Turn Back The Clock

Movie Review

Resident Evil

Distributed By: Screen Gems

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When Resident Evil first hit the movie theaters in 2002, I was skeptical. Here was another popular video game being translated to movie format.  We’ve seen the disastrous attempts at this - Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter, just to name a couple.  However, there have been some decent video game adaptations, such as the original Mortal Kombat movie (the sequel falls in the earlier category I’m afraid).  Still, I had decided to skip the film while it was in theaters.  My brother-in-law was quick to inform me of my error.  “Rent it,” he said.  “You’ll love it!”  So, we rented it…and I conceded the errors of my ways.

            In the film, we meet Alice, a woman suffering from amnesia who has just learned that she was a government operative working for the Umbrella Corporation as a security agent.  On the surface, the Umbrella Corporation is a company that has offered incredible scientific breakthroughs in technology to the world.  However, as we soon learn, not all of the Umbrella Corporation’s scientific studies lead to happier lives.

            A group of Umbrella Corp. commandos come upon Alice as they are about to enter the underground laboratory known as The Hive.  We soon discover that the scientists in The Hive have been working on a project known as the T-Virus, originally cultivated after discovering its regenerative properties, but eventually thought to have more value as a bio-weapons project.  All the commandos know is that the virus somehow escaped into The Hive’s atmosphere and the computer brain (the Red Queen) controlling the place shut The Hive down, killed all of its employees underground to prevent any outside contamination and released a nerve gas in the mansion above ground which caused Alice’s amnesia.

            It is the commandos’ mission to bypass the Red Queen, discover what caused the virus to escape, then execute a lockdown and return the information to their superiors.  However, the commandos were unaware of the residual effect of the T-Virus on dead tissue.  Thus, they are not prepared for the onslaught of reanimated dead Umbrella Corporation employees looking for sustenance in the form of human flesh.  Can the commandos carry off their mission and return to the surface without becoming infected before The Hive seals itself off forever?

            Okay, so zombie movies have been done before and maybe they don’t terrify us all that much.  After all, how many of us have actually seen a dead person come to life and start munching on human flesh?  However, we all have our ideas about government experiments.  The idea that the government sometimes plays with viruses they don’t know how to control is something that is very real to us.  That brings what happens in this movie home to its viewers – the fact that there are factions out there who do perform unscrupulous experiments without a thought as to long-term effects on life around them.  Although we may not be able to relate to the zombie aspect of the film, we certainly have seen the effects of experiments gone awry – Killer Bees anyone?

            Besides, this isn’t just any zombie movie.  This is a zombie movie that incorporates all of the things that make the Resident Evil game so scary.  There are dark corridors with twists and turns that you can’t see around.  There are undead animals as well as people.  There are many, many doors to enter and you never know what you might find behind those doors.  There are many unanswered questions and hidden clues that, once uncovered, will reveal the whole terrifying story from beginning to end. 

            Hardcore fans of the game will complain that main characters from the game are missing from this film.  In one of the many documentary segments found on the Resident Evil DVD, Director Paul W. S. Anderson explains that he believed if he just spat out a copy of the game, he couldn’t justify people spending money to see the film.  Instead, what he created was a sort of prequel, explaining how it all began and using a new and mysterious heroine in the form of Alice to pique the interest of the gamers out there who couldn’t get enough of the Resident Evil video game.

            The way the film ended was perfect, keeping things mysterious and definitely leaving things open for a sequel.  On the DVD version of the film, we discover that there had been an alternate ending created for the film – a sort of badass ending which still left things open for a sequel, but was not as depressing.  In my opinion, this alternate ending was passable in an action-packed kickass sort of way, but I preferred the original ending.  Depressing as the original ending may have seemed to some, I believe that it had more impact on the viewer.

            The casting for this film was spot on.  Milla Javovich has worked action films before, but I have to say that I think Resident Evil and its sequels have made Javovich an action film goddess.  She doesn’t just portray Alice as the ultimate badass warrior – she gives depth to the character, showing emotion through expression and intonation.  Michelle Rodriguez is terrific in the role of Rain Ocampo, a hard-nosed military type with a very strong sense of duty and honor.  When I first watched the film, Eric Mabius wasn’t a big actor.  I found him to be hot and well-suited to play an action film hero.  He currently stars on Ugly Betty as Betty Suarez’s boss and co-owner of Mode Magazine.  Still quite a beauty to look at, but now he as gone the comedy route – go figure.  Martin Crewes portrays Chad Kaplan, another member of the commando team who specializes in computers and electronics.  At first appearing to be the softer, whinier side of the team, Kaplan comes into his own during the third act of the film.  James Purefoy is ruggedly sexy as another survivor of the Red Queen Umbrella Lab purge.  However, we soon learn to loathe his very existence.

            I remember the first time I watched the film and the many thoughts it inspired.  First of all, I thought the soundtrack was simply perfect for the film – eerie in certain segments and rocking in others.  After watching the scoring documentary on the Resident Evil: Deluxe Edition DVD, I learned that the musical score was created a rather interesting team-up – Marilyn Manson and Marco Beltrami.  Marilyn Manson is an alternative/heavy metal rocker with a rather unique approach to everything he does.  Marco Beltrami is most famous for the musical scores he has created for the Scream trilogy, but since has created musical score for Mimic, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Max Payne and more.  On the surface, Beltrami and Manson are similar – both have a unique approach to music and both love rock and electronic sound.  But that’s where the similarities end.  And yet, the two worked to create a musical score that affects the viewer as much as the scene he/she is watching.

            Another thought I had as I was watching the film was that the visual effects were rather well done.  I was used to old zombie films where you could tell things were fake or CGI or whatever.  In Resident Evil, you could tell that the creature was created.  After all, where were you going to find an animal that looked like that…then again, if would you want to find one?  I assumed that the zombies were created via the use of tons of make-up applied to a whole lot of movie extras.  I also assumed that the zombie dogs were either creations similar to the creature, or completely CGI.  My first assumption about the zombies was correct, but with a twist.  The zombies were extras wearing quite a bit of make-up aided with some digital effects, but these weren’t just any extras – these were dancers who could be choreographed to perform as zombies.  And my second assumption – about the dogs – well that was completely wrong.  I discovered that the dog was actually a living, breathing animal – a trained Doberman Pinscher with zombie make-up liberally applied!  WOW!

            Loving the film as much as I do and having seen every sequel afterwards, I simply had to watch every segment available in the extras section of the DVD.  That’s where I learned that Director Paul W. S. Anderson also directed another favorite video-game-to-movie that I loved – Mortal Kombat.  Now I understand the attention to video game detail and yet the extra storyline that turned the movie into another incarnation of the game.  I also learned a great deal about the various visual effects, the actors' impressions of the characters they portrayed, the making of the creature, production and art design, the Alice in Wonderland parallels and more.  In my opinion, the extras on the Deluxe Edition DVD are well-worth watching.

            To recap, Resident Evil is a terrific movie not because it’s a great action film, or because it’s the perfect adaptation of game to movie, or because it is a terrific zombie film.  This is an amazing action film that gives us a new twist on the video game and takes some of the flare of the zombie films into consideration, but actually goes way beyond what any zombie film has ever done in the past.  I’ve watched Resident Evil more times than I can count and will continue to watch it again and again – it’s just that good!


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