The Resident Evil series
I finally decided to sit down and watch the Resident Evil series this weekend. I’m not a gamer so while I am aware of the source material, I don’t have any real experience it or any connection to it. I totally get it when my buddy Jason says “forget the movies, just play the game….” but that’s not quite as viable of an option for me! Besides, I liked the first one. It was fine for what it was…..
Hmmm. There’s a question in that statement – what exactly IS this move anyhow?
This is the first thing you have to understand. Resident Evil and all of it’s sequels are not horror movies. I hear “Zombies” and I think “monster movie”. But much like in the Walking Dead, the zombies aren’t really the main antagonists. They’re background. They’re waking props. Resident Evil is far more about the people, and the evil Umbrella corporation. Once you’re past the first film, the Zombies -they’re always there but they really fade in to the background for the most part.
Resident Evil is a sci-fi action series. If you go in expecting a scary movie you will be disappointed. If you go in to see punches and kicks and gunfire, you’re in the right place. Once I realized this it changed my expectations and how I was going to view this series (it also made Milla Jovovich’s casting in the Expendables 3 make a lot more sense). You don’t go into Rambo looking for great cinema. The quality of these movies across the board is still better than anything I see on the SYFY channel (in fact, if SYFY would just rise a few inches to this level, I’d probably be a fan again)
The thing that surprises me about this series is how uneven it is. What makes that odd is the fact that every one of these films have been written by the same guy. Resident Evil on screen is Paul W.S. Anderson’s baby, without a doubt. You can see it in the continuity and it benefits from having that guiding hand.
However, the second film is just SO BORING. I ‘d swear there wasn’t a scriptwriter here, just story by committee (It was what prompted me to check who the writer was. I was surprised to find it was still Anderson). In fact story is pushing the description a little bit. RE2 just drifts from set piece to set piece, encounter to encounter. Lot’s of action, some nice makeups but no development or plot. The series really isn’t expanded by this movie other than to point out that Umbrella really is evil….a point that one might be able to kind of argue in the first movie. A lot of people will blame this on the director – a newbie on his first film. I’d be quick to jump on him myself, but honestly, the direction is perfectly serviceable. There’s just nothing here for him to direct. RE2 really makes me wonder how RE3 ever got made.
I suspect the answer is two words: Ridley. Scott.
I’m not saying a RE movie is BENEATH Ridley…..well, yeah. Actually that’s exactly what I’m saying. It actually makes NO sense to me why he took this job, but he does a fine job with it. We go post-apocalyptic in this edition and it makes sense. He may have taken in it a little far though – suggesting the entire earth is one big Mad Max-like desert wasteland. That seems to be contradicted a bit in later films (but seriously, who in their right mind was expecting to milk this series for six movies?). Ridley was adamant about setting this one entirely in daylight. It’s an interesting turn, but perhaps not as noticeable as you might expect. These are, after all, action movies. Not horror.
The addition of elements like zombie crows and a chance to really showcase the main character’s powers is a good addition. The series has been around long enough to feature recurring characters and we kind of know the world now. It’s enough to justify another sequel.
Form here on out, Anderson will direct all of these himself and number four manages to once again impress me, picking up on a thread left over in 3 – the search for a part of the world that is safe and not infected. There’s a little retcon, but nothing to dire and the axe wielding bad guy is another nice addition. RE5 will pick up from about thirty seconds after RE4 leaves off, so closely linked you might have thought they were filmed back to back. However we’re back to meandering territory here. Little story, Lot’s of action and one of Milla’s best outfits. It almost seems like sometimes the producers feel the need to go back to making the movie look like a video game, just to get back in touch with it’s roots.
It’s a shame, other than the first and third, these films can’t really stand on their own, but it’s a series custom made for marathoning or running in the background of a party. I don’t ever expect much from Milla Jovovich. She’s nice to look at and I suppose it’s cool to have a female action star, but she’s never had any real acting chops that I’ve observed. Her best role is still in the Fifth Element because she doesn’t have to speak for most of the film. I can absolutely see myself popping this stuff on while I draw Violent Blue and I might even catch the sixth one next year when it comes out, but I can’t imagine going out of my way to really watch any of these again.