The adaptation of a video game into a movie is rarely a good one, as seen with such films as Wing Commander and Tomb Raider. If done rightly, though, a video game can make a good movie, especially one about a bunch of human-hungry zombies. The plot is there, and all Resident Evil had to do was make something of it...
After someone releases a virus into the air system of an underground facility, a group of elite soldiers is sent in to discover what has happened. They are joined by a woman (Milla Jovovich) who has lost her memory, yet has some connection to the whole thing. As they move deeper down, they begin to realize that the virus has a nasty side effect, namely that it turns living people into zombies. Of course, trapped underground, they have to find a way to escape, and to contain the virus and keep it from infecting the entire world.
The bad is always more fun to write about, so let us start with that. The biggest problem Resident Evil has is a series of logic flaws, none of which necessarily affect the direct plot, but have bearing on the believability of the film. When the contagion is first released into the air, it is suggested that it spreads throughout the underground facility via the air ducts. If it is a high-tech and state-of-the-art biological facility, then surely each section would have its own secure air system. Also, when the power is shut down, all of the doors open; that really doesn't make sense either. It is these little things that bothered me the most; they keep the plot moving, but they are stupid flaws, and made me squirm a few times.
Furthermore, the bad guys needed to be more consistent. At one point, some soldiers have to survive a laser defense system - it was a cool scene and fit with the movie, but I wanted to get to the zombies sooner than later - and then they have to survive the zombies, and then they have to survive a bad human, and then finally they have to survive some super zombie creature (which I understand is in the video game?). I really wanted more zombies and less other things, especially that final monster, because, completely computer-animated, it looked pretty cheesy.
The computer graphics were the other problem. While not necessarily bad, the computer graphics applied to the zombies themselves seemed unnecessary. In John Romero's Dawn of the Dead, there are no computer graphics yet the zombies are so hideously gruesome that it is hard not to enjoy them. That movie was pretty damn awful in terms of excitement and so forth, but Resident Evil does not even come close in matching those zombies. The few close-ups of the zombies we get are not nearly as grotesque, and the really nasty ones are digitalized. Also, those zombie dogs were just stupid.
On the good side, Resident Evil is entertaining. From about minute two until the final seconds of the film, the movie is thrilling. I really would have wished that it was a little scarier than it was (the few jumps scenes are magnified by extremely sharp sounds as something jumps onto the screen), but the movie is still suspenseful. The movie is entertaining enough to override any shortcomings the plot has.
Just to note on the ending, I am pretty skeptical. A sequel is already in the works, but all I could tell is that they are trying to copy the overall plot of the John Romero movies. It was sort of a cool ending, but on the other hand not.
I was pleasantly surprised by Resident Evil. Though it was fairly mindless, as I expected, it was a lot more entertaining and fast paced than originally anticipated, and if you want a fun suspense thriller to entertain you for an hour and a half, Resident Evil is your film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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