I have three words for you and they will determine whether or not RESIDENT EVIL is the film youve waited all your life to see. Ready? Barbequed Doggie Zombies. If your heart just skipped a beat and you find yourself atingle with anticipation, then I wish you good luck and God speed and theres no need for you to read further. If, on the other hand, those three little words fill your heart with dread, then stick around while I regale you with not only whats wrong with this film, but also with contemporary filmmaking, and western civilization as a whole.
RESIDENT EVIL is like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD meets ALIEN in a head-on collision with no survivors. Based on what I am reliably informed is a wildly popular computer game of the same name, it stars Milla Jovavich as an amnesiac kick-butt kung-fu valkyrie who wakes up in a shower and whose day then goes downhill from there. Alas, the lovely Jovavich has obviously studied at the Bruce Willis school of acting and while fighting her way through storm troopers, zombies, and a nasty surly bit of genetic engineering gone wrong, uses one and only one expression. Or perhaps shes worried about mussing her makeup, which miraculously stays pristine throughout her adventures, even the ones underwater. Shes joined by fellow amnesiac James Purefoy, from A KNIGHTS TALE and MANSFIELDPARK, a hunky bit of eye-candy who goes through his paces with the game good humor of an actor paying his dues while trying not to sink his career.
The premise is that a computer with the nifty moniker of Red Queen, has gone mad and killed everyone at a super secret underground facility. You know, the kind of place where all sorts of unsavory medical experiments are going on under the auspices of a nefarioius multi-national here called, in an inappropriate fit of whimsy, the Umbrella Corporation. Oh, and theres a killer virus of some kind thats turning the dead into zombies. Milla and James are forced to tag along as a crack team of commandoes goes in to reformat the computer with extreme prejudice. Dont waste any time wondering why a crack team would take along the dead weight of two amnesiacs, not to mention a prisoner whose intentions are less than pure. This is, after all, the sort of flick where people sit down to read documents while a ravening horde of very hungry zombies are on the loose. And dont forget that computer with the nasty attitude who uses lasers to slice and dice people who get in its way. Yep, sitting down to a pile of reading is exactly the right thing to do.
Paul W. S. Anderson, who also directed the astonishingly dull EVENT HORIZON, brings a similar sparkle to his latest opus. In a film replete with things that go boo with a vengeance, every putative surprise is telegraphed so far in advance that the only surprise left is that anyone thought wed BE surprised. And then there are those magic moments he inspires from his cast. After beating the undead snot out of those ci-mentioned puppies, Millas post-bout elation and relief is signaled by a half-hearted, semi-distracted sigh done in the way people do when breaking nail after a particularly expensive manicure. Perhaps the plan was to blast the generic heavy-metal-techno soundtrack by Marilyn Manson so loudly that the audience would bleed from the ears, thus distracting them from how lame the action here really is. We may never know and would it improve the quality of our lives to find out? I think not.
The only real terror that RESIDENT EVIL inspired in me was when a fan of the computer game informed me that this was only the first part of the games trilogy. And I just know, in my heart of hearts, that there are enough dedicated gamers out there to float this franchise for at least one more round. Which brings me to whats wrong with contemporary filmmaking. Once upon a time, films were based on novels, short stories, plays, or even real-life events. Now, with efforts like MORTAL KOMBAT, also foisted upon us by Anderson, films are based on games. Take a moment to let that sink in. No need for plot beyond a premise to set the action in motion for as long as a gamers eyes and carpals can hold out. No need for character development beyond who is allowed to kill whom and what weapons are available to them to do the deed. And heaven forefend that a film be based on something as tame, yet mystically engaging as MYST. No blood splattering there and certainly no heroine in tight shorts.
Do I sound bitter?