Film Review: Resident Evil (2002)

Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, and starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, and Martin Crewes.

"Something rotten is brewing beneath the industrial mecca known as Raccoon City. Unknown to its millions of residents, a huge underground bioengineering facility known as The Hive has accidentally unleashed the deadly and mutating T-virus, killing all of its employees. To contain the leak, the governing supercomputer, Red Queen, has sealed all entrances and exits. Now a team of highly-trained super commandos including Rain, Alice and Matt must race to penetrate The Hive in order to isolate the T-virus before it overwhelms humanity. To do so, they must get past the Red Queen's deadly defenses, face the flesh-eating undead employees, fight killer mutant dogs and battle The Licker, a genetically mutated savage beast whose strength increases with each of its slain victims."

Based off of the long-running Capcom survival horror video game series of the same name (originally called Biohazard in Japan), Resident Evil is rooted in deep potential. Even the new material written for the movie added more depth and more viable possibilities, almost none of which are realized or come to full fruition, which is ultimately unfortunate. The script borrows elements from both the original game and its sequel, but instead of following characters such as Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Leon Kennedy, and Claire Redfield, the film centers around an amnesiac woman named Alice, her also amnesiac husband Spence, a man named Matt, and a team of Umbrella Corp. commandos. In fact, there are very few similarities between the movie and the two games, some of those similarities being Umbrella, the mansion, and that the T-virus revives the dead. If the movie had achieved its potential with the new material in its script, then this could have easily been forgiven.
While writer and director Anderson's series is an action extravaganza at its heart, Resident Evil was always meant to have its shrieks and scares. Unfortunately, the first in the series is the only one to retain this idea. The atmosphere, the make-up, and the slow build-ups to the frightening scenes are all quite well done. Actually, without those elements, I never would have appreciated this film as much as I do. There's also no doubt that the musical score, fittingly written by Marilyn Manson, enhanced the movie throughout. Hell, even one of George Romero's Land of the Dead trailers featured the track "Seizure of Power", which I find especially interesting, considering Romero wrote the initial script for this movie and was eventually rejected (or he dropped out for one reason or another). Either way, I've always wondered what his version would have been like, but I figured he ended up throwing many of those story elements into his later Land of the Dead.

The movie is by no means perfect though. For almost every pro to the movie, there's an equal or greater con. Sure, the zombie Dobermans, a nod from the original game, are very cool, but then again, the dialog is uninspired, stale, and not humorous when it was clearly meant to be. For once, I actually agree with Roger Ebert, when he says the film's "characters have no small talk. Their dialog consists of commands, explanations, [and] exclamations." But I still found that this movie succeeded on many other levels. The action is amazing, as all Anderson films tend to feature (the poor man's Michael Bay, as I like to call him), the horror is above par, and the homages and incorporation of other stories and films, especially the obvious Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, all helped to raise the bar in video game-adapted movies. "Connections to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: - Main character's name is Alice. - Computer is named 'Red Queen'. - 'The Red Queen' needs to kill someone who is infected, so she tries to get someone else to chop off their head. (Off with her head!) - Alice in Wonderland paperweight. - A white rabbit was use to test the T-virus. - To enter the hive they go through a mirrored door (through the looking glass). - The Red Queen also succeeds in cutting off 'her' head - the medic in the laser hallway. - Kaplan worries about time, as the White Rabbit does. (Mentioned in commentary) - Matt is sitting on the ledge when Rain and JD hear the first zombie. This is mentioned in the commentary as a reference to the Caterpillar." There's also a direct nod to Romero's Day of the Dead on a newspaper headline reading: "The Dead Walk!" Even if he was no longer attached to the film, at least they paid their respects.
In the end, I find the original film in the series to be the best, easily. The action isn't over-the-top like the other two, there's still horror in a horror movie, it's the most resemblant of the games its based off of, and Alice is more fragile and more vulnerable, which doesn't make her seem like some kind of zombie-slaying immortal. Isn't it more fun to root for John McClane than Neo? At least, that's how I feel. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but I still remember watching this opening weekend with my brother and getting very pumped when seeing the panning back shot at the end. If you're a fan of the games, you have to admit that that scene got you at least a little excited. Two little interesting tidbits about the movie are simply to words that are never said throughout its entirety: zombie(s) and Alice. The zombies are never called zombies, just like old Romero movies, and Alice is never referred to by any name at all until the credits and/or sequels.

Best quote: "Bitch wouldn't open the door, so I had to fry her."

1 comment:

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when I saw the commercial about this movie I almost piss my pant for the emotion, specially when I saw the name of Milla in the credits, besides I'm a player of resident evil since the first game to PS1.