Video-Game Movie Month: Resident Evil (2002) Review

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On release Resident Evil: the videogame, went on to become one of the most popular, biggest selling horror games of all time. A movie of that game, using that setting, plot and characters would seem like a no-brainer. Which is why Resident Evil the movie is so infuriating, as it has a B-movie feel, a bizarre mix of characters and a tone which shifts so much that it isn’t clear what kind of film this wants to be.

It is a shame too because it starts so strongly. The opening is slow-burn horror sequence where a laboratory turns on it’s scientists. Flooded chambers, lift-executions and gassings are all used to dispatch the workers, with little warning or explanation. The sequences after, where a team of generic marine-style soldiers then try to shut down the rogue AI is also compelling.

 

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The movie takes an interesting opening direction

 

This could have been the film itself – man vs machine. The defences on the AI are clever, with one sequence involving lasers and a corridor particularly gory and horrifying. Even the idea of the AI being fronted by the hologram of a little girl is enough to give anyone the creeps. It didn’t seem very Resident Evil but it worked.

Ironically, the problems begin when the movie starts to draw from the source material. Resident Evil was a game about zombies in a mansion but here we get zombies in a hi-tech laboratory. This is fine but it doesn’t go anywhere. The zombies are the typical slow-walking, groaning, brain-hungry types and the “heroes” are left to run from one generic room to another. Each and every zombie stereotype that has gone before is used here, from the survivor who is bitten early to the “dead but not dead” eyes opening moment. So far, so dull.

 

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It soon becomes a dull zombie movie

 

The saving grace could have been using the characters that became to famous from the videogame but this is missing too. The characters here are all very generic and forgettable, with the exception of Milla Jovovich as Alice. She begins with an air of mystery and fear but ends becoming a “kick-ass” hero with little to no explanation. The film rushes character development or decides to do without it completely.

In fact, the whole story is worked this way. Rather than drawing on the mystery and conspiracy that is the focus of the Resident Evil games, this movie decides to go with a half-baked idea of bringing down the Umbrella Corporation (an actual aspect of the game that survived), by releasing the T-Virus that causes zombies. So far, so forgettable.

 

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The film lacks any proper character development

 

Even attempts to use key aspects of the videogame don’t work. One key monster from the early games is the creature lovably known as The Licker. It is present here and becomes a credible threat but this time CGI lets the movie down. The budget didn’t stretch to a decent looking monster and Resident Evil can’t seem to get away from it’s B-movie stylings.

Overall, Resident Evil should have been a no-brainer home-run. The game it is based on is full of key moments, a decent story and developed characters that could have created at least a half-decent movie to develop a franchise from. Instead we get an under-developed, forgettable and generic zombie movie that lacks any proper links to the game that inspired it. A missed opportunity.

Rating – 2.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

 

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A missed opportunity

 

 

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