JANUARY 1, 2009
Not sure why it’s taken so long to make an animated Resident Evil movie. The games always had lengthy CGI cut-scenes anyway, and the three movies were more or less junky fun but everyone always complained about the lack of game characters like the Redfields or Leon, so what the fuck took them until now to give us Resident Evil: Degeneration, which brings back the heroes of RE2 and what could have been a pretty awesome game location (an airport)?
Oh, a new game. It’s been years since Resident Evil 5 was announced, but it’s finally coming in March. And it seems that this movie is setting up the plot of that game, in which terrorists are using Umbrella’s bio weapons for their usual terrorist type plots. I haven’t played 4 yet, so maybe this movie is bridging the two games, I dunno. All I know is, there’s no Alice, no little girl ghost, and Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t have a goddamn thing to do with it.
And it’s not all that bad. The middle act is a bit slow, but the animation is good (there’s a shot of a plane early on that I swear is real), and while the character movement is a little jerky and unnatural, the voice acting, for the most part, is far better than the games usually offer (and no one is referred to as the “master of unlocking”). The only drawback, besides the rather curious lack of zombies in the 2nd half (then again, the games always sort of phased them out after a while too, but there would still be dogs and Hunters, neither of which are present here), is that Claire spends most of the movie like Abbie in Riding With Death: watching shit on a monitor and talking to herself. Leon S. Kennedy (he actually introduces himself with his initial) is the main hero, and he teams up with a new character who eerily resembles Jolene Blalock from Starship Troopers 3. Not sure why they would bring back one of the most enduring characters of the series and not have her really DO anything for the bulk of the film, but oh well. She DOES brandish an umbrella as a weapon (heh) at one point, so I guess it evens out.
I had to laugh too, at a scene late in the film when Leon displays some parkour style skills as he scrambles to avoid a monster. Where the fuck are those moves in the game? I would have liked the animators to just once have a character turn the wrong way, slowly walk a few feet, then run in place against the side of a wall for 30 seconds before getting killed. Or maybe just an ink ribbon lying around. I guess I will settle for a bit early in the film when a background “extra” appears to show disdain for a planter that he was passing by. Keep an eye out for it (it’s before any of the bad shit goes down), it’s hilarious.
Speaking of the character movements – it’s funny how the animators seem to think that keeping a character moving around will make them seem more lifelike. So if someone is delivering a bunch of exposition, the other character will continually nod, shake their head, widen their eyes, blink excessively, etc. Stand still!
One thing the movie definitely takes advantage of is the unlimited range of CGI when it comes to monsters. The final monster has a few stages, and it’s really great to see it bursting new body parts and such, a moment that would be poorly done and look “fake” in a live action movie. Like the games themselves, there’s always a human villain to deal with (actually two, a sleazy senator guy and a corporate tycoon who looks suspiciously like Keith Olbermann), which limits the monster’s screen time, but it’s pretty awesome nonetheless. Director Makoto Kamiya also stages some impressive shots (he’s a big fan of rack focus) and setpieces – I’d love to see him tackle another film of this type, maybe Metal Gear or Silent Hill...
The sound design is also above average for this type of thing. There’s a part where Claire hits a guy with a coffee mug, and even though we don’t see it hit the ground, they took the time to add in a sound effect of it rolling away. Little effort goes a long way. Some of the surrounds are pretty impressive as well; I wish I had gotten this on Blu-ray instead to enjoy an uncompressed track. Like Downfall, it’s nice to see these tie-in movies that display some actual attempts to be worthwhile once the game itself is out.
The DVD comes with a nice collection of extras, including bios for all of the characters for those uninitiated into the RE universe (not sure who exactly would be watching this beyond RE fans, but oh well). Some of the features are jokey, like an “interview with Leon”, and also about 15 minutes worth’ of the movie redubbed with funny dialogue (some of it actually made me laugh, to be fair), but that’s better than fake animated bloopers. Also, the 30 min making of is informative and interesting, albeit not in English (the movie offers like 6 spoken languages – they couldn’t dub the making of into English for a R1 DVD?). There are also a couple trailers for RE5, but sadly none of it is comprised of actual gameplay, just cut scene stuff.
I enjoy playing the games, but I can’t make heads or tails of what is going on in any of them by the end, and the movie follows suit. There’s a lot of nonsense about T-viruses and vaccines and political coups and double-crosses... I’m not going to lie and say I understood all of it. All I care about is zombie action, some cool monsters, and a female character or two that makes me think unnatural things, and in that case the movie delivers as well as any game based on a video game can be expected. I’ll take it over Extinction at any rate.
What say you?
P.S. I can’t remember, but does time really pass this much in the games? I always assumed they took place within a few weeks of each other, but in this they say it’s been seven years since RE2 (in reality it’s been 11-12, but still, I thought that seemed long).