[31/31: The Movie | Part 12] Resident Evil (2002) - Critical Kate Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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[31/31: The Movie | Part 12] Resident Evil (2002)


"Oh, that one won't be so bad," people told me. Unfortunately, in the world of videogame movies "not so bad" only means "not as bad as Double Dragon."

But before we get started, a random bit of trivia about the poster you see above. This was the result of an online contest where the entries would be judged by the director and some other people, and the winner's design would be used as the actual one-sheet. I know this because I was following the contest as it happened.

I even submitted a few entries myself. Looking back now, the ones I did were a little amateurish...but at least they looked like posters for a sci-fi horror movie rather than a non-sci fi occult horror movie. This was before things like DeviantArt existed, so it was a pretty progressive form of internet marketing. I'd say I wish they still did contests like this, but they'd probably just result in more eye-sores like the one above.

Resident Evil is directed and written by Mortal Kombat director Paul W.S. Anderson (not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson). If you've been reading my previous entries, you may note that Anderson did not write Mortal Kombat, he merely directed a script byWing Commander screenwriter Kevin Droney. That Mortal Kombat somehow ended up being a better movie than both Resident Evil and Wing Commander must've been a fluke, because neither of them are a good writer.

The main difference between Kevin Droney and Paul W.S. Anderson as writers is that Anderson is actually capable of writing likable main characters. However, he also has a habit of having unlikely things happen in order to move the plot forward, which is the sign of an amateur.

Some have said Resident Evil might've been a better movie if it had been called something else, since it had so little to do with the games. My proposed title would be This Doesn't Make Sense But The Plot Requires It: The Movie.

I'm a big fan of movies that result in a different experience the second time you watch it, because there are things you know now that you didn't the first time around. Anderson must like that kind of movie as well, because it's clearly what he was attempting here. Unfortunately, he wasn't talented enough to pull it off, and the result is a film that is absolutely aggravatingly confusing on the first viewing.

If you watch it a second time, it's fine. You know what's going on, so you can watch it as a popcorn action/horror flick. It's just that first viewing that felt like the director was purposely trying to keep me from enjoying the movie. 

But the second viewing is only enjoyable as long as you make sure to turn your brain off, and never ask "why?"

SPOILERS FOLLOW:

- Why is the emergency entrance to The Hive in a mansion miles away guarded by two live-in security enforcers? Why are the two security enforcers required to pretend they're a married couple even when no one's around?

- Why does the emergency contamination scenario in The Hive involve sending nerve gas into the mansion where the security enforcers are -- nerve gas that causes temporary amnesia -- making said security enforces them completely useless at doing their job?

- If there are two security enforcers in place theoretically guarding the mansion, why does the company's hired emergency squad need to swing in through the windows before even trying the doorbell?

- If the AI-controlled security system isn't just killing people because it's fun, but merely to contain the contamination, why does containing the contamination involve having fun with people in elevators?

- Why do the employees assume the biohazard alarm is just a fire alarm? Did these people never do a biohazard drill?

- If the AI can communicate with anyone anywhere within The Hive -- as later revealed -- why does she wait to communicate with the emergency team until she's already killed half of them?

- Why doesn't the AI just tell them that she's containing the zombies, and that shutting her off and unlocking all the doors will release the zombies? And is she completely vague on purpose, or was she programmed to only speak in cryptic statements? Was the person who programmed this security system just a dickhead?

But if there's one thing I can say that the movie does very well, it's making the viewer feel just as confused and disoriented as the amnesiac security enforcers. Starting with a fairly straightforward scene in an office and then cutting to an unconscious woman in mansion, where we're not sure if Milla lives here or if she's broken into it. Or why she's unconscious in a shower. Or why the emergency team broke in through the windows, and whether we can trust them or not. Or why they were hit with amnesia gas at all. Or why she's being led into The Hive with them when she's clearly not going to be a very effective member of the team in this state. 

It does a great job of making us feel just as confused as the characters...in all the worst ways.

Typically, you want to get viewers invested in the plot, and viewers get invested in the plot when they have at least one character they're able to care about or relate to. But when your two main characters can't even remember their own names, we end up knowing so little about them that it's impossible to grow attached. 

I didn't start enjoying this movie until about 2/3rds of the way through, when they finally regained their memories. And then it turned out the awful amnesia subplot only existed in order to set up one of the worst plot twists I have ever seen in any movie:

"Wait, I just remembered that I'm actually the villain!"

But perhaps what disappoints me most is what this movie could've been. I'm not normally the type to complain that a movie wasn't faithful enough to the game -- I mean, I was just defending Super Mario Bros. last week -- but the first game's story was just begging to be turned into a movie. With better dialogue.

And that's essentially what would've happened if they hadn't fired George A. Romero. For those who aren't familiar with his work, Romero essentially created the modern zombie genre as we know it today, when he directed Night Of The Living Dead in 1968. Resident Evil wouldn't exist without Romero. Even Dead Rising is an homage to Romero's 1978 film Dawn Of The Dead. He's considered the Godfather of zombie films, and he was interested in writing and directing Resident Evil.

He even got on Capcom's good side by directing two Resident Evil 2 commercials that only aired in Japan. Mind you, they're a bit on the short side, and behind the scenes footage suggests that he was intending them to be more narrative than what they ended up being. But he was being courted, and eve got as far as writing a first draft for the movie.

However, it wasn't quite what they were looking for. Or as Capcom producer Yoshhiki Okamoto explained in EGM:

"Romero's script wasn't good, so Romero was fired."

The Godfather's script wasn't good enough. I wonder if Okamoto was aware of quality of the dialogue in the first Resident Evil game?

But it turns out where Romero actually went wrong was in trying to remain faithful to the source material. Paul WS Anderson got the job when he pitched Capcom the idea of throwing out everything except Umbrella and zombies, and starting fresh. His rationale was:

"To be scary you have to be unpredictable, and that's why I felt completely free to reinvent the story and use my own set of fresh characters."

Sure, but then why call it Resident Evil? I suppose it was nice of him to throw in a brief mansion cameo for the videogame fans.

But not all of Romero's script was tossed out. Paul WS Anderson's draft reused a few set pieces, most noticeably the laser hallway sequence. Which happens to be the most memorable scene in the film...
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