‘Resident Evil’ review – enter the survival horror franchise

Sony Pictures
Alice (Milla Jovovich) struggles to stay alive.

Quick! Name the last really good zombie movie? [2012 FF: Amazing how this was a legitimate question in 2002, but over the last decade there’s actually been some fun zombie theme flicks.] Ok, maybe that wasn’t fair. How about naming the last great video game movie? “Super Mario Brothers?” “Street Fighter?” “Tomb Raider?” [2012 FF: At least this question still has merit with apologies to all three fans of “Dragonball: Evolution” or “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.”]

With that track record, I wasn’t expecting too much from “Resident Evil” a film based off the popular video game series where humans fight to survive in a mansion and towns overrun by zombies.

But while going in a completely different direction from the source material, this adaptation captures the spirit of the video games and with its fun, anything can happen mindset and tons of over the top violence, “Resident Evil” proves there may be a future for video game movies yet. [2012 FF: And then a few months later, “Spider-Man” came along and made a bazillion dollars and the video game to movie fad was quickly replaced by the surging comic book to movie trend.]

Zombies attack in “Resident Evil.”

A mystery man flees an underground genetics lab called “The Hive,” but not before unleashing a deadly virus that quickly infects everyone in its path turning them into flesh-craving zombies.

 Somewhat removed from the Hive happenings, is Alice (Milla Jovovich), a woman who awakens in a shower with few memories of how she ended up there. Before she can further investigate, a group of commandos crashes through the windows on a desperate timetable.

Alice was a member of this strike force on an undercover mission to find out what was going on in The Hive. Now with the virus unleashed, the team — including James Shade (Colin Salmon) and Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) — has been sent to permanently shut down the lab before the virus can spread to the surface. Along the way, the team encounters a mystery man Matt (Eric Mabius) who has a personal stake in uncovering The Hive’s secrets.

Sony Pictures
Alice (Milla Jovovich), Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) and Matt (Eric Mabius) are terrified at the latest threat.

The Hive’s computer system, dubbed “The Red Queen,” isn’t feeling very hospitable and begins attacking the group with its defense system. In staving off “The Red Queen,” the group unwittingly frees¬† the lab workers who are now starving for a little fresh meat.

Sony Pictures
Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) prepares for battle.

The group travels through the complex desperately searching for a way out, but as one by one, the group gets taken out by the zombies and other surprises it slowly becomes apparent that none of them may make it to see another sunrise.

While there’s no mention of franchise regulars Chris and Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine or Leon Kennedy, Director/Writer Paul W.S. Anderson (who directed one of the few acclaimed video game movies in 1995 with “Mortal Kombat”) actually gets the concept of the series — more enemies than there is ammo — and that sense that another bizarre and unimaginable danger lurking right around the next corner.

Not including any of the “regulars” gives Anderson the advantage of making anyone expendable, which is a smart way to go since he’d likely get all kinds of grief from fans if he tried killing off Chris or Jill. [2012 FF: It could be worse. He could turn his wife into the star of the franchise and then bring in the regulars as background supporting characters who are constantly too in awe of her to do much themselves. But that’s just crazy talk…]

The Licker takes another victim.

Anderson captures a sense of video game action in the fight scenes as zombies get blown back by gunfire and heavy slow-motion to up the “that was cool!” factor. The zombie makeup is well done and the CGI creatures, based on actual game designs, are mostly convincing although you do get the sense they’re added in post-production in some scenes.

The ending hints that there’s a lot more of the “Resident Evil” universe for the filmmakers to explore and if the next installment is as solid [and features more of the regular characters] this could be a franchise with a very long future.

Sony Pictures
Alice (Milla Jovovich) standing tall in “Resident Evil.”

Rating: 7 out of 10

8 thoughts on “‘Resident Evil’ review – enter the survival horror franchise”

  1. Not watched this one in ages. I’ll have to make time for it soon. I have to admit that I never bothered watching the installments after this one. Are they any good?

    1. I’m a major fan of the game series.

      While the film series slights game characters (and I hate that Chris, Jill and Leon get cameos while Alice gets all the spotlight), the first one more or less captured the tone of the games.

      It wasn’t until the second one that I got a bit annoyed with the focus on Alice at the expense of characters who actually were in the game.

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