Oct 15, 2010

[Movies] Resident Evil (2002)

Resident Evil (2002)Another video game translation, another day. You'd think that I would have gotten tired of these kind of movie a long time ago, but then we geeks are to video game movies like moths to a flame or something. It's a love-hurt relationship with a heck of a lot of hurt but then I suppose we like walking into glass sliding doors in this manner. Or something like that.

But hindsight has the benefit of being 20/20 (which totally beats my near-sighted eyes), especially with movie franchises. I recently got the chance to watch Resident Evil: Afterlife - the latest segment in this particular movie franchise, and that got me wanting to revisit the rest of the movies. And it's not because Afterlife was such an amazing movie. Instead it had me wondering how things had gotten to this point and when did the movie become so, well, I dunno. It's hard to describe how that movie ended up at that point.

Maybe some of the movies in the past that we thought were horrible at the time weren't quite as bad as we thought. We were just seeing them in the wrong light - or the wrong context. The joys of comparative perspective.

Resident Evil is the 2002 adaptation of the video game of the same name directed by
Paul W.S. Anderson. And when you have Anderson at the helm, then you know Jovovich can't be too far behind.

Red Queen and White QueenImage via WikipediaThe movie starts in The Hive, a top-secret research facility underneath the Racoon City. A vial is broken and the deadly T-Virus manages to get into the ventilation system, thus triggering the Red Queen, the artificial intelligence that runs the facility, to lock things down and kill all the employees inside. Some time after, Alice (Millia Jovovich) wakes up in an empty mansion with no idea of where she is or what has happened. She eventually encounters Matt (Eric Mabius) and both of them are seized by a group of commandos who storm the mansion.

It's revealed that the Mansion is built over a secret passage leading to The Hive and the team has been sent to investigate the Red Queen's unusual behavior and neutralize her as a threat if needed. This leads them to the underground train station where they encounter Spence (James Purefoy), who is also suffering from amnesia of some kind. As they dodge various traps and obstructions in the facility, they eventually find the core of the Red Queen. But the truth of the matter is that she's not just some AI program that has gone mad. Instead, she's fully justified in her actions and she's actually trying to protect everyone from the infection.

While the story isn't too close to the original plot of the video game, it certainly has some of the key element from the original mythos. There's the ever-present Umbrella Corporation and of course the nefarious T-Virus they created. There's Racoon City. And there are wonderful zombies and zombie dogs that can infect you with the T-Virus pretty much everywhere. Oh fun.

As for new additions, there's the element of Alice now in play. Initially I thought she was a horrible plot device inserted into the movie just so Anderson could justify casting his beloved Milla. But then in the long run, she sort of worked given she's more than just your run-of-the-mill amnesiac with surprise martial arts abilities. It makes a heck of a lot more sense in later editions of the franchise but then you can't really say for sure. I suppose that'll be something left up to debate.

The commandos are pretty much just more stereotypical cannon fodder. This is best captured by the character of Rain, as played by Michelle Rodriguez, since she's your usual caricature of of a tough girl with an attitude. I wish Michelle would get roles that would give her a heck of a lot more range or something - then we'll really figure out how good an actress she is. Or do we want to see that? Now that's something to think about.

AS for the story itself, well, it wasn't too bad. It certainly had that video game feel with the constant references to the map of the entire facility (yay for wire frame animation!) and of course the brilliance that was The Red Queen (Michaela Dicker). Whoever decided to cast a young girl as the movie's initial "villain" of sorts was just brilliant.

All together now - "You're all going to die here."

Resident Evil is an interesting addition to the long line of video game movie adaptations that may not have been as bad as initially envisioned. It gets 3.5 ridiculous laser trap sequences out of a possible 5 - and that last 0.5 is just for the Red Queen. Or maybe the last 1.5 is for her. Another good question...



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