I never intended to watch this film again. Had a friend over and she wanted to see it because she has a big girl crush on Milla Jovovich and so I had to oblige because, well, girls get scary when you say no. That might not be a real reason but I’m gonna use it to try to make out that I had no choice. Cos really I did. But don’t tell anyone else that. Anyway, watch the film I did and review it I shall, because thems the rules.
The first review I ever wrote on this here blog was for a cinematic classic by which all modern films are judged, Mortal Kombat. I was joking there by the way. About it being a cinematic classic, not that it was my first review. I waited what felt like years to see Mortal Kombat turned into a film and back then my unrefined eyes saw it as the most kick ass movie ever. As the years went by I saw it as more of a brainless piece of fun. Resident Evil was directed by the very same director as Mortal Kombat, one Paul W.S. Anderson. I believe at some point in my review for Mortal Kombat I may have referred to him as a hack. If I didn’t then I am now. Paul W.S. Anderson is a hack churning out basic, generic identikit tripe that appears to be entirely constructed by the studio heads. What I’m saying is any talent he showed with Shopping and Event Horizon was replace when he truly got on the Hollywood machine and now he is just there to shout “action” and “cut”. I waited a long time for a Resident Evil film. I squealed with a girly level of glee when I heard George A Romero was going to direct. Then my heart sank when I found out who really was going to direct.
When I first saw this in the cinema I actually came out of it fairly satisfied. I even brought the soundtrack (most likely because I was a huge Marilyn Manson fan back then, now I’m just huge) and went on to buy the dvd. Resident Evil isn’t a film that lends itself to re-watching. It’s one of those films you should watch once because you’re hyped up about the source material so that any imperfections can be pushed aside by the joygasm you get from seeing your favourite characters on a cinema screen. The more you watch the more you see the cracks. There’s one crack you’ll see on your first viewing though. Not one character from the Resident Evil games makes an appearance in this film. On the one level I can appreciate the idea of trying to forge your own story. On the other, when your script is this bad you really should put in whatever you can to please the fans before they notice.
Every moment of this film is predictable, bland and poorly constructed. Lead character Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up in the shower (because hey, she’s a model so she loves getting naked on film) and appears to have that same illness Daniel Craig’s character had in Cowboys & Aliens, a Hollywood screenwriter’s favourite crutch, amnesia! She’s been knocked out by a defence mechanism that was triggered by a secret underground bio-tech base situated directly below the mansion she is currently in. The reason for the defence system going nuts is all down to the series excuse for everything, the T-Virus. See some naughty chap set the virus off inside the lab and now the computer system, and our main antagonist, decided everyone needed to die. A task the computer took an odd level of masochistic joy in implementing. Guess how the rest of the film progresses…
Yup, marines turn up who seem to know Alice, because they are aware of her purpose in the mansion and then don’t help her fill in the blanks. They go into the lab, shut down the computer which, of course, sets loose all the zombies and the obligatory “something else”. Lots of ineffective scares trundle along, Michelle Rodriguez gets bitten like 5 times, they all act like zombie movies don’t exist in their world and so on and so forth.
The amount of exposition used in this film is extraordinary. It’s like they actually think no-one in the audience will have any idea what a zombie is. Back in the 70s when zombie movies were coming into their own you needed to tell the audience the zombie survival rules. 1) The dead reanimate. 2 ) If you are bit you are infected. 3) shoot them in the head. This film spends a load of time with the characters figuring out just what is going on, I don’t even think at any point do they figure out that they need to shoot them in the head either. This leads to you, the average audience, shouting at your screen because the characters are too dumb to figure out what they should be doing. I’m pretty sure there are at least 3 scenes after the zombie outbreak where the rules are explained somehow and then reiterated. You know how they got this across in Shaun Of The Dead? They had a 20 second news clip saying something along the lines of “The dead are coming back to life, keep away from their teeth and destroy their brains”. That’s all it took, audience and characters all up to speed. This is one of Paul W.S. Anderson’s biggest problems as a director, he assumes the audience is brain dead and that they need everything explained slowly. His lack of trust in your ability to think even comes into the “scares”. I put quotation marks around them because every attempt at a scare is so predictable that you’re 100% ready for them every… damn… time.
Once the zombies are loose we get approximately 1 billion scenes of guns being fired, people shouting and then Alice wanders off on her own to kick something in the face. Here’s a big problem with her memory loss. Memory loss with a character is used to provide a blank slate so as the character learns about their past we do too. The best way to do this is to gradually have that character uncover elements of their past so they piece it together as they go along. The way not to do it is by having them randomly get memory flashbacks whenever it’s convenient to the current scene. For example, Alice figures out that she was planning to screw the Umbrella Corporation other just before she has a chat with the brother of the zombie she had just killed which just so happened to be her contact on the inside. In another scene she remembers just how much she likes Kung Fu just as she gets jumped by a zombie. Which then raises another question. Why would you ever put your hands and feet anywhere near a zombies face. That’s exactly what they want you to do. You’re just playing into their trap there.
The whole time you’re watching this film you will be questioning every second of it. Every action the characters take. Every random thing that happens, such as bodies in a corridor disappearing. Why did that happen? A character does ask with no reply. The reason? Not kidding here. It was a reference to the game because the bodies of zombies vanish when you return to an area. Honest to God that’s why it happens in this film. That is stupid, because now a character has asked and you as an audience are asking yourselves “yeah, where did those bodies go?”. You’ll ever get an answer though. So for the sake of a little gag at the games expense they wrote in a plot hole.
The music in this film, provided by the aforementioned Marilyn Manson and (provider of generic scores extrordinaire) Marco Beltrami doesn’t mesh with the film at all. Occasionally there’s a few retro synthy moments that almost remind you of the zombie movie scores of the 70s but largely it’s just random guitar chugs and basic rhythms that sound entirely out of place. It actually feels a lot like a first pass score, the likes of which would usually be used early in production to give a basic idea of the sound they wanted. On top of the musical woes the sound is mixed in a way that fails to bring the right sounds out when needed.
This film is a failure on so many levels. It’s shot poorly, edited to a point where any effect a scare could have had is lost. Action scenes largely comprise of close ups of characters firing their guns, shots of bullets hitting things, sometimes walls dead on, and the occasional zombie falling over. At one point a zombie is blasted multiple times with a way too large gun, that the character didn’t have in the previous shot, and after a few bullet squibs go off the zombie flies backwards as though it’s being pulled away by a cord. And I mean AFTER the squibs go off. There is very little to recommend about this film unless you’re the sort of person that actually thinks switching your brain off is a real requirement to enjoy a film. I don’t understand that idea personally. Don’t see why I should remove the requirement to be mentally engaged by a film on at least some level in order to find enjoyment. You know what though, this one isn’t as bad as the sequels.