Maria and I went and saw the new Resident Evil movie tonight. I cast this blargery using the snide leer of a gamer, a nerdus extremus that not only examines the film for it's stand-alone merits as a moving picture, but also as homage to the game that inspired it. Spoilers lie beyond. You have been warned.
In griping about this movie, one must take into account that it falls under a very unique sub-sub-genre. It's not just a zombie movie, it's a zombie movie based on a video game. There's a huge difference, and that difference is that all movies based on video games suck. Straight up. It's science, as absolute as gravity. If I drop a rock, it falls down and hits the ground. If I make a movie based on a video game, it eats balls and pisses off nerds. However, what brings these movies above any other shit fest is that they havee the opportunity to stay loyal to the subject matter and therefore appease the fans that allowed it to exist in the first place. This is how I justify watching these deplorable hunks of ass meat, and ultimately what keeps me going back to the theatre and paying money. I know it's going to be bad by all "movie" standards, but I'm driven by an unholy force to see how well they adopt the artistic direction of the games, almost like I'm watching over Hollywood to make sure everything is ok and that our little social group isn't shit on too hard.
The Resident Evil movies have sucked since their inception, plain and simple. The first one has it's moments, and is a decent zombie movie, but Michelle Rodriguez is an automatic fail if you are trying to make a film with "quality" and "charisma". I cheered in real life when she got kicked off of Lost for that DUI in Hawaii. Stay away from my show you cudgel of an actress. Milla Jovovich is of course a babe, and her willingness, nay, quest to get naked in her movies is huge points for the RE films. I would say that the definining moment of the first movie is her slow motion ninja kick to the skinless zombie dogs. Yeah, it was in the preview. Twice. But sadly, blurry crotchal shots only go so far and I am not, nor ever will be a dude who's into Mr. Skin dot com. The second movie, Nemesis, had absolutely ZERO redeeming qualities and was a straight up slap in the face to all the geeks who spent all that money building the Resident Evil empire. At this time I'd like to say 'fuck you' to Capcom for allowing our baby to get raped that hard, for that long, on that big of a screen, for $9 a ticket. I was a huge fan of Resident Evil 3 (for you trogs out there who haven't played the games, the big puffy asshole in the rubber penis suit in Apocalypse was the central villain for the third game, and I bit my pillow and cried when I saw the movie for the first time) even though many gamers tout it as a weak entry to the series. In my harsh, jaded, bullish opinion, the Nemesis character was a step in the right direction for the continuity of the drama surrounding the Umbrella story, and every time he broke through a wall and made my life suck for 2 minutes as I mashed and smashed the controller trying to get away was a true experience in gaming life. Touche, Nemesis. We had a good run. After the second film was ruined, I threw my hands up in exasperation, once again cursing the powers that be for turning a robust gaming experience into pithy drabble, and expanding further on the sterotype that video games are only for slobbering nerds during masturbation breaks, inherently and forever lame...
Until I saw the preview for Resident Evil: Extinction. Like a kitty sniffing a freshly opened can of tuna I was pawing at the cinema screen watching Milla once again take to the air, slow motion ninja kicking zombies in the middle of the desert, dressed like The Road Warrior and wielding twin daggers. Seriously, shit looked like Mad Max working his way through the undead masses, only with hyper charged ninja skillz, short shorts, and boobies. I was pumped, but as I've proved many times before I am a prime sucker for a preview that promises graphic violence and reanimated corpses. So of course, the fuckers got my admission money. Again. And I'm left with merely a poorly attended blog site to reap my righteous revenge.
The movie begins after all the previous Resident Evil lore entered into the series through the movies and games, with the insatiable T-Virus turning planet earth into a wasted desert. That's right, the T-Virus kills water. Scientific botchery aside, I completely approve of apocalyptic settings for these kind of movies so I roll with it and sit tight. It immediately becomes apparent that zero effort was put into writing interesting dialogue, you know, like for a movie, with people that talk to eachother. I haven't seen worse dialogue since Path Finder. It was like watching a cut scene from Resident Evil 2, which had some of the most awkward cinematics in the PlayStation's career. While I respect Capcom as giants in the game industry, fathers of a myriad of classic and contemporary master pieces, they can't deliver semi believable voice acting to save their lives and this is the first consistent line one can draw from the game to the movie. Sad.
It takes a while for anything decent to happen, the first of two good scenes rolls in after about 20-30 minutes in and involves a bunch of pissed off crows that attack a convoy of protagonists. The body count is moderate and the special effects are pretty good, but all it is is The Birds on steroids. Flock of creepy birds, lots of swooping, eyes getting pecked out, squaking, etc. The humans fight back, yes, by shooting at the crows with pistols, and much to my shagrin the flying devils did not produce any hand gun ammunition or red gems once killed, which was one of my favorite little moments of obvious un-realism in Resident Evil 4. The environment is the most vivid and detailed out of any of the games, so real that you could even shoot and kill the cows, chickens, crows... and they drop a box of hand gun bullets for your trouble. Must've been nestled under the wing. W00t!
But this scene, while awesome and filled with people being eaten alive by zombie crows, introduces one of the lamest concepts from the movie into the mix. Telekinetic powers! Right as the dude manning the giant flamethrower on top of the school bus (why do they always have one of those in an apolcalyptic desert movie?) gets his face chewed by birds and sends the flamethrower in a deadly arc towards two of his allies, Alice (Jovovich) shows up and drops an energy bubble around them, bouncing the fire up at the birds to save the day. WHAT?!?!? Not once has telekinesis been marginally approached in the games or movies, unless you count Wesker's force punch in the Mercenaries mini game, or the occasional defiance of physics during a particularly nasty boss fight. Suddenly, Alice has "powers", and can do all kinds of unrealistic bullshit so that the special effects team can wank to their wanking heart's content and the writing team doesn't have to come up with feasible ways for her to get out of sticky situations. Fucking bullshit! How come when I was trapped in a mansion with a giant snake vomiting poison every which way I couldn't just summon an energy ball and blow a hole in through the door? Why did I run back and forth through Raccoon City to gather keys and figure out 7th grade picture puzzles when I could have just floated my way to the final encounter? Why the fuck did I spend all those spinnels and gems on weapon upgrades when I could have just given chainsaw-bag-head a seductive look and broken his neck with my brain? Think of all the outfits Leon could have bought.
The second good scene is the action sequence that goes down when the group reaches the sanded-over Las Vegas of the future. No time to hit the Bellagio, we've got to kick the balls off of crazy running zombies. Yes, even though the previews clearly show the standard "shuffling" zombies of yore, the primary zombie killing moments happen in an extended, violent, extreme sports commercial. While slow zombies dominate the game series, running zombies are not new to the RE world. You will recall the "red face" zombies from the RE1 remake for GameCube that would sit up upon you re-entry to their place of death and promptly haul ass to your vicinity and mop the floor with your skin. Shit was terrifying. Not so on film. The running zombies, with their matching one piece jump suits and shaved heads, looked like a rotting Blue Man Group charging out of a cloning device like pop corn. Regardless, they were shot, stabbed, sliced, and chopped, every bloody burst almost bringing me back onto team RE. The body count of friendlies during this scene should also be noted, and most of the sub-par actors floundering for screen time were snuffed with efficiency. My faith was not fully restored though, and unfortunately the boss fight was another telekinetic let down in the laser room.
The big bummer at the end was the obvious set up for a new RE movie, which I will avoid like buzzards perched on razor wire if the fruit does indeed ripen. They have some serious accounting to do if I pay full price for another Capcom infused feature. However, the previews for this film yielded an exciting look at 30 Days of Night, which looks awesome. Only father time will judge its true merit. The real excitement is that I know sometime in 2008 I'll get my hands on Resident Evil 5 for XBox 360. The game footage shown at E3 was absolutley mouth watering, even if it does prominently feature a white cop shooting black people in Africa. While Capcom's IPs stink like foot cheese when viewed through the standard de-awesomifying Hollywood goggles, I will unwaiveringly sport the RE flag when it involves the interactive experience that hooked us all in that first trounce through the mansion.