searching a gas station that indicate there may be survivors in some isolated part of Alaska that no zombies have reached. The survivors in Claire’s convoy decide to go there (mostly because it’s just nice to have something to hope for) and eventually leave Alice behind to pursue this dream. This plot thread is just left dangling. Perhaps it’s resolved in the sequel (which we don’t own yet) but as it currently lies they just sort of disappear from the movie right before the climax. Which leaves the movie robbed of most of its motivation since it had been about Alice helping these people survive right up until then. Once they leave Alice has no clear motivation and the movie lacks a lot of tension. (I was hoping eagerly for a stinger after the closing credits that showed them arriving at a zombie-infested town in Alaska or something, but there’s nothing there but a quote from Alice’s climactic fight scene.

Then there’s the issue of Alice’s psychic powers. I complained yesterday that I thought Alice was becoming too powerful a badass and that it hurt the feel of the movies. She’s become super-human, which robs the movies of much of their suspense. In this movie things go even farther. She’s now a Jedi warrior capable of destroying flocks of evil crows with her mind, levitating stuff in her camp site, and shorting out a satellite overhead from the surface of the Earth. I’m just not sure where the film makers are intending to take things here. By the end of this movie she is, essentially, a more unstoppable force than the billions-strong zombie horde that has populated the entire Earth. I halfway expect the fourth movie to end with her ascending to godhood and leaving to create worlds of her own Jon Osterman style.

I’m not sure about this entire movie. It’s entertaining enough, even if I felt it was pretty derivative of other works. It has a lot of incomprehensible weirdness though. (Like, why is Dr. Isaacs “testing” his Alice clones by sending them through highlights of the previous two movies?) It’s clearly morphed from survival/horror to some kind of weird post apocalyptic sci-fi. I think I like the concept more than the execution though. It’s all getting too out there for me. I miss the straight forward zombie escape tale of the first movie. I miss Alice being an essentially human character. I’ll probably watch the fourth movie some day because I still like to watch Milla Jovovich doing what she does, but I’ve kind of stopped caring about the franchise. I feel burned out.

March 13, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment