Resident Evil (2002) Film Review

Resident Evil Film

So this marathon has finally made me sit down and watch the Resident Evil live action films… You’d think I would have seen them already given how much I like the game series, but half way through the next film I was out, and never returned (more on THAT tomorrow…) This film, while nothing like the original game (or its remake!), does at least capture a lot of parts that regularly appear in the games, and by creating a whole new cast means they were free to do what they want without upsetting the game fans. So what was it like? Let’s find out!

Official Synopsis:

Alice, an amnesiac, and a commando team must break into “the hive,” a vast underground genetics laboratory operated by the powerful Umbrella Corporation. There, a deadly virus has been unleashed, killing the lab’s personnel and resurrecting them as the evil Un-dead. The team has just three hours to shut down the lab’s supercomputer and close the facility before the virus threatens to overrun the Earth.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

Resident Evil Film 2

A cast of (slightly blurry) characters.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the fact that they took a lot of the locations and enemies of Resident Evil, but changed the human cast was a good idea, it at least wasn’t trying to live up to a great, atmospheric story in an admittedly cliché spooky mansion (though it wouldn’t have been hard to top the acting!). Milla Jovovich is an amnesiac Umbrella security agent named Alice who ends up going deep into a lab under Raccoon City with an assault team to find out why the facility’s A.I. killed everybody and shut it down.

We have brave leader James Shade (Colin Salmon), geeky sarcastic one Chad Kaplan (Martin Crewes), bad-ass female marine-type Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez), brave activist doing the right thing Matt Addison (Eric Mabius) and Spence Parks (James Purefoy), a mysterious Umbrella employee who totally isn’t in it for himself. Lots of clichés, none of them have an inch of real personality or character development, but that’s fine. They exist to get picked off one by one, for the most part. That’s why it’s not in the bad section, they fit the mood and tone of the piece.

Resident Evil Film 4

Alice flying kicks a zombie dog in the face, rather than try and run. Makes sense!

Alice turns out to be on the verge of revealing Umbrella to the world when she lost her memory, and it was Matt’s sister who arranged the betrayal (she was killed in the original outbreak, by the way). The two forming a friendship is one of the only actual bits of character development, and even that is slight. Well, that and Spence betraying everyone and being the man behind the outbreak, but just looking at him you knew there was something sinister about him… Overall the plot is minor, but it’s fun enough. It’s a basic survival horror story and works effectively enough.

The film ends on a cliffhanger where Matt has been taken for “the Nemesis program” and Alice awakes in a hospital and walks out to see Raccoon City in ruins. It’s an effective set up, it’s a shame that…well, yeah. I’ll get to that next time…

The Bad:

Resident Evil Film 1

“Hang on, that wasn’t supposed to be actually happening was it? I don’t buy it…”

Some of the moments in the film are fourth-wall-breakingly bad. The now infamous scene of Alice flying kicking a zombie dog in the face is bad enough, but there was a scene in a hallway where Alice judo flips a zombie over her shoulder… What on EARTH? Bearing in mind that Alice had yet to gain super-powers like she does in later films (spoilers, I guess?) it was just that little bit too absurd. I mean, funny, definitely, but I don’t think that was what they were going for. I think this film (and probably the entire franchise from what I know about it) is all about “how bad ass is Milla Jovovich?”, written and often directed by someone who clearly worships her in Paul W.S. Anderson, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but I certainly had no idea it started so early… (It has nearly been 20 years since I saw it last, to be fair)

With an adaptation of a game franchise that’s all about the horrible mutated creatures killing people, why did they decide to kill off several members of the cast via a laser beam-laden hallway? The scene isn’t bad as such, but it’s not scary, or very tense. It’s just people being chopped up in a very unrealistic way, and nothing to do with the games (the scene emulating this in the game Resident Evil 4 came after it, if you’re wondering) There is also a lot of emphasis on shooting and less about surviving, which at this point wasn’t how the game series was, but was how it ended up being for a long time…

While some of the practical effects are quite good, the zombie dogs look good in some close up shots, but the CGI was pretty poor. I mean, not MK Annihilation bad (that will be hard to top…) but still off-putting. The Lickers especially are clearly not there, and they try and hide it by pulling the camera away and having them dash across the screen, but the final fight is with a larger, mutated Licker and it just can’t be avoided…

Overall Thoughts:

Resident Evil Film 3

It’s the laser grid hallway scene! One of the only things I remembered about it…

Resident Evil isn’t bad. It’s firmly “okay”, it’s a cheesy survival horror story with cliché characters that knows it’s a cheesy survival horror story with cliché characters. It often feels like Resident Evil in its surroundings and creatures, but doesn’t try to live up to the game franchise or copy it beat for beat, and it’s all the better for it. Now I’ve only seen half of the next film as of writing this, but I’m willing to bet this will be the highlight of the series…

3 Star Watch

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