Resident Evil
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Resident Evil

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In many ways movies offer a reflection of the society that produces them. One ways this manifests is the source material that is used as the basis for the stories. Traditionally literally works have been used as the foundation for one film after another. Comic books and even song titles have found their way into the local movie house with significant success. Now, the youthful audiences drive new films have become a generation infatuated with video games. No longer is it enough to just watch movies the entertainment has to be interactive. These games have proven to be a rich source of fodder for flicks naturally enough most especially with the action and horror genres. Of course there are some exceptions but typically movies based on video games have not garnered an excess of critical acclaim or, for that matter, box office records. One reason may be the transition from the interactive experience of the game to the passive one inherent in film. Added to this the lamentable efforts of director Uwe Boll, a man so lacking in ability that there was an internet petition to raise money to bribe him to stop making movies; much of his body of work has been based on video games. This further increased the bad reputation held by this type of film. Still, they continue to show up at the local Cineplex. The reason for this may be a bit more complex but it comes down to the two chief attributes of the games; first person violence and sexy women. Both of these factors have sold movies since the start of the media and there is absolutely no evidence of this changing. Video games tend to be released in series, highly conducive to the formation of the all important film franchise. The marketing tie-ins therefore reinforce each other bolstering sale at both ends of the equation. One of the best known franchises of this sort is ‘Resident Evil’. With a fourth installment about to hit the screen it is an opportunity to look back at the series here. While not a great flick at least Uwe Boll was now where near the production.

The flick was written and directed by another film maker carving out his place in video game translations; Paul Anderson. The thing is this type of movie making is a niche field with very specific cinematic requirements and audience expectations. Anderson was one of the first film makers to address this market with his 1995 movie ‘Mortal Kombat’ based one that early game. In more recent project his has moved to becoming active as a producer but has remained predominately in the science fiction/horror/action genres. Since he manages to successfully and fairly consistently hit the requirements of the genre it has to be said his films work even though they may fall short of the general hallmarks of film. First and foremost among the qualities Anderson places in his flicks is heart pounding action. He also realizes the differences inherent in the two forms of media and is able to take good advantage of them. Admittedly I’m a late comer to this party but the flick was not all that bad, certainly better than many critics are willing to admit. The key to all the ‘Resident Evil’ movies is the shotgun approach to hitting themes proven to be of interest particularly those into video games. Among those used here are government and corporate covert operations, world annihilation, conspiracy theories and the always popular zombie invasion. Throw in a lithe beautiful woman fighting an evil artificially intelligent computer and you got yourself a fairly rousing popcorn movie.

Deep beneath Raccoon City there is a covert, underground complex called, ‘The Hive’. It is owned and operated by the sinister Umbrella Corporation performing all sought of dangerous experiments that not only push the boundaries of science but sanity as well. The facility is managed by a highly advanced, artificially intelligent computer called ‘The Red Queen’. One tip is never naming your controlling computer after an insane monarch in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. In this particular case it is apropos since the young woman who falls into the task of defeating is named ‘Alice (Milla Jovovich). In a figurative way this movie has Alice falling down a rabbit hole leaving the real world behind plummeting into a nightmare world. One of the programs being developed there was the ‘T Virus’ as part of a potential biological warfare project. As it turns out exposure to the virus turns the victims into zombies. It gets even better that in classic horror flick form a bite from an infected victim creates another zombie. This comes into play when one of the commandos sent to shut down the computer, Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), is bitten. This permits the use of a much needed plot device to create tension, the ticking clock, as we wait to see when she changes into the undead. This is where Anderson infuses the dynamics of a video game into the movie. As with any game based film the plot is admittedly thin but that can be said for any action movie. Anderson brings out the feel of something for the audience to figure out as Alice proceeds from one segment of the movie to the next. This nicely emulates the segmentation of a game into level where each challenge Alice confronts proves to be more difficult than the last one. This ‘mission directed’ approach gives the proper look and feel to the proceedings; at least sufficiently to carry the duration of the film. Jovovich, who had a child with the director, has been in several action oriented movies and is well experienced in pulling off this type of role. In all this is the kind of movie you watch with a couple of friends over beer and pizza. The Blu-ray edition of the film is outstandingly mastered with clarity of audio and video that brings you right into the action.

Alternate Ending With Director Paul W.S. Anderson's Video Introduction
Cast and Filmmakers' Commentary
Visual Effects Commentary
12 Featurettes
"My Plague" Music Video by Slipknot
Blu-Wizard 2.0: Create your own playlist from the special features on the disc and Blu-Wizard will not only remember what you watched, but also what you liked

Posted 12/06/2010

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