November 3, 2003
Paul W.S. Anderson,
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Salmon, Ryan McCluskey, Oscar Pearce, Indra Ové, Anna Bolt, Joseph May, Robert Tannion, Heike Makatsch,
Mouths were watering for years before it was finally announced a big screen version of everybodies favourite horror survival game was in production with George Romero writing the script and Sarah Michelle Gellar rumoured to star. Sadly Romero was fired and Paul ‘Soldier’ W.S Anderson came on board. Resident Evil the movie is far from the bomb it’s reported to be, but you really have to fight to like it.Okay, Anderson has made at least one good horror movie (Event Horizon), but he can’t write a good script to save his life. Romero’s draft was apparently much more interesting, but here the basic plot boils down to: bunch of people with guns must escape from zombie-infested lab. And for a zombie movie, this would be par for the course if it wasn’t for the half dozen Resident Evil games that had scared the crap out of a whole new generation of Playstation kiddies (and adults for that matter). It had a lot to live up to, and this is primarily why the movie fails.
And it’s crap.
No, there’s a lot to like too, if you go in with low expectations: The Cube-inspired laser corridor that slices people in half, some early scares and gore, and the final one-take camera move would have Scorsese drooling with jealousy. That alone is almost worth the price of admission.
Someone at the lab has deliberately released a virus into the air conditioning, and the computer seals the workers in and kills them to contain it. Enter Jovovich’s amnesiac Alice and a grisly bunch of soldiers straight out of Aliens. Giving your main character memory loss is also a double-edged sword. On one hand you can play with her identity (just what is Jovovich’s link to the virus outbreak) and crank up the suspense because the audience only know as much as she does, but on the other hand she just looks confused for the first half of the movie and doesn’t do much.
Again, the problem is with the script. Anderson can’t write dialogue. Example: “They’re right behind us!” and “You go! Leave me behind!” But his visuals are slick and there are some shots lifted straight out of the games that fans will love picking out. Then just when he throws you a bone, a character opens their mouth and ruins it.
There was one little twist that made me smile, and a subtle Alice In Wonderland theme that you might miss, but otherwise the plot is utterly predictable and the end practically screams ‘Sequel in the works!’. Indeed, Resident Evil: Nemesis is due for a 2004 release. Let’s hope it’s an improvement.
Anderson also promised this movie would be very, very gory. And I sense he kept his promise, but the studio chickened out to secure a lower rating and therefore higher box office. (Wrong. You can’t do horror by halfs). A scene where Jovovich shoots a room full of zombie dogs is a good example. You see the gun firing but relatively little of the damage it does to the dogs. Just when something violent happens, the camera cuts away. I’ll hold out for the promised director’s cut, which is the movie we should have got in the first place.
So not the scarefest we were expecting (the games are ten times scarier played alone late at night) but as far as getting a DVD and a bag of popcorn after the pub is concerned, you could do a lot worse. This being the rental version, there are none of the special features found on the Region 1 disc – Boo! Hiss! (When will studios realise this is a turn-off, not an incentive). Resident Evil is short and does what it says on the tin. But it could have been so much more.