Resident Evil films 1-3: Horror or Hogwash?
September 30, 2010
Resident Evil Film Trilogy – Rant and Reviews by Isaac
As a longtime fan of the Resident Evil videogame series, the films have given me no end of grief. Writer and Director Paul W.S. Anderson seems to love nothing more than tossing out decades of successful character development and familiar plotlines for his own harebrained ideas. Thankfully, the newest release in the RE film franchise showed a return to the source material, but I’ll get to that in my post Resident Evil: Afterlife – in 3D.
For those of you who have never played the games, Resident Evil features more or less ordinary cops/field agents who end up in creepy abandoned mansions/labs/dungeons and have to fight off zombies with limited health and ammunition. The zombie outbreak is always part of some conspiracy (involving the eugenics company Umbrella) and in the end our hero fights off some huge monster and escapes with their life.
Paul W.S. Anderson started the RE film franchise with a ‘fresh approach.’ New characters, new scenarios, but more or less the same “creepy abandoned lab, zombies, mega Umbrella conspiracy,” etc. I didn’t have a problem with this storyline until his main character, “Alice” (played by Milla Jovovich,) underwent genetic experimentation and developed super-powers.
Alice is apparently the perfect host for the T-virus, which simply turns everyone else into zombies. But not Alice, oh no. Alice’s DNA bonds with the T-virus and turns her into a super-fast, super-strong, agile, psionic/telekinetic, war machine. (Think Trinity from the Matrix trilogy and you’ve got the idea.) But it didn’t stop there, we later discover that Umbrella made an army of Alice clones. Needless to say, this was as much a departure from the story and esthetic of the game as possible. Replacing the zombies with Ewoks could have yielded better results.
It became clear to me that Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t really care about Resident Evil, or zombies, or plot, for that matter. No, Paul Anderson only cares about adding his own cool character to an existing story and uses the title “Resident Evil” to make money. This practice of adding your own super-powered (female) hero into an existing story and thus altering the storyline has been done for generations, and is now viewable in all its angst and shame on fanfiction websites. What Paul W.S. Anderson did is nothing clever at all, he added a “Mary Sue” to the Resident Evil franchise.
(I highly suggest reading on this topic.)
Allow me to quote the opening paragraph from the wiki:
A “Mary Sue” in fanfiction, is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader. Perhaps the single underlying feature of all characters described as “Mary Sues” is that they are too ostentatious for the audience’s taste, or that the author seems to favor the character too highly. The author may seem to push how exceptional and wonderful the “Mary Sue” character is on his or her audience, sometimes leading the audience to dislike or even resent the character fairly quickly; such a character could be described as an “author’s pet”.
In short, my teenage memories of exploring creaky mansions with only three bullets degenerated into kung-fu and bullet-time on the big screen. Relatable characters and iconic villains were cut for thick eyeliner, one-liners, and basically making “Alice” look as cool and sexy as possible. These films are still enjoyable as mindless action flicks, but there is so much more potential here. And despite featuring zombie hordes, mindless isn’t what Resident Evil is all about.
My summary of the first three films:
This started out well. Main character Alice wakes up with amnesia (Mary-Sue trope #37), and joins a team of Umbrella commandos to investigate a deadly accident in a secret underground lab. The plot focuses on Alice slowly regaining her memory, befriending Matt, and the T-virus capable of turning humans into zombies. The story ends with the infection escaping the Umbrella lab and spreading into the city.
Overall a decent film, but mediocre storytelling and Mary-Sue tropes make it a little hard to swallow. It retells the basic Resident Evil origin plot, but without the chilling horror, character development, or iconic villains.
The infection is quickly spreading throughout Raccoon City. Jill Valentine and Carlos (characters from the games) join Umbrella teams to rescue survivors and kill zombies throughout the city. Alice discovers she’s been the subject of a T-virus experiment and is developing super-powers (Mary-Sue trope #22). Mega-zombie “Nemesis” hunts down Alice and a fist-to-fist climactic showdown reveals that Nemesis is actually Alice’s friend Matt from the first film, mutated into a monster by the T-virus. Alice asks Nemesis to look inside his heart and do the right thing (Mary-Sue trope #76). Alice and Nemesis kill some Umbrella baddies and escape the city before it’s destroyed by nuclear weapons.
The first 2/3rds of Apocalypse took some great steps, but the ending deflated the entire plot of the movie. We’re treated to a few action-packed scenes only to have the rug pulled out. – Where did the original Resident Evil plot go? Why did Paul Anderson have to give Alice super powers? It’s hard to develop horror, tension, and life-and-death circumstances when the main character is practically invincible. Not to mention the Mary-Sue’s involvement completely ruins the most iconic RE monster ever. Way to go, Paul Anderson.
Rating: 2.5 / 5 Zipped Lips – Good action can’t save a terrible plot.
The world has officially gone Mad Max, as the world has been consumed by the T-virus. A few survivors, led by Carlos and Claire Redfield (another game character!) trek across the Nevada desert looking for gasoline and cigarettes. Alice wanders the post-apocalyptic setting in search of survivors, eventually saving Carlos and Claire with her developing psionic powers (gag). But Umbrella is up to their old tricks, cloning thousands of “Alice’s” in search of replicating her powers (another Mary-Sue trope).
Do you like Mad Max? The Book of Eli? Then watch those instead of this crap. This movie is garbage. Once again, any terror brought on by zombies or infected monsters is quickly eviscerated by the super-powered Alice. Extinction features a truly juvenile storyline, wisely deciding to make fun of itself and beef up the cgi slow-motion shots. Truly a disappointing, meaningless, and bland addition to the film franchise. They should’ve stuck to the original plotline.
Rating: 1 / 5 Zipped Lips – Trash.
Considering the amount of Mary-Sue tropes, I have long suspected that Paul W.S. Anderson was obsessed with actress Milla Jovovich and that’s why each film has become increasingly more about Alice and less about… well, anything. A simple Wikipedia search shows that the two met and became romantically involved while working on the first RE film. They were engaged in 2003 (before the second film), had a child in 2007 (after the 3rd film), and were married in 2009. – Well that sure explains a lot!