Resident Evil Review
There aren't many successful video games that have translated well on the big screen, primarily due to most games' disregard for plot in favour of playability and action. It's often the case that the games chosen for movie adaptations are the cult-gore titles appealing mainly to a male-teen audience. Zombie gore-fest Resident Evil is no exception, and has been in-development as a movie ever since the game sequels were being commissioned. George A. Romero, foremost figure of all things zombie, was even assigned to write and direct the film originally, which only served to feed the fans an anticlimax when Romero dropped out and Paul W.S. Anderson, director of Event Horizon & Mortal Kombat, took over the reigns.
The plot of Resident Evil is a sort of loose prequel to the original computer games' storyline, and has caused outcry from fanboys angry with the idea of changes being made to the game they worship. The story tells of a large conglomerate corporation known as the Umbrella Corp, who have a secret research facility in the hidden underground area of Raccoon City known as "The Hive", in which covert defensive technologies are being studied unbeknownst to the corporation's employees. However, a mysterious virus has been released into The Hive and a special Ops team has been sent in to contain the situation. Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakens from a shower to find she suffers from amnesia, but is certain that she believes that she is more important in the scale of things than it may seem. Suddenly, the dead employees of the Umbrella Corp mutate into undead zombies, and Alice and the Special Ops team must battle to survive.
Of course the plot is completely ludicrous, like most video games, but Resident Evil knows the balance between seriousness and absurdity. Granted, this isn't a spectacular claim, but Resident Evil is director Paul W.S. Anderson's best film, or at least, it's certainly his most cohesive. The film is a basic two-act setup, with the characters wondering what is going on in the first act and trying to escape in the second. Luckily, Resident Evil works on a simple minimalist level. It doesn't allow itself to be bogged down by mundane dialogue or incomprehensible techno-babble, as it serves first and foremost as a high-adrenaline gorefest actioner that should appeal to its target market.
Anderson handles the film in quite a confident fashion, even if his ultimate skills as a feature film director seem blatantly lacking in the big league. Anderson extracts the highest amount of scares possible from the script, and at many times throughout the film the eerie visual aura that the film generates is very in keeping with the tone of the original video games. The cinematography by David Johnson is fine considering the high amount of CGI bluescreen shots, and the production design by Richard Bridgland creates an immersed world of containment that lacks any routine Hollywood visual polish. The musical score by Marco Beltrami and goth-rock-star Marilyn Manson is annoyingly techno-thrash in style and aesthetic, and whilst deeply unsettling lacks any sense of worth.
Because Resident Evil was filmed in Germany with a mostly British cast, the setting sometimes doesn't wash as easily as a mainstream Hollywood teen-horror-flick. Also, the mainly British cast struggle with a sort of mishmash concoction of any accent that tries to sound American without overdoing it. As the lead, Milla Jovovich seems capable enough; she possesses a decent level of physical attractiveness and is still kooky enough to avoid the A-list mainstream. Michelle Rodriguez, star of Girlfight, hams up her part as the token butch-female character, and Eric Mabius and James Purefoy are weak male support that lack any acting quality. Martin Crewes however, is a fine supporting lead, and should surely gain a creditable career based on his early film performances, even if he does look like a young Kurt Russell.
The special visual effects are impressive, but far from seamless. At times the film's relatively low budget reveals its limitations, but Anderson pushes the boundaries and clearly is clued up on the Resident Evil universe, utilising many elements from the games' sequels into the first one. Indeed, the film's conclusion is arguably the best sequence of Resident Evil, and brilliantly sets up a sequel that promises to be far more interesting, in the best Omega Man sense.
Whilst not a classic, Resident Evil splendidly surpasses the expectations placed on a video-game-movie-adaptation, and delivers a movie faithful in spirit if not in entirely in storyline to the original video game. It's mindless, teenage fun, and doesn't try to be anything else, so as long as you treat it fairly there is no reason why it cannot be enjoyed.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1, the transfer is excellent, displaying fine natural and sharp colour tones with vivid imagery from a pristine transfer. Some of the CGI shots are betrayed too easily, although this is the fault of the film and not the transfer. Overall, it's a fine visual presentation of the film, and would struggle to be bettered.
Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound mix is very strong, possessing a fine sense of spatial channelling across the five speakers and an aggressive bass level that would benefit from a decent DTS mix. It's an atmospheric and deeper enveloping mix, and along with the video transfer ensures that the feature film presentation of Resident Evil is superb.
Menu: A decent animated menu system based on the schematics of the Red Queen computer, and featuring portions of the head-doing musical score.
Packaging: Presented in an amaray casing with good cover artwork and a four page chapter listing insert that also contains brief production notes.
Audio Commentary With Paul W.S. Anderson, Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez & Jeremy Bolt: This commentary, containing director Anderson, producer Bolt and lead stars Jovovich and Rodriguez is an entertaining, laid-back effort that basically amounts to Jovovich and Rodriguez dominating the track by joking around. Anderson and Bolt barely can get a word in, but the atmosphere of the track is fun and at least each of the four participants are in the room together sharing anecdotes and opinions. Not much is actually gained about the making of Resident Evil, but it's still a decent track to accompany the film.
The Making Of Resident Evil: This is a twenty-seven minute documentary focusing on the making of the film, and is more in-depth than the usual promotional EPK material. Interviews with many of the cast and crew are included, alongside behind-the-scenes footage and the obligatory film clips. For once, many technical facets of the film are explored, rendering this 'making of' more useful than most.
Scoring Resident Evil: This is an eleven minute featurette showcasing how the film was scored and what thematic angles were explored. Featuring interviews with director Paul W.S. Anderson, along with composers Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson, this is an interesting featurette if the score appeals to you.
Costumes: This is a three minute featurette of the many costume designs of the film, spliced with footage from Resident Evil and brief interviews with costume designer Richard Bridgland.
Set Design: A four minute featurette again hosted by Richard Bridgland who this time focuses on the production design and set decoration elements of Resident Evil.
Zombie Makeup Tests: One minute worth of test footage of the zombie makeup used in the film.
My Plague - Music Video By Slipknot: Whether you actually like Slipknot is another story, but this is a music video accompanying their song tie-in with the film, and features clips of the band doing their bizarre stage routine juxtaposed with clips from the film. Presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen.
Filmographies: Selected filmographies of the cast and crew are included here as text on screen.
Trailers: A trailer for Resident Evil is included, along with a good selection of other film trailers which are Final Fantasy: The Sprits Within, xXX, Men In Black 2, Spider-Man and Formula 51 (51st State).
An action-fuelled and very enjoyable video-game-adaptation horror flick is given a decent DVD despite claims that a two disc unrated director's cut will become available in the next few months. Whether that materialises or not, this is still a very decent package, and will reward fans of the games or the film well.