Director Paul Anderson (Mortal Kombat) helms this sci-fi horror fest about a futuristic world under the Umbrella Corporation and their secret experiments and research that predictably lead to chaos and disorder. Based on the video game series of the same name, Resident Evil stars Milla Jovovich (The Fifth Element) as the protagonist hero, Alice, who doesn’t have much dialogue, kicks major enemy butt and shows a lot of sex appeal – everything sci-fi/horror fans want, but not necessarily mainstream audiences. The movie showcases Jovovich’s sex appeal in non sexual ways (such as her character entrance in a shower scene) since most of the character realistically won’t think about hooking up with each other given the life-threatening situation they are in.
The rest of the characters are not very recognizable, except for Michelle Rodriquez (Girlfight, Fast and the Furious) as Rain, but have solid performances amid dingy setting and realistic special effects. Matt, played by Eric Mabius (Welcome to the Dollhouse, The Crow: Salvation), and Spence, played by Brit James Purefoy (A Knight’s Tale) play pivotal roles in the discovery of events and Alice’s purpose and role in the events. Rodiquez portrays Rain as a tough, but sometimes selfish character, but doesn’t really intrigue beyond her characteristics except for making the audience wonder if she will live or die.
The movie puts characters in peril several times in situation where they look like a goner. “You’ll have to work for your meal,” explains one desperate man. Others exclaim “ I don’t want to walk around without soul” and have other plans in mind. Regardless of the situation, the audience has a basic desire to side with all the character fighting to survive due to the extreme circumstances which makes the impactful, but small story twists and revelations more effective.
Not many people should have difficulty following the story which progresses logically through locations that include “the hive”, “Raccoon City” and an underground train station. Certain characters end up where they started and set up the end for a inevitable sequel scenario. The sequel would make sense since the video game has many installments. Hopefully, the sequel has a meatier story than this average movie. Besides setting up the sequel, the ending has good closure by linking actions of the antagonist (discovered late in the story) and an seemingly random, but noticeable scene involving a research technician in the beginning. The payoff isn’t that big, but it does establish a reference point for the audience to easily understand how the antagonist set off the chain of events in the story.
Resident Evil has an original concept, but the execution of the movie has many altered cliches. A character comes out of nowhere from above to scare a character and the audience, instead of creeping behind her. A special investigative team lead by a character played by Colin Salmon (World is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies) becomes goes past the point of no return on a “routine” mission. Characters must be concerned with other people in the party “turning” into another entity that might take another form or attack them – an element seen in many sci-fi movies. In Resident Evil, this condition does have an antidote (why didn’t characters on the train use it sooner?). All the antagonistic creature stand in order so the heroes can mow them down.
The “big brother” point of view camera shots provide interesting viewpoints and may have you wondering who’s watching (if you’re not familiar with the game storyline). Later when the special investigative team becomes involved, the story shifts into standard mode as it pits the characters against several entities as they fight to survive and discover the truth behind these horrific events. The special effects do a particularly good job of making the entities authentic and frightening. The explanation of the research puts a frightening impact into the story. After this revelation, the story keeps the audience one step ahead of the events, so they’re deeper involved in the protagonists’ situation as the antagonistic entities search to satisfy their “basic needs.”
A constant guessing game of character motives centers around Alice as she tries to piece together events during her encounter with the investigative team and her recovery from apparent memory loss. Besides the action and intense situations, open-ended questions about the identities of Alice’s entourage may be enough to sustain audiences through the story and provide needed character development and emotion. The audience learns as Alice learns. A unique way of developing her character and the others.
Resident Evil comes recommended with reservations (** out of four stars) and was filmed in Germany and London, England. Anderson puts in a great ending shot that sets up the scope and impact of the setting for the next installment of this movie series.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler