Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Retrospective: Resident Evil - Extinction (2007)

Welcome back to part three of the Resident Evil retrospective! In this entry we're going to cover the third movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Extinction! However, before we get to that I want to speak briefly on critic-audience disparity, which has come to mind with the recent release of Man of Steel (and which can be applied to the Resident Evil film franchise by its fans). Superman Returns had a high critical reception (75% Tomatometer), but had a mixed reception with audiences (67% liked it). Conversely, Man of Steel has had a very mixed reception (56% Tomatometer), but is scoring well with audiences (82% liked it). One audience rebuttal to this I have read is that critics are not fans of the property in question, and therefore do not know what makes a proper franchise film. However, this makes critics look like robots, not to mention implies that they don't have any personal interests of their own. For that matter, why should it matter if they're a fan of the property? If they think the movie's bad then that's their opinion, and the one they give to a general audience who may not be fanboys either. For example, I love werewolves. I thought that The Wolfman remake was a great werewolf film, despite the movie's very tepid reception (35% Tomatometer and 38% audience approval). Reviews are ultimately just opinions. However, I'm more inclined to trust a critic since they have seen a wider variety of movies and therefore have more to judge a film against than the average movie-goer. As a result, I'm expecting Man of Steel to be very middle-of-the-pack when I finally see it.

Anyway despite making even more money than its predecessor, Resident Evil: Apocalypse shit all over the best period of the Resident Evil games' storyline. With the Resident Evil film franchise basically the butt of bad video game movie jokes, how could the film franchise hope to carry on? The answer was quite... surprising to say the least. How so? Read on to find out...

Simple, but striking. The poster conveys the style and theme of the movie quite well. This poster was pretty badass as well.

At the time that Resident Evil: Apocalypse was released, the Resident Evil video games had been stagnating: new games in the series either regurgitated the Racoon City time period (Outbreak), were prequels to the original games (Zero) or remakes of the original games (REmake, Code Veronica X). However, the games were given new life mere months after Apocalypse when Resident Evil 4 broke new ground. With the Resident Evil game series attaining relevance once again, it would be fitting if the film franchise could finally achieve some form of success.

Although Paul W.S. Anderson was once again given scripting duties, the actual directing of the film was passed off to Russell Mulcahy. Mulcahy was an inconsistent but well-established director, having directed a ton of music videos. As for his filmography, he was best known for directing the cult classic, Highlander. Unfortunately, his CV also contains epic turds, such as The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior and Highlander II: The Quickening (although budget and producer interference played a major role in these flops). Still, he was certainly a step up from Alexander Witt.


In terms of its cast, most of the (surviving) main characters from Resident Evil: Apocalypse return. The only major character who is missing is Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), because she was appearing in Eragon instead (ouch, bad move...). Taking her place as the secondary heroine was Retrospectives veteran Ali Larter, who was previously featured in my Final Destination series. She takes on the role of Claire Redfield. Considering that Guillory did a fairly poor job as Jill Valentine in the previous film, this was definitely a step up. Taking the reins as the main antagonist is a minor character who appeared in Apocalypse, Dr. Isaacs, played by Iain Glen (holy shit, Jorah Mormont!). The main villain of the video game series, Albert Wesker, also makes an appearance, played by Jason O'Mara... unfortunately, he isn't given anything to do, and just comes across as very bland rather than cunning and sinister.

The cast actually does a decent job, especially compared to the other movies in the series. By this time, Milla Jovovich has really settled into a rhythm, totally convincing us she's a cool and killer badass. I quite liked Oded Fehr as Carlos Olivera as well - his role is expanded a bit from the previous film and we actually become fairly attached to him (although the romance between he and Alice just comes out of nowhere). Ali Larter does a decent job as Claire Redfield, although she isn't given a lot of material to work with (a common complaint, which also extends to the secondary characters). Hell, even LJ's role gets expanded this time around and I actually found myself sympathizing with him... that said, I was still overjoyed when he died, just because of how annoying he was in Apocalypse. I also liked Iain Glen's Dr. Isaacs, who really brings some much-needed campiness to the proceedings. He plays the usual mad scientist role, but he's unpredictable - I mean, how unhinged to you have to be to be too crazy for even the Umbrella corporation!?!


As for the plot of the movie, Extinction is, in a lot of ways, a massive middle finger to the fans of the games. Why's that, you might ask? Put simply, the movie goes post-apocalyptic, killing off 5/6ths of the world's population, whereas the video games revolve around preventing another outbreak like Racoon City and stymieing bio-terrorism. Basically, at this point the franchise has even less to do with the video games than the previous two movies did. However, I think this is actually somewhat of a blessing in disguise - this allows the movies to go places the video games never did (sort of like what a video game tie-in for a movie would die). Furthermore, it gives the movies the freedom to do whatever the heck they want within the setting. Finally, it allows angry video gamers to finally divorce themselves from the franchise all-together. As a result, Extinction marks the first entry in the franchise where the opening of the film discards elements from its predecessors to make the movie work conveniently.

Resident Evil: Extinction owes its existence to two very obvious sources - the first being Day of the Dead. Let's list some of the familiar elements, shall we? Extinction features scientists in an underground laboratory surrounded by zombies behind a chain-link fence. In this underground laboratory, they're trying to domesticate the zombies, showing them objects from their previous life and using them as well. Hell, even the Umbrella soldiers complain about losing men because they keep having to go to the surface. The links to Day of the Dead are just too similar to be a coincidence. The second major influence is Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (in fact, when this movie came out I called it "Mad Max with a Vagina"). While the similarities are more cosmetic than plot-related, the movie revolves around a civilian convoy scavenging for resources in a post-apocalyptic desert, who are saved by a lone badass who is left behind as they head off to a safe haven. Again, the similarities are clearly there and hardly subtle.


Of course, as with any Resident Evil movie, the plot is just riddled with holes. Why does Umbrella run amnesiac Alice clones through an assault course filled with booby traps that she has no chance of avoiding? Why is she then a "failure" for not having completed their impossible course? For that matter, are they planning on releasing clones with amnesia into warzones? Hell, why bother with this testing when they've already killed off 5/6ths of the world's population? How can the T-virus kill all of the world's vegetation and dry up most of the water? Why would Umbrella want to domesticate zombies? And how many freaking super zombies were in that small container in Las Vegas? It looked like maybe a half dozen, but they must have killed about 50 of them in the ensuing shoot out... And while this isn't really a plot hole, why the hell would Sony want to have product placement in the movie... for Umbrella!??!!

The usual Resident Evil-related gripes aside, I actually don't hate Extinction by any means. Sure it's a rip-off of The Road Warrior and Day of the Dead, but at least it picked two great movies to emulate. The story also features plot holes, but they're far more minor than in any other entry in the series. In fact, Extinction largely succeeds in that it does a good job not screwing up. There's no stupid attempts at humour, no major editing mistakes and far less issues with the plot than in previous entries. The movie looks extremely stylish due to Mulcahy's direction, similar to The Book of Eli. Extinction also goes to some effort to actually set up the story, giving us over 30 minutes to get situated and meet the characters (most are left undeveloped, but at least they're introduced... unlike in Apocalypse...). Unlike every other Resident Evil movie, Extinction also manages to be suspenseful at times, despite occurring entirely in daylight (feeling silly now, Apocalypse?). On top of that, it's less of a cartoon than the previous movies - characters actually miss their shots and people die and it feels like it means something. Hell, even freaking Carlos, a character from the video games, dies - who expected that!? It was a pretty ballsy move in my opinion, especially after they gave him a far better role in the movies than he ever got in the game he appeared in (Resident Evil 3: Nemesis). Finally, the zombie make-up is absolutely spot-on - despite having identical production budgets, Extinction blows Apocalypse out of the water visually.


Most importantly though, the action scenes in Extinction are fantastic and really mark the point where the franchise became a full-on action movie series with minor horror elements. The early battle between Alice and the zombie dogs is pretty great, and the Las Vegas zombie shootout is a thrilling climax, but the real standout is the zombie crow attack. Seriously, the crow sequence is amazing and is probably my favourite sequence in the whole franchise. It's also utterly unique - no other zombie movie is going to give you a sequence like this. It's a truly suspenseful, exhilarating and frightening sequence and serves as a good introduction to Alice's new powers.

Actually, speaking of which, Alice has gone full-on God Mode in this entry. In addition to her unbelievable accuracy, martial arts abilities and general super-powers, she now has telekinesis and an army of super-powered clones at her disposal... so yeah, she's basically an over-glorified Mary Sue at this point in the series. Appropriately, she was pregnant with Paul W.S. Anderson's child at the time so that goes so way to explaining why he'd be fawning over her so much (and maybe also explain why she's naked for the third movie in a row).


The only major issue I have with Extinction is its third act, which is extremely weak. Alice infiltrates an Umbrella hive and then has to fight Dr. Isaacs, who has become a Tyrant. The fight just comes across as exceptionally hokey and isn't anywhere near as engaging as the rest of the movie was. On top of that, Alice is just too powerful at this point - she beat the shit out of Nemesis before she gained telekinesis, what chance does a more minor Tyrant like Isaacs stand? Still though, Resident Evil: Extinction manages to be a fun (but mindless) action movie on the whole, which is more than I can say for the previous two films. It's far from great, but I can think of far worse ways to spend an afternoon.

5.5/10

Be sure to come back soon for part four of this retrospective, Resident Evil: Afterlife!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Retrospective: Resident Evil - Apocalypse (2004)

BREAKING NEWS!!! Microsoft has reversed its position on used games and online requirements!!! This is somewhat surprising, but it's good to know that they actually listened to complaints. I'm still a Sony fanboy for life, but I'm glad to see that the console war won't be a curb-stomping.

Welcome back to part two of the Resident Evil retrospective! In this entry we're going to cover the second movie in the franchise, Resident Evil: Apocalypse! Before I get into the meat of this retrospective, I just want to clarify something: I may not have left this impression when I was writing about the first Resident Evil, but I actually don't fawn over Milla Jovovich by any means. I mean, she's certainly good looking but she's not an actress who I find myself particularly drawn to. That said, I know that there are a lot of people who would respectfully disagree with that opinion (and by respectfully disagree I mean screaming "WTF!?!? ARE YOU GAY!!?!!?" at me). Anyway, the first Resident Evil had been a minor financial success and ended with a cliffhanger setting up a sequel. While Resident Evil wasn't a particularly great film, Resident Evil 2 was considered the best video game in the series at the time (Resident Evil 4 wouldn't be released until the next year). The destruction of Racoon City is one of the most famous storylines in video gaming, being visited in two separate canonical Resident Evil games and revisited in at least a half dozen spin-offs. To stack the deck even further in the movie's favour, it was going to use one of the greatest enemies in the franchise's history - the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. With an attempt to go back to the storylines from the games, a more interesting setting and zombies gaining traction in the media, could Resident Evil: Apocalypse become a success? To find out, you'll have to read on...

Maybe it's just me, but this poster makes me think of Return of the Living Dead for some reason...

Just after completing Resident Evil, Paul W.S. Anderson began working on a sequel. However, Anderson chose not to direct this sequel - instead, his script for Alien vs. Predator was green lit and he was chosen to direct that movie. While Anderson stayed on as producer and screenwriter, Alexander Witt took over the reins of Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Similarly to David R. Ellis and Steven Quale from my Final Destination retrospective series, Alexander Witt had been in film for a number of years as a camera operator and second unit director on a number of major films, but Apocalypse was his first (and thus far only) directing gig. Perhaps realizing that the original Resident Evil hadn't lived up to the potential, more elements of the video game stories were worked into Apocalypse so that it would be more than just Resident Evil in name only. Interestingly enough, the movie was filmed in Toronto during the SARS outbreak, adding a bit of currency to the film's premise.

Umm... who the hell designed Alice's outfit? Did she kill a stripper zombie after she woke up from the hospital?

Resident Evil: Apocalypse features an almost-entirely new cast of characters... which is appropriate, considering that basically everyone got killed off by the end of the first movie. The heroine is once again Alice (Milla Jovovich), who is no longer a passive bystander and occasional ass-kicker when the plot calls for it. In this entry, Alice is infected with the T-virus as an Umbrella experiment. Conveniently, this gives her super powers instead of turning her into a zombie. Apparently the whole zombie thing is an unfortunate side-effect, although none of this is really elaborated on in the movie (I had to check the Resident Evil Wiki to find that one out). The only other character who is technically returning is Matt Addison, although he is played by a different actor (and by "played" I mean that his dissected body is portrayed by someone else) and he is mutated beyond recognition into Nemesis... so yeah, basically just Alice then.

The new characters are a mixed bag. On one end of the scale, we have the characters from the video games: Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), both of whom are central to the action. Unfortunately, both are flatly characterized, trying to come across as "badasses" in basically everything they do. Carlos' introduction is incredibly goofy as he bungie jumps out of a helicopter firing dual-wielded pistols, each round successfully headshotting a zombie. Conceptually it's rather badass, but it just comes across as cartoony in action. An even worse offender of this is Jill Valentine:


As you can see, they transcribed her Resident Evil 3: Nemesis costume almost perfectly. However, this suffers the same adaptation problem as the original Judge Dredd did in the costume department - it just looks goofy. Jill Valentine is supposed to be a special forces agent, why the hell would she be dressed in a miniskirt and tube top? To hammer things home, Jill's fight scenes were hampered because Sienna Guillory had difficulty moving in her costume. Could they not have picked something a little more practical... like, I dunno, her costume from the first Resident Evil? Unfortunately that's not where the troubles end for Jill Valentine, because she suffers the same cartoonish, over-the-top treatment that Carlos is saddled with. In her introduction, she literally walks into a crowded police station and kills zombies (who, at this point, are still thought to be human). To make matters even more over-the-top, she shoots a guy's handcuffs off. Furthermore, I felt that Sienna Guillory might have put in the worst performance of the major characters. This may not be so much her fault though, since she's given nothing to work with on a script-level. The treatment of the video game characters makes them feel more like action movie caricatures rather than real people and really makes it difficult for us to have any real bond with them.


On the other end of the scale are the expendable and/or useless characters (of which there are many). Some are basically just transparent plot devices (Dr. Ashford and Angie Ashford), some are there just to die (the entire S.T.A.R.S. team and Umbrella special forces) and then some serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever (Terri and LJ). Terri and LJ are so useless that I have to rant about them to hammer home the point. Terri is supposed to be a professional reporter (who apparently uses a cheap camcorder for her job) who follows Jill Valentine around until she dies. She literally does nothing of importance but run around and then get eaten by zombie children. LJ's even worse, being nothing more than an annoying, generically "pimpin'" black side-kick. Do you remember the secondary black guy in Event Horizon who suddenly turns into comic relief and helps destroy the third act of the movie? LJ and that guy must have attended the same school of gangsta slang. LJ just shows up in scenes and screams or makes really stupid gangsta quips which just distract from the plot. He's thrown in here as comic relief, but all he really does is make you want to punch Paul W.S. Anderson in the face for writing such a useless character.

Words cannot express the facepalm this gives me.

Moving onto the plot, the movie picks up right after the first Resident Evil ended. Umbrella goes into The Hive and stupidly allows all the zombies to escape. Soon after, Racoon City is overrun with zombies and quarantined by Umbrella. Meanwhile, Alice, Jill and company have to rescue the daughter of a high-level Umbrella employee if they want to escape the city before it's sanitized. Finally, taking advantage of the chaos, Umbrella decides to test their Nemesis bioweapon against Alice in order to determine which program shows the most potential. As you can probably see already, the story is once again very thinly drawn (which is a shame because a movie set in the background of the Racoon City outbreak has ample opportunities for a great story). Plot contrivances absolutely abound. Why the hell would Umbrella open up The Hive when they know there are T-virus zombies loose inside? How lucky is it that Alice finds a fully-loaded shotgun less than 10 seconds after escaping the hospital (more lucky than the video games, I'll tell you that much)? How does Alice know about what the Nemesis program is, considering that she was unconscious when it was enacted, and she didn't link it to Matt Addison until later? How does Umbrella get away with dropping a nuclear weapon on Racoon City, especially considering that they let a bunch of people escape the city (and therefore spread the news about the zombie apocalypse)? How can Jill and Carlos pretend to be Umbrella Agents when there's a televised national manhunt for the pair? Finally, why the hell do they get Alice and Nemesis to fight each other... with their fists!?! Do they plan on sending them into combat unarmed? And how would this really determine which of the two is "better"?


Obviously the story has more holes than Swiss cheese, but unfortunately I feel that Alexander Witt botched things from a directing standpoint as well. Being his first solo directing effort, I get the feeling that Witt overcompensated and ended up using directorial techniques in a really mish-mash sort of way. For example, half of the time the zombies are on screen, Witt films them at a low FPS setting, making their movements extremely jarring. Maybe Witt was going for extra terror or something, but it just comes across looking awful and overused. It's techniques like these which make Resident Evil: Apocalypse look more like an amateur effort. I may give Paul W.S. Anderson a lot of shit, but I'll admit that he can at least shoot a film and make it look like a very professional production. I think Witt's inexperience also extends to making Racoon City feel like, well, a city. With very few exceptions, the streets of the city are completely empty unless the main characters are getting attacked by zombies, which is odd considering the whole zombie apocalypse thing.


The treatment of Nemesis is another major issue with this film. On the one hand, I'm glad that they went with an almost-entirely practical costume to portray him, since it looks far better than the CGI models used in the first film (although the CGI has noticeably improve significantly in Apocalypse). Unfortunately, this is a bit of a double-edged sword. Nemesis is supposed to be terrifyingly swift - I've played Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, and I nearly shit my pants when I saw how fast he was coming after me. However, the Nemesis costume they used is extremely bulky and makes movement very difficult. Nemesis is visibly bumbling about awkwardly and trying to slowly catch up to Alice despite the stiffness of the costume. Basically, Nemesis is turned into a big, slow enemy who's easy to avoid... which is particularly bad for an enemy who's major feature is chasing people. Even worse, Paul W.S. Anderson decides to turn Nemesis into an anti-hero near the end. If you remember AVP, that makes two Paul W.S. Anderson movies released in the same year where the big, strong villain gets turned into an anti-hero side-kick. This was really just a big middle finger to people who pissed themselves playing Resident Evil 3 and were expecting Nemesis to replicate at least a tiny fraction of those feelings.

However, there is one positive to Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and that's the action sequences. Some of them are quite epic, especially Alice's intro in which she drives a motorcycle through a church and shotguns Lickers to death. Owing to his experience as a second unit director, Alexander Witt is quite accomplished at filming an action sequence, and the film is generally at its best in these moments. If that's all it takes to please you then you'll find stuff to like in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, but if you're looking for a decent story or characters then you're going to be severely let down. Hell, even Paul W.S. Anderson thought this film sucked. How bad do you have to get for that to happen!?

3/10

Be sure to come back soon for part three of this retrospective, Resident Evil: Extinction!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Retrospective: Resident Evil (2002)

Welcome back! As promised, this is the kick-off of our next retrospective series! This time we're going to tackle the live-action Resident Evil film franchise (as a result, the Capcom CGI films Degeneration and Damnation won't be covered, although I'll probably give them each a very short review at the end of the series). And since we're going to be covering a video game movie franchise, I thought it was appropriate to mention some of the current events in gaming before we dive head-first into these retrospectives. First off, as I mentioned in a previous post, I thought that Microsoft was testing the waters by leaking the restrictions on used games and required internet connection to Wired rather than announcing them in their press conference. Turns out I was wrong (mostly anyway).


Most of you have probably already heard this by now, but it would seem that Microsoft have waffled and are now placing the used games restriction in the hands of publishers. The online verification thing is sticking as well, although it is a 24 hour verification (or every 1 hour if you're logging into someone else's XBOX ONE). This might be forgiven if the system was priced extra-cheap, but it's going to be $499 (with Europe and Britain getting shafted by exchange differences). I hate to be an obnoxious fanboy, but right about now I'm extremely glad that I am a PlayStation lifer: my first console was a PS1 and I'm probably going to stick with them out of misguided brand-loyalty forever - even if the shoe were on the other foot in this instance. That said, the only real negatives I'm seeing about the PS4 right now are that online multiplayer requires a PS+ subscription and that the system is HDMI-only... both of which are features of the XBOX ONE anyway and so wouldn't be a deal-breaker. In any case, I'm getting really freaking excited for the next generation of gaming consoles, enough-so that I'll probably be pre-ordering a PS4 soon.

Alright, enough of that, time to get to Resident Evil. The Resident Evil film franchise is the most financially successful movie series based on video games, having brought in almost $1 billion between the (thus far) 5 films. With a 6th film in production it is likely to surpass that mark, which would make it one of the most lucrative franchises of all time. Of course, money isn't everything - despite its successes, the franchise has a rather... uh... toxic critical reputation to say the least (which we will, of course, be covering over the next couple weeks). In this entry, we will be discussing the first film in the franchise - 2002's Resident Evil. This film has frequently been labelled as one of the best video game adaptations of all time, usually being brandied about alongside Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider. Are these accolades* justified? Read on and find out...

Going for the sex appeal are we, marketing-types? Very smart move. I also really love the colours here, they blend very nicely.

In the early stages of production, George A. Romero was in charge of writing and directing Resident Evil. Yes, that's right - the man who invented the modern zombie in Night of the Living Dead and perfected it in Dawn and Day of the Dead was supposed to adapt Resident Evil into a film. Of course, the man was almost 15 years removed from those films at the time, but the prospect of him returning to the zombie genre was certainly an exciting one. At the time he had not returned to the genre in quite some time (and would not until the release of Land of the Dead in 2005), and so his involvement was one that generated much interest.  Romero was apparently planning on making a fairly close adaptation of the first game in the series, using characters from the game (Chris Redfield, Jill Valentine, Albert Wesker, Ada Wong, Barry Burton and Rebecca Chambers). For whatever reason, Romero was fired (apparently the hardcore gamers would bitch about deviations from the plot and newcomers wouldn't be engaged) and the film went into development hell. If you're interested, you can actually read the original draft here... I haven't, but if you have/do then let me know how it was in the comments.

At some point, Sony approached Paul W.S. Anderson to work on the project. Anderson was almost certainly approached for his work on the relatively successful Mortal Kombat film, and soon was both locked as both the writer and director for Resident Evil. At the time Paul W.S. Anderson wasn't quite the hack he's considered today (he wouldn't release Alien vs Predator for another 2 years, and he was still living off the good will of the first 2 acts of Event Horizon), and so the decision wasn't too troubling. Oddly enough, Anderson decided to move even further from the original story than Romero, with only the Umbrella Corporation, the mansion and monsters connecting the film to the video game series. In his own words, "under-performing movie tie-ins are becoming all too common and Resident Evil, of all games, deserved a good celluloid representation"... which basically translates too "the best way to adapt a video game is to not adapt it at all". I'm not entirely against this line of thinking, but the movie risks alienating the core audience if it fails to "feel" like the source it's claiming to be an adaptation of. Of course, there has to be a balance - for example, how awful will the Uncharted movie be if it's a direct adaptation of the first game? Just make a new, well-written adventure story starring true-to-character representations of Drake, Sully, Elena and Chloe. Similarly, Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy managed to be an awesome fan film just because it captured the fundamentals of the source without being a direct adaptation of it. Many video games have perfectly serviceable plots which can be translated to screen, and Resident Evil was one of them in my opinion.

Also worth noting is that Paul W.S. Anderson was gunning for the movie to get a PG-13 rating. Yes, you read that right - a movie about cannibalistic zombies and monsters with no skin butchering people sounded like a fun time for the whole family. This sort of ties into my previous point as well - the Resident Evil games are fairly violent. Each game has a screen which warns you that there's violent content and therefore appropriate only for adults. Hell, the game's ESRB rating is "M" (not that anyone seems to follow that). Luckily they ended up going with an R-rating (a fairly tame one at that), but I had the same sort of problem with the recent World War Z - how do you justify making a movie about people getting violently torn apart and cannibalized and make it PG-13? You end up having to sanitize it which just cheapens the experience and practically ensures a bad product. I'm not usually someone who pushes for R-ratings like some others I could mention (would The Lord of the Rings really have been improved with an R-rating? No, no it would not). However, zombie movies they really do require an R-rating because the staples of the genre involve visceral violence and gore - taking those out with discretion shots tends to not work.


Anyway, when production began in earnest, 2 fairly big names signed on in lead roles - Michelle Rodriguez (who had been making waves as a beauty in Blue Crush and The Fast and the Furious) and Milla Jovovich (at the time, probably most famous for The Fifth Element). There were some more minor male roles of course, but these were the big two, as evidenced by the poster for the film. As a result, the movie was marketed as "sexy chicks kill zombies". In fact, I can actually remember seeing a commercial for the film as a little 12-year-old kid, where the crux of the marketing campaign was basically "see this movie because a girl in a slinky red dress slow-motion kicks zombie dogs in the face, Matrix-style". Oddly enough, that's actually more appealing to me now than it was back then...

Ahem... so we've got pre-production out of the way, but was Resident Evil any good? Well, let's talk about the plot first... or lack thereof. Resident Evil (and its sequels) are notorious for their shallow, illogical plots and this fact became evident in the first film. Put simply, a zombie toxin (the T-virus) gets released in an underground facility owned by the Umbrella Corporation called The Hive. When The Hive's AI unit, The Red Queen, locks the facility down, Umbrella sends in its own private military unit (plus a couple civilians they decided needed to tag along) to infiltrate The Hive and shut down The Red Queen... of course, this releases the zombies. Based on that short rundown, can you spot a few major flaws? Like, if the AI locked down the whole Hive, why do they have to send in a PMC to investigate? Can Umbrella not communicate with The Red Queen directly, or maybe check security footage? Don't they have failsafes or something? When they reboot The Red Queen, why can't she just lock down the facility again? Why can't The Red Queen warn the Umbrella Corporation that there are zombies inside? And probably most importantly why would they take civilians into The Hive with them!?! Is their m.o. to reveal Umbrella corporate secrets to damn well everyone (especially since one of the civilians turns out to be an NSA agent)?! Basically, the whole plot's just a thin pretense... like a video game, minus good gameplay to make up for it.

No, touching your joystick does not count as "game play".

Then there's Alice, Milla Jovovich's character, who is basically just a convenience. When The Red Queen locked down The Hive, she also releases some sort of stun gas which causes amnesia... for some reason, she also releases this at the Umbrella Mansion (despite it being kilometers away from The Hive), causing Alice and her fake-husband Spence to lose their memories. As a result, this allows Paul W.S. Anderson to seed us new information and skills when it's convenient to the plot, to add some "suspense" and to allow characters to spew exposition at her. Need to suddenly deal with zombie dogs? Oh goody, I just remembered that I know martial arts, now I won't be just a bystander all the time. There's also the fact that Paul W.S. Anderson seems to do whatever he can to get Milla Jovovich naked - there are 3 separate scenes where she's either completely naked or almost naked (her introduction where she's knocked out in the shower, a flashback sex scene and the end of the film where she wakes up in a hospital). You'd almost think that Paul W.S. Anderson had a thing for her... of course, we'll get to that in good time.

Speaking of Alice, the characters in the film aren't very well drawn, or acted for that matter. No one really has anything to work with, but I felt that Michelle Rodriguez did a particularly bad job (which is unfortunate because in her later films she is an effortlessly badass bitch). The one major bright spot in the acting department though is Colin Salmon as James "One" Shade, the leader of the Umbrella PMC. His character is AWESOME, but dies way too early. To be fair this was a fairly clever curveball on the part of Anderson, but considering how weak the other characters were it was a bad move to kill off his best character. There's also the fact that his death scene is pretty badass and definitely a highlight of the film.


Partly because of the weak script, Resident Evil just plain fails as a horror movie. I know that Paul W.S. Anderson can create suspense and horror - Event Horizon was really successful in this regard, at least until the 3rd act at which point it went off the rails. Unfortunately, he just plain failed to do so here, thinking that he can scare us by kicking a can off-camera a few times (hint: it's not working). In fact, the first 40 minutes are rather boring because we're supposed to be getting connected to the characters and getting scared by what's happening, but fails on both accounts. The movie also suffers from using CGI on some of the monsters. I can understand having to use CGI to represent a Licker since it's a pretty grotesque, out-of-this-world being, but the effects are just really cartoony and plastic. To make matters worse, they're intercut between shots of an animatronic Licker which just reinforces how bad the CGI is in this movie. Think I'm overstating just how bad it is? This is one of the first zombies we see in the movie (read: it's supposed to make us piss our pants):


Yeah, we're pissing our pants alright... pissing our pants laughing that is. Did they render that on a PS1 to remain authentic to the game? The Red Queen hologram's pretty awful too, with horrid lip syncing and extremely stiff movement. In fact, Resident Evil might have some of the worst CGI I've ever seen in a professionally-made movie... and don't give me any "oh it's 2002, the special effects weren't good then" bullshit. Jurassic Park came out 10 years earlier and it looked phenomenal. The Matrix came out 3 years earlier and looked much better than anything on display here. The technology wasn't lagging here, it was the guys who worked on the movie who are to blame.


Also worth singling out is the extremely shoddy editing, which might actually be the worst aspect of the whole damn movie. One two separate occasions, the characters get completely surrounded by zombies and then, one cut later, they're safe with absolutely no explanation as to why this is. That's like if in Saving Private Ryan the Americans had been getting shot at on Omaha Beach as soon as they land, but instead of showing everyone getting gunned down, they instead cut straight to them firing flamethrowers at the pillboxes. It's very noticeable and just suggests that they probably just didn't film the whole damn movie (because why would you cut out the exciting escape or last-second scramble to get onto the pipes...?). There's also a point where Alice fires a 9mm pistol at the zombie dogs at least 18 times without reloading . Now I'm no expert (unless countless hours of video games factor into that), but the Beretta 92FS that Alice takes off the dead security guard doesn't appear to have a magazine capable of carrying that many rounds (the standard size is apparently 15 rounds)... as a result, I figure it's probably just bad editing... and really, did she need to fire that many shots to take out a half dozen zombie dogs?

All-in-all, I think you can gather that Resident Evil was a pretty bad movie. Barring James "One" Shade, the zombie dogs and some half-decent action sequences, the movie is not very well done at all. The fact that it gets name-dropped among the "best" video game movies is baffling to me - as far as I've seen, all video game movies have been unfortunately shitty, and Resident Evil is absolutely no exception to that.

4/10

Be sure to come back soon for part 2 of this retrospective, Resident Evil: Apocalypse!

*Of course, none of these are considered "good". I've only seen Silent Hill out of these 3 movies, and while it captured the atmosphere of the town quite well, it really failed as a proper film. On the laurels of its atmosphere and cinematography alone, I'd have to give it a 5/10.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Quick Fix: Retrospectives, Youtube and Skepticism

Hey, time for another relatively short and scattered post before I get into my next retrospective series - which, for the record, I am planning on starting by this time next week! It's going to be a rather diverse and progressively overblown series, so be sure to tune in for that! And speaking of retrospectives, the recent release of After Earth has brought back painful memories. I must confess that in high school I really liked M. Night Shyamalan (enough so that I can spell his name without having to look up the spelling to ensure its correct). This was before Lady in the Water of course. The Village was merely mediocre, but still had promise. However, since Lady in the Water, Shyamalan has been in a massive and destructive tailspin that has annihilated his good name. It's really just too bad because The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs are all fantastic films and every time Shyamalan comes out with something new I'm hoping that he can recapture the magic. Unfortunately, he has just disappointed me over and over again - the man has serious directing chops, he just needs to get better scripts and maybe some tighter oversight. If you want to try to recapture some of the glory days, check out this Shyamalan article (which, by the way, would make for a great retrospective series some day).

RIP The Great M. Night Shyamalan, 1999-2002.

In other news, Youtube has officially rolled out its new design layout for channels. I updated to it last night and fiddled around with my channel somewhat for the new layout. I actually made a new, scale-able banner for the channel too - it scales to fit your resolution, so you get a different version of it whether you view it on a smart phone, tablet, desktop, TV, etc. You can view the new layout here, and/or watch my latest paintball compilation video below.


Finally, a story that popped up on my Facebook news feed recently. I'm somewhat lucky in that most of my friends don't post stupid things (although one cousin is a stereotypical conservative gun nut), but it was quite odd when someone posted this article about how Angelina Jolie was duped into performing a double-mastectomy. Of course, this story has been all over the news lately and while I haven't really taken a strong stance on the matter (due to being woefully uninformed on the medical aspects of the story and some general apathy about the doings of celebrities), I thought the article might be interesting. Turns out it kind of was... although, not for the reasons they might have hoped. I could be wrong, but it looks to me like Real Farmacy isn't really a completely medically-sound website (reiterated by their legal disclaimer). First of all, Real Farmacy screwed up their facts (or perhaps just intentionally misinterpreted them). For one thing, they claimed Angelina had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer. In actuality, she had an 87% higher chance of getting cancer than an average person, which is a pretty significant difference. They also  claim that you have complete control over whether or not you get cancer, and that this is based entirely on diet and lifestyle choices:

So the whole “chance” argument is pure quackery. There is no chance involved in whether you get cancer. It’s all cause and effect. You are either living a pro-cancer lifestyle and therefore growing cancer, or you’re living an anti-cancer lifestyle and keeping cancer in check so that it never becomes a problem. Cause and effect is what results in either the growth of cancer tumors or the prevention of cancer tumors. There is no “luck” involved.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it, that medical doctors don’t believe in luck or voodoo on any topic other than cancer. But when it comes to cancer, they want all women to be suckered into the victim mentality that cancer is purely a matter of “luck” and therefore women have no control over their own health outcomes. How disempowering! How sick! How incredibly exploitive of women!

Is it just me, or does Real Farmacy come across as the real quack here? They're disregarding communally agreed-upon medical advice in exchange for their own agenda. I haven't looked into the website too much, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were selling health food or were sponsored by a major health food corporation. To further call their credibility into question, they seem to think marijuana's a miracle drug. It's also worth noting that this article has been copy + pasted across a number of healthy living blogs.

A healthy amount of skepticism is a very good thing to have. I don't know how much crap I come across on Facebook which I've seen people take at face value, but with a 10 second Google search people would find out that it's total bullshit. Websites like Snopes exist just to stop this sort of stuff. It also really annoys me because people will absorb this information and use it to inform future decisions, which is frighteningly dangerous. Of course, these are also the same people who say that the religious are gullible and simple-minded... *ahem*. Bottom-line: think critically about everything.

Also, who's going to argue with Angelina Jolie...?