Movie Review: Resident Evil (2002)
“Survive the Horror”
Resident Evil (2002)
Director: Paul W. S. Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Ryan McCluskey
Synopsis: A military unit has to brave a research facility in which hundreds of staff have been turned into ravenous zombies.
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A movie based on a video game is ensured a built-in audience, but if it wants to remain true to its inspiration it does so at the cost of plot and characterisation; as one advances towards a predetermined destination, a series of challenging obstacles must be overcome which, for a movie, results in a rigid and unchanging structure that allows little room for personalities to emerge. As a result of this, watching the movie adaptation of a video game is often about as involving as watching somebody else play the game. Resident Evil, one of the earliest video game adaptations, starts out that way; with only stereotypical characters and virtually no back story (the heroine has amnesia), it initially struggles to engage our attention. But, thanks to the suspense inherent in an outnumbered group of the living endeavouring to escape the clutches of the undead, things improve considerably once the unfortunate 500 or so employees of the Umbrella Corporation make their appearance.
The supple, slender frame and pouting lower lip of Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element, Zoolander 2) makes her an unlikely candidate for the role of action heroine, but, in truth, much of the heavy lifting falls upon the shoulders of those around her. She plays Alice, a woman who awakens on the floor of a shower with her nakedness concealed beneath a strategically draped curtain and no recollection of how she got there or who she is. Her exploration of the deserted mansion in which she finds herself is rudely cut short by Matt (Eric Marius), who only has time to throw her to the floor before a SWAT team crashes through the windows to whisk them off to The Hive, a subterranean scientific research facility owned and operated by the Umbrella Corporation. The film’s opening scenes had shown us Red Queen, the super-computer that controls all aspects of the facility, gassing the luckless employees in The Hive after a vial of liquid containing a deadly virus was deliberately smashed by an unseen culprit. The SWAT team and Alice, who it turns out was one of the Umbrella Corp.’s security operatives, must now brave the Red Queen’s deadly security devices in order to regain control of her domain.
As you’d expect, Resident Evil frequently references the game on which it’s based, but it also repeatedly alludes to Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass as it treads the line between horror and SF action flick. The film initially flounders as it struggles to attach some label of individuality to its characters, but once the zombies make their belated appearance and the story shifts from one of infiltration to escape it quickly finds its feet. Anderson’s over-reliance on sudden loud noises quickly grows irritating, and for those over 19 the grinding rock music that kicks in over every action scene might prove to be an unwelcome distraction, but otherwise Resident Evil proves to be an unexpectedly acceptable offering.
(Reviewed 23rd December 2016)