92. Resident Evil

ResidentEvil1I know — two zombie movies in a row. It’s bad form, especially for a proclaimed ‘zombie hater.’ But to me, Resident Evil as a whole has always been more interesting as a creature feature. Having only played Resident Evil 5, I can only attest to those creatures, but they were pretty cool, especially in that visual environment. The art design behind the games has found (sometimes distressing) faithful translations to the big screen, and in the first Resident Evil movie, the big bad is the Licker.

The Licker is an exemplary case of 90s and early-2000s CGI. It might be a cool design, but damn if it doesn’t look entirely separated from the live-action actors and set. But that’s okay, because it exists on film, and in a good film. This is James Cameron’s favorite guilty pleasure (he does note, with maybe make-believe emphasis, the ‘first’ movie), and for me, it’s got the monster, and it’s got the paramilitary soldiers with big guns running down hallways.

Doom is better — a better movie and better at that trope/aesthetic combo. Yet, this movie, with its G36cs, more detailed sets, and leaner monsters, is less dumpy and rotund than Doom, which hews closer to Gears of War visual territory. Resident Evil strikes a good balance of the guys with guns and the monsters being shot at by guys with guns.

And I guess Milla Jovovich kicks a dog in the face, but we’ll forgive such post-Matrix regrets.

Paul W.S. Anderson has always had a good eye for casting, and here we have Michelle Rodriguez playing an agent or law enforcer of some kind, Colin Salmon as team leader (“One”), and Jason Isaacs on narration. It would be a good roster of faces with just Salmon alone. Much, much later, we’ll check back in with him as a detective in a vigilante’s world…

For now, we have a film that was taken from George Romero (who inspired the creation of the game) and given to the Internet’s punching bag. Now, I think Anderson can be a good director — maybe not this movie but Soldier and Death Race are quite good. He’s got an interesting visual style, but for a while his slightly niche, slightly nerdy predilections led him down roads controlled tightly by studio interests.

Never forget. AVP.

2 thoughts on “92. Resident Evil

  1. Not long ago I picked up the five-movie collection on Blu-ray. I haven’t watched the sequels yet, but I watched the first one, which I don’t think I had seen since I caught it in a theatre in 2002. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it upon revisiting it, despite all the holes that can be punched in it. I remember hating the second one and somewhat enjoying the third when I watched them years ago; no idea how I’ll feel about them when I revisit them. I’ve still never seen 4 or 5.

    I really don’t know what the internet’s problem is with Anderson. Movie geeks will bend over backwards to defend Michael Bay, but they act like Anderson is just the worst fucking director to have ever walked the planet. I can’t really tolerate Bay at all, but I consistently enjoy Anderson’s brand of schlock: Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, AVP, Death Race… that last one may be the best of the bunch. There’s good schlock and bad schlock, and I find that he usually falls on the right side of the fence. Shame he never directed a Godzilla movie; he would have been the perfect choice had they decided to make a follow-up to the Emmerich one. In my comments on the 2014 movie I said that Emmerich’s was extremely dumb but very fun, which is how I would characterize Resident Evil.

    You’re right about the cast; I think they make Resident Evil work more than anything else, distracting you from all the flaws and making you just go with it. Jovovich, Purefoy, and Salmon are terrific, and even Mabius and Rodriguez make their roles work despite their wooden acting. (It’s like Keanu Reeves; he’s wooden but very good at playing a certain type.) Obviously Anderson’s flashy direction is part of it too, and I love the music when it’s not devolving into a jumble of guitar noise. (The main theme that plays during the opening is excellent.)

    Maybe someday I’ll get around to seeing The Three Musketeers or Pompeii, both of which I thought looked awful in the trailers. Maybe I’d just be better off revisiting Punisher: War Zone.

    1. You cannot go wrong revisiting War Zone — might as well do that anyway.

      With the exception of AVP, which began with handicapped material (couldn’t get the rights to the comics) and followed through with studio meddling, Anderson’s great flaw is writing. As the sequels get crazier and mash these elements together without any grace, it’s like the series is just Event Horizon in macrocosm.

      I did like the first sequel, but it was so terrible. Dutch angles, crazytown dialogue (“this [zombie invasion] would be all over the fuckin’ news!”), and the fatal worship of Milla Jovovich’s Alice… *shudders*

      But it was fun.

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