This movie has about a 4.5 ranking on Amazon—what the fu—
I should probably go ahead and put a disclaimer here: this one is going to get a little rough.
I remember when this movie first came out, and even as a dumb teenager I thought it looked pretty bad. I have tried to watch this film on about four separate occasions since it released, and each time a thick sludge like substance builds up in the back of my throat that prevents completing the film. I decided to fight through it this time for the greater good.
Resident Evil is the cinematic equivalent to muddy pond scum, but somehow this absolute shit film managed to spawn an entire franchise. I may as well cover the videogame angle in this review, because there is no point retreading ground as I go through this abomination of a franchise.
I have said that gamers are perhaps one of the finickiest subcultures around, and I do stand by this assessment; however, gamers are also perhaps the most shit on subculture around as well. When the entire community is not being blamed for mass shootings (odd that this statement is valid around the time of this film’s release and currently) they are presented as a bunch of mouth-breathing basement dwellers with no aspirations in life. This is the audience that this film was made for. The sheer cynicism and absolute fuck-it-good-enough mentality that permeates through this film shows that the gaming audience is viewed as not worthy of any quality product. Who cares, right? They’ll pay for it anyway on their occasional venture outside of mom’s basement.
The Resident Evil game series has gone through several iterations and identity crises over the years, and the consistency of the games is simply all over the place. At the time of this film’s release, the game was still moored in the old fashioned survival horror. The games are slow paced, tense, and more focused on finding the right key than any sort of action. You see, in the original games you had to have special shaped keys to unlock doors, and these range from a rook, or a pawn, or a dog’s dick, or whatever. Never mind whether or not you have a flipping rocket launcher. I guess what I am trying to say is: these games don’t make a lot of sense. However, there is a specific feeling to them, and this is a feeling of isolation and often dread.
The film abandons this (and the mansion setting) for a straight-to-DVD style zombie flick. Sure, they plaster the Umbrella logo all over the place, but this could have been shoehorned into just about any zombie film and it would have worked.
The characters in the games are terribly written. It has become a bit of a meme how bad the voice acting and dialogue are, but at least the characters are mostly memorable. We have sorts of heroes who are struggling to survive in this new zombie-filled world. Many of the characters are related, or share deep bonds through struggle. Sure, this can’t be expected to manifest in one film, but there is simply no attempt at any interesting characters.
If you don’t believe me, the character names in this film are (and I am not joking): Mr. Grey, Mr. Red, Ms. Gold, Mr. White, and so forth. Our main characters have single first names, but they are all equally interchangeable. I am certain they put Milla Jovovich in a short red dress so we could tell who the hero of the story was (and for sleazy sex appeal). The writing of this film is so paper thin that it should be insulting to everybody. The studio doesn’t seem to realize that the games are able to get away with shit writing because the gameplay is solid. Without gameplay we would just have a poorly written film that is completely bereft of any artistic or cultural merit.
We have Alice (Jovovich) who has lost her memory and is in the middle of a major paramilitary operation. She lost her memory so the film could tug on our sleeve and explain the plot like we are all fucking morons who can’t tell difference between night and day. Exposition dumping permeates more or less the whole film as it can’t help itself from talking down to the audience. Alice is rescued/captured by a bunch of dumbass commandos who range from offensively stupid to really offensively stupid. Most of them are completely interchangeable, and the only one of any note is Michelle Rodriguez’s character Rain. The only reason Rain is notable is because she was clearly written by a seven-year-old. Painfully stupid dialogue and oh-look-at-how-tough-I-am snark that most filmmakers left dead in the 1980s were such trite crap belongs. We have awful characters interacting with an awful plot.
We will never know what George Romero’s Resident Evil would have looked like, but the geniuses at the studio opted to get rid of him and bring in Paul W.S. Anderson for reasons that are entirely unknown to me. I don’t really want to call Anderson a liar, but I think he deliberately mislead audiences about what type of film they were getting. There is no gore in this movie—if they didn’t casually say fuck here and there this could have been a PG-13 film. However, Anderson claimed that there was so much gore they were skirting an NC-17 rating. There is less blood in this than in the original Hellraiser, which released fifteen years prior. Granted, the ratings board is an inconsistent mess that has long targeted random films for harsh criticism while giving others a pass. However, it is fairly rare for the ratings board to be so specific in their feedback for Anderson to comfortably make such claims. An entire documentary This Film Has Not Been Rated (2006) chronicles this shitstorm of a system. So, Anderson may have been unfairly targeted, or he was trying to upsell a crappy film. Seeing that this period was when all movies had to have an unrated version right after the theatrical release, I see this as more of a marketing gimmick than an actual issue of censorship.
I suppose one thing the film does get right from the game is that the zombies move at about the same speed as a glacier. In the game, the movements are clunky and terrible to the point that you can just run past them (newer iterations have solved this issue). We actually see the zombies stop attacking and just stand there so our heroes can offer dumb one liners or provide some cheap emotional scene. The action is simply inconsistent, and seeing as this is more of an action film than horror this means most of the film is logically screwed.
The zombie attacks are boring, and we have about 7,000,000 cuts to show idiots shooting blindly into crowds of the undead. I am exaggerating on the cuts (a little), but for reference it took about 8 cuts to show someone jumping through a window. More or less the drama of the film is listening to people yell at each other while some contrived crap is occurring.
We do have some shoveled in anti-corporation rhetoric about Umbrella, who even fans of the series have to admit is a bit of a villain-sue. In both the games and the films it isn’t entirely clear what the corporation is exactly trying to do other than make a really dumb and dangerous virus. In the film, The Red Queen (an AI that controls the lab) gives them a bit of a lecture on why such research is important—but to what end. I am aware that this is perhaps the nit-pickiest of complaints, but the entire corporation is run by people who entirely lack critical thinking skills. Let’s make a virus that makes people crazy and murder happy. Okay. Why? At least most films take the corner cutting approach that the zombies are some sort of mutation from an otherwise benign scientific experiment.
Perhaps even more insulting is that this film is little more than a preamble to a massive franchise—and the filmmakers knew this. The whole thing is little more than a setup for sequels. Rampant sequel-bating pisses me off with the Marvel universe, but at least they have somewhat mastered the formula for offering lukewarm entertainment before stealing our money. Part of the reason I have begun reviewing series is to see when or if there is a turning point in quality. For this one to start so poorly I wonder if things will actually get better as it goes. Don’t waste your time with this mess. 2/10