Probably one of the better video game films, which might be a little hard to admit, even more of a comment on the competition. But honestly it has its moments
Resident Evil starts off surprisingly well, certainly better than memory led me to believe. The brief section showing the virus being released is accompanied by a pulsating thumping beat, with the clean blue office structure conveying both everyday life, and something slightly removed there from. The lack of information as the helpless office workers struggle against a watching, silent enemy adds to the sense of paranoia.
The scene where the woman dies in the lift kills the mood a bit, it’s so telegraphed and laboured it feels like a scene from Final Destination. The oppressive mood is soon restored though when Milla Jovovich’s Alice wakes up in a seemingly deserted mansion. It brings the first game sharply to mind, and feels vast making Alice more vulnerable. Again the lack of information creates the tension, you know as much as she does as she wanders aimlessly around the mansion, in which she is clearly not alone. I’m not sure why she finds the wind so terrifying, but it sets up a jump scare, one of many, and then the film really begins.
Unfortunately what the film turns out to be is not the paranoid, suspenseful, pulsating horror, instead it’s a fairly neutered action film. Once the special ops team burst in, the film becomes straight-ahead, even in how it deals with the plot. The story is delivered in sizable monologues, often with some kind of graphic representation, not the worst thing as it turns out, because it gets it out of the way within 5 minutes. All you really need to know is that the T-Virus was released inside an underground Umbrella facility called the ‘Hive’. The Hive is controlled by an A.I., who in an effort to control the outbreak killed all the staff inside the facility. The special Ops’ job is to find out exactly what went on down there.
This raises a couple of questions, firstly wouldn’t it be better to send a larger team, including scientists, into the Hive to find out what went on? Sending the Special Ops suggest they had a fair idea what had happened down there, in which case why even send the Ops? There’s also the question as to why Red Queen (the Hive’s A.I.) doesn’t fully explain the situation before she is shut off, instead she aggressively threatens the team, only explaining the repercussions of their actions once it’s too late.
There’s not a lot of wasted time in Resident Evil, and you’re never too far from some action. That’s not to say all the action is good, the fight scene in the dining room is too confused, mixing between overly panicking soldiers and zombies falling over. The way it leaves things too is a little confused, when Alice and end up separated from the rest of the team, and each other, for no apparent reason. This does allow for the familiar Doberman’s to make an appearance, and for Alice to slowly recover her fighting ability.
Probably the most famous scene from the film is the laser corridor where most of the team meet their end. When the film first came out this scene was the biggest indication of how the film had got things wrong. Now though, and possibly because of the direction the games have taken recently (including an homage), it stands out for being one of the better scenes, and certainly one the film can claim as its own. The zombie scenes aren't the best, often it's noticeable that the zombies will hold back rather than attack stricken humans, which nullifies the threat a bit.
The CG on the Hunter is atrocious, fair enough the film was made on a budget, but this isn’t far removed from Mortal Kombat levels of technical wizardry. The CG on the red Queen is quite good, but the English accent isn’t quite as creepy as the producers seemed to think. In fact when used to bellow “Kill her! Kill her now!” it’s actually quite grating. The use of a 10 year old girl raises questions as to why an A.I. needs either a personality or a ‘face’, I would have thought that just made things like this inevitable.
The acting from the key characters is reasonably solid, although they are trying too hard to be ‘cool’. Milla Jovovich plays a big part in making the film watchable, but probably hands in the best performance, a little too moody and ‘Vasquez’ maybe, but her character is certainly the most fully developed.
All in all Resident Evil is not that bad a movie, it’s far too reliant on cheap jumps for scares, over utilising close-ups to set them up, which results in the scares being telegraphed. Compared to the sequels though this is a far more focused film, and a far more enjoyable one. No it doesn’t capture the feel of the games, at least not the ones that came before it, but it is one of the better live-action gaming films, and probably worthy of a second viewing.