*. I thought I’d seen this movie before. At least I had vague memories of somebody fighting a pack of mutant dogs. Well, Milla Jovovich does fight a pack of mutant dogs, but the doggies are also in the next instalment in the franchise, Resident Evil: Apocalypse. And it turns out Apocalypse is the movie I’d been thinking of. So I’m pretty sure this is my first (and likely only) viewing of Resident Evil. Though it’s possible I’d just forgotten it completely.
*. In subsequent films in the series it would become part of the formula to begin with a recap. I like what Frank Scheck had to say about this in his review of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter in the Hollywood Reporter: “As with the recent edition of the similar Underworld franchise, the film begins with a recap of what’s gone on before, which seems less designed for newcomers than viewers who’ve actually seen the previous entries but can’t remember a thing about them.” I might add, from recent personal experience, that this is true even if you’re binge-watching them back-to-back.
*. The reason this first movie is easy to forget is because it’s so much like a lot of other, better movies. Because it’s a zombie movie (though one that never describes the risen dead as zombies) George Romero was originally tabbed to write and direct. That fell through, but there’s still a lot of Romero here. Especially Day of the Dead, with the underground lab. The blowing newspaper with the headline “The Dead Walk!” is a direct reference. (For some reason Day of the Dead was in everyone’s head, as it’s also borrowed from extensively in Resident Evil: Extinction.)
*. The more obvious comparison, however, is to Aliens. There’s the same kick-ass heroine accompanying an elite team investigating a place where something seems to have mysteriously gone wrong. Even the members of the team are the same. The capable-but-doomed team leader. The tough-as-nails Latina. The wimp who keeps saying things like “We’re all gonna die!” The duplicitous corporate tool.
*. Throw in the video game features, because it is, after all, based on a video game, and you have a pretty generic adventure. I was surprised reading some reviews of it that the scene where the team gets sliced and diced by lasers was seen as an original element, since it had been done before in Cube. And done better. So in sum this is, to get back to where I started, a movie that’s easy to forget.
*. But for all that, it’s not a bad movie. Milla Jovovich is surprisingly good as the leggy Alice (a name that is never actually used in the film). The story moves along at a frantic pace. The CGI is terrible, but the extreme editing helps cover up just how cheap it all looks (and in fact was). A budget of $33 million isn’t that much given the product. These SF-action epics aren’t cheap.
*. Of course there are plenty of issues with the plot, but in movies like this you probably just have to let them go. It bothered me, however, that the basic set-up seemed so off. For such an advanced lab the spread of the T-virus through the air system seemed kind of easy. And given that the Red Queen (the Hive’s AI) had a valid reason for wanting to shut the facility down and, yes, kill everyone in it, why couldn’t she just have explained that to everyone? Why the need to inject the team into the Hive to find out what went wrong?
*. So Jovovich is really good. The action is silly, but there’s a lot of it. Paul W. S. Anderson’s direction is, as usual, just barely competent. Many more films were on their way.