The Bard once wrote, “What’s past is prologue,” and that certainly applies to our pop culture landscape. It’s always important to reflect upon and reevaluate what has come before. Doing so can help us to better appreciate something new, or possibly unlock some hidden meaning in the past that we never considered. To understand where we are, we have to know where we’ve been. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at…
Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter releases this weekend. It’s kind of amazing that this series was able to spawn five sequels. The movies are regularly slammed by critics and aren’t box office powerhouses by any means. They do well – especially internationally – but there doesn’t seem to be an enormous following of fans for this interpretation of the Resident Evil universe. Or maybe there are and we just don’t give them the acknowledgment they deserve.
I was certainly excited when the first film came out and I’m not even a huge fan of the game. I was more excited for a horror/action film starring Leeloo from The Fifth Element. Plus, Marilyn Manson was assisting on the score. It was an R-rated action film. What could go wrong?
OK, let’s get this out of the way: Resident Evil is an absolute travesty when it comes to adapting the source material. It’s not simply that the movie doesn’t use tons of lore from the games, but the entire tonal approach is incongruous with the survival horror the series is known for. Sure, there were some big bits of ridiculous action – shoutout to Yawn! – but the game was really trying to creep the player out. The film? Not so much.
However, when you meet Resident Evil on its own terms, it’s not all that terrible. The later films would showcase more and more over-the-top action, but Resident Evil knows how to spread the silliness out. Honestly, the signature sequence from the film – the laser room – is a genuinely great action beat. It has a good sense of progression and ends with what still stands as the best kill in the entire franchise.
The other extremely outrageous bit has Alice (Milla Jovovich) going toe-to-face with a zombified Doberman. Admittedly, it’s the goofiest piece in the entire film but became iconic enough to get called back to in the fourth film, Resident Evil: Afterlife. There’s a doofus charm to when the movie decides to abandon its more grisly action tone for something as laugh-worthy as an undead dog getting kicked in the face.
And the movie is surprisingly well-paced! The opening scene is a great fake-out that makes the audience think the story is going to be about the Umbrella employees surviving the initial outbreak. Nope! We get a quick intro showing the fall of the Hive and then we jump right into Alice’s story. Later films get bogged down with tons of mythology building and convoluted continuity, but Resident Evil breezes by with ease.
It’s not a perfect movie by any means. The acting leaves plenty to be desired and the dated digital effects are really jarring. Still, it’s worth taking a look at if just to see how much the series blew up in terms of action audacity. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter looks like it will be as bombastic as the last few films. If you want something with a sprinkling of absurdity and some solid action and gore, Resident Evil will treat you right.
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