In this week’s DVD Tuesday, Scotty G mentions that the latest Street Fighter film follows the rule that video games make bad movies. Normally, I agree with Scotty’s takes. The less said about the Super Mario movie or the Mortal Kombat extravaganzas the better. But, like almost every rule, there is the rare exception.
People hate director Paul Anderson. No, not the virtuoso behind Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, and Boogie Nights (a film that claims a spot in my personal top 10). That’s Paul Thomas Anderson. I’m talking about the “other” guy, Paul W.S. Anderson, the man responsible for genre flicks like Alien Vs Predator, Death Race, the first Mortal Kombat, among many others. Granted, while none of the listed films are particularly good, Anderson does have to his credit what I consider to be one of if not the best video game film ever committed to celluloid: Resident Evil.
Resident Evil was a must have for the original Playstation when it first came out back in the late 90’s. The sequel was even better. I think it’s safe to say that the ongoing fascination pop culture currently has with zombies is in no small part due to the massive success of Resident Evil. Solving puzzles, blasting the undead, and consistently spooky ambiance – the game had the goods. A film version was sure to be a slam dunk, and when Resident Evil finally made it to the screen in 2002 it managed to pull in over $100 million worldwide, the draw of zombies, a hot video game, and the always appealing Milla Jovovich in the lead role clearly a draw. Reviews were harsh though, but having watched the film more than a few times, it seems like they were unduly so.
Resident Evil has a lot going for it. Jovovich asserts herself as a solid leading lady as Alice, the undercover agent who’s lost her memory. I place the character firmly in Ripley territory, even though the franchise is nowhere near as strong as the Alien one. The evil Umbrella corporation angle is compelling, and the underground city of The Hive that our hired guns have to battle out of is an interesting set piece. As for the zombies, the film and game’s real raison d’etre, they’re faithful to the video game, slow and scary. The effects are solid throughout, the script keeps things running quick, and the ending leaves you with a compelling cliffhanger that virtually guaranteed a sequel.
Now I’m not saying Resident Evil is high art, but it is significantly better than the video game films that came before it. Sadly, it’s also superior to the films in the franchise that came after it as well. While Milla Jovovich remains entertaining and a good source of eye candy, Resident Evil: Apocalypse was a horrible continuation of the series, with some of the worst acting and special effects I’ve seen in a genre film, video game or otherwise. Resident Evil: Extinction was marginally better, thanks to the presence of Ali Larter (Heroes). But still, neither compare to that first film. Perhaps its because director Paul Anderson wasn’t behind the lens, but then again, he was responsible for the subsequent films screenplays. Maybe the first film just happens to be a fluke.
Today it was reported that a fourth film in the franchise, Resident Evil: Afterlife is on schedule to be released in September 2010. Another potentially bad video game movie. While nothing was confirmed, it’s probably a safe bet to expect to see Milla Jovovich back as Alice, because really, a Resident Evil movie without Alice would be like an Aliens movie with Ripley. Bad.
Check out Alien Vs Predator for the proof. Or save yourself the dough and take my word for it.