Resident Evil (2002) Movie Review

I once played Resident Evil 2, the sequel to the original Resident Evil, on a Playstation for 8 hours straight, completely obsessed with beating it. I did finally beat the game, and had some sore thumbs and fingers for my efforts and a painful knot in my neck. As I have often mentioned in other reviews, I am a sucker for Zombies Attack movies. I love the genre, and it’s safe to say I grew up on low-budget Zombies Attack movies and knows what I want and don’t want from movies in said genre. Which brings us to Paul Anderson’s Resident Evil, a big budget and Hollywood-style zombie movie. The term “big budget” and “zombie movie” does not often go together, and this certainly means Resident Evil has a lot to live up to. Does it? Let’s see…

Resident Evil opens with a normal day inside a secret corporate underground facility nicknamed “The Hive,” a self-sustaining complex half a mile under the Earth and directly over Raccoon City. (The residents have no idea the complex exists.) The Hive is a research lab for the Umbrella Corporation, a nameless company that makes everything from household appliances to military weapons. Almost immediately someone lets loose a vial containing a virus called the “T-Virus.” Before anyone knows it, the Hive’s super-intelligent computer, the Red Queen, has shut down the Hive, trapping all of its employees inside in order to prevent the virus from spreading to the surface. The T-virus has a nasty side effect — it turns people into zombies, dogs into demon dogs, and old experiments into, well, very nasty things.

Enter Alice (although her name is never mentioned in the movie), who wakes up in a bathroom naked and without any memories. The bathroom is inside a mansion that happens to be over the only entrance/exit into/out of the Hive complex. Before poor Alice can gather her wits, black-clad commandos storm into her mansion, take her and a cop hostage, and takes them into the Hive to shut down the Red Queen. Will they survive the trip back?

For a big budget movie, Resident Evil is surprisingly lacking in the Wow Factor. Besides the appearance of a zombie creature called a Licker and the aforementioned demon dogs, there are relatively few special effects besides zombie makeup and dripping blood. The movie, of course, is based on the popular videogame, which has gone through various platforms, including arcades to Playstation to PC. The game itself has an original Resident Evil, a Resident Evil 2, and then a second sequel called Resident Evil: Nemesis. I have played all 3 games, and found the transfer from game console to movie to be very faithful.

In look, anyway. The movie doesn’t take any of the plots from the game, (the movie itself is supposed to be a “prequel” to the original game) although it does incorporate much of the games’ backgrounds (for example, the T-virus, the Nemesis subplot, the character designs, etc.). In fact, the corridors and wall patterns of the movie’s Hive complex bears a striking resemblance to those found in the game. Even the sound of the approaching demon dogs (their click click click noises) look like they were extracted straight from the game. The licker is also faithfully adapted, although I never found it to be much of a scary obstacle in the game, and as it turns out, it isn’t much of one in the movie.

Faithful translation from game console to movie screen notwithstanding, Resident Evil is an easy movie to follow, and an even easier movie to forget once you leave the theater. It’s not very deep, and it’s most urgent and intellectual question is centered on which one of the three amnesiacs that the Umbrella commandos meet is a traitor responsible for this whole mess. The rest of the movie is devoted to running, gunning, bleeding, and gunning and running some more. The movie makes very poor use of the zombies, who shows up for about two sequences and is forgotten. The devil dogs, a prolonged pain in the video games, shows up for one segment, gets their heads smashed in by a leaping and kicking Alice, and disappears. Even the licker creature has very little screen time. As a movie, Resident Evil is a straight action film, with a quick opening, an elongated middle that involves the survivors running from a group of zombies, and an ending on a moving train that leaves one unsatisfied. Where are all my zombies?

Director Paul Anderson is most concern with pacing, and the movie has a very brisk pace because of it. Its action scenes flow into each over very well, and the scene where 3 of the commandos are dispatched by lasers is easily the movie’s highlight. Which is not to say that Anderson brought a lot of creativity to Resident Evil, since the laser scene was reminiscent of the booby traps in the Canadian movie, Cube. Zombies Attack movies are not known for their acting, and even this big budgeted version is no exception.

Milla Jovovich (Alice) is probably the movie’s only real bright spot, as her Alice is introduced as a whimpering amnesiac that turns out to be a martial artist and killing machine. The rest of the cast blurs by in a series of running, grunting, and scared expressions. Exceptions include Michelle Rodriguez (Rain), who looks like she’s having problems with her eyeballs being permanently attached to her upper eyelid, giving the impression that she’s always rolling her eyes. The movie doesn’t even bother to introduce all of the commandos (or even the amnesiacs, for that matter). Of the commandos, there is Rain and J.D. and some guy name Kaplan (I think). As mentioned, even Alice’s name isn’t mentioned in the movie. Another bad shortcoming. How can you identify with people when you don’t even know their names?

Is Resident Evil a good Zombies Attack movie? No, but it’s a decent one. It has all the prerequisites, including a tough and pretty lead heroine, a lot of gore, lumbering zombies, and plenty of gushing blood. Who can ask for more? Well, maybe for more zombie action and less licker. Then again, the movie practically guarantees a sequel, so we’ll see…

Paul Anderson (director) / Paul Anderson (screenplay)
CAST: Milla Jovovich….Alice
Michelle Rodriguez …. Rain Ocampo
Eric Mabius …. Matt
James Purefoy …. Spencer Parks
Colin Salmon …. James P. Shade
Marisol Nichols …. Dana

Buy Resident Evil on DVD