Saturday, February 6, 2016

Resident Evil


   "No one else is going to die..." is probably the worst thing you could ever say in a horror movie. It's like a bad telltale mantra that only ever means someone is totally going to die, and probably very soon. You'd think people in this movie would stop saying "No one else is going to die..." after maybe the third time? "I'm going to try my damndest to keep you alive." sounds like a better, more genuine alternative. I'm not sure writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson cared enough about the dialog to seek out more genuine sounding alternatives though. But, honestly... who cares? This is a movie where the sexy heroine uses super kung-fu to kill zombies and even zombie dogs. It wears the fact it's based on a video game with pride, like a merit badge- showcasing it's set pieces like game levels, and pulling out all the stops on the kinetic action scenes.

   You're either someone who thinks this sounds awesome so far, or... you're not. In which case I don't know why you're even reading this review. I guess the entire appeal of this movie is basically summed up in "sexy heroine uses super kung-fu to kill zombies". I mean, that sounds pretty good to me. I like violent and energetic movies with sexy heroines and zombies. If those two things happen to end up in the same movie, hey! Awesome! It's pointless to engage Resident Evil on any logical level, which is sad because despite the franchise's reputation, this movie is actually not entirely brainless. It has a solid plot, and some interesting twists that you wouldn't normally find in the zombie genre. Unfortunately, there is some pretty subpar acting here. I point fingers at Eric Mabius, Michelle Rodriguez, and James Purefoy.

   Purefoy and Rodriguez surprised me, because I'm actually used to seeing better performances from them. Especially Purefoy. Either they're dry and stilted or hamming it up to the point of breaking the scene. Thankfully, they occasionally sell their dialog well enough that you can somewhat care about their characters. However, the real pleasant surprise in revisiting this movie from my pre-teen years is how good Milla Jovovich's acting is. Like, I was betting her performance wasn't going to hold up at all and she'd just be eye candy. Nevertheless, while she is still eye candy- she's also the strongest actor/actress in the whole movie. It helps that she also looks completely badass while launching kicks through the air in slow motion.

   I played enough of the games that I can appreciate the nods and elements from them that the filmmakers saw fit to incorporate in the movie. Instead of direct adaptation of one of the games, they put together an original story with new characters, and I can't complain. If a video game movie screws up a fan favorite character by doing something different with them, then the movie becomes unwatchable for fans of the games. (See; Super Mario Bros. the movie) So, I've no complaints about them using original characters and such. It didn't stay that way for long though as the franchise was fated to include Jill Valentine, Claire and Chris Redfield, Albert Wesker and others. That always got mixed reception from the fans. I never cared either way.

   I like the games a lot, but not for their story or characters. I liked the puzzle solving, the atmosphere, the cinematic feel to them, and of course the timeless satisfaction of shooting zombies. All of those elements are present in this movie and more. There's the zombie dogs, a killer artificial intelligence, and a mutant creature called the 'Licker'- taken straight from the games.  The killer A.I. ends up being probably the most fascinating thing in the movie and honestly ends up feeling underused. Even if that's only because the actual zombies in the movie are boring by comparison. They're a simple threat that we've seen before in many other movies and this movie doesn't have the guts or the imagination to dole out any truly wickedly gory demises.

   Which was surprising to me now that I'm older. Resident Evil doesn't make much use of it's R rating besides some brief nudity and bad language. Sure there's blood, but no real guts and gore. Maybe I'm just an old jaded gorehound at this point, but some of the best moments in zombie movies is seeing people get eaten and torn apart. All the truly icky stuff happens off screen in this one. It's annoying, but maybe for the best. I can imagine this being a decent entry into the genre for me to share with my little brothers when they're old enough. There's enough craziness in the movie to keep even the most ADHD viewer entertained persistently, and just enough competent story telling to make the movie interesting beyond it's lurid thrills. If you look too hard, you'll find it's all rather basic. Yet, unlike later stale genre efforts like Doom, there was a serious effort made on Resident Evil to create something at least unique and interesting- even if it doesn't always work.

   When all is said and done, there's lots of shooting, biting, running, kung fu, espionage, mystery, and creature effects. It feels like a B movie with all the style and budget of an A movie- which is actually pretty cool. So while there's lot of acting that leaves much to be desired, the movie makes up for it with plenty of frenetic action scenes, lots of ass kicking, cool sets, slick production design, and a fair share of slimy creature feature nonsense. Resident Evil is a colorful and fun time when not taken seriously. It was exactly the fun time I remember having when I was younger, which was a treat because I was expecting it to age really badly. If you've never seen it, I recommend it. It's a silly, over-the-top, sci-fi/horror romp with some light scares and a little blood splatter here and there. Come for Milla Jovovich... stay for Milla Jovovich killing zombie dogs in slow motion. I had fun, I liked it. Sue me.

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