Starring: Milla Jovovich, Eric Mabius, Michelle Rodriguez
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Running Time: 100 mins
Resident Evil is a British/French/German film following a team of military specialists who navigate their way through a top-secret laboratory plunged into chaos after a supercomputer went out of control. With the threat of the mainframe pulling them into an inescapable labyrinth, the team come under fire from a herd of flesh-eating zombies.
Video game movies have a deservedly awful reputation, but Resident Evil isn’t one of the worst. Whilst it’s a completely ridiculous and braindead action adventure, there’s something so brilliantly innocent and light-hearted about this movie that made me really enjoy it. Apart from having some genuinely decent performances and a brilliant opening act, the film is full of popcorn entertainment from start to finish, and whilst it doesn’t earn many points when it comes to quality, it’s certainly the sort of film that you can have a great time with.
But before all that, I want to talk about the first act, which I genuinely enjoyed. The chaotic opening scene grabs your attention very quickly, and although it immediately undoes any air of seriousness with some hilarious deaths, I was far more engaged in this movie at the start than I ever thought I would be.
Now, I know this isn’t meant to be a serious action flick, but there were moments over the course of the first half hour that genuinely intrigued me. For one, the video game-style story structure early on, consisting of you following the team through deserted hallways whilst fighting an invisible yet omnipotent computer villain, works pretty well, and got me excited for some action, as well as engaged by the tension.
It’s not a gripping opening act, but it’s very entertaining, and, just like the rest of the movie, can be enjoyed if you have an open mindset for a good bit of silliness along the way.
That said, there is one part of the movie that’s pretty consistent throughout, the performances. Whilst the story doesn’t offer the actors much to play with in terms of exciting character development, they all play their part brilliantly at making the protagonists both likable and vulnerable enough to care about. A really bad action/horror would follow a bunch of idiots through this sort of situation, and I couldn’t care less whether they live or die, but in Resident Evil, there’s a small enough cast of actors who all give very calm and convincing performances throughout, making them far more pleasant to support along the way.
Those are the real positives of Resident Evil, but to come back down to reality for a second, it’s tough to ignore the fact that this isn’t the highest-quality movie. Although the film’s practical effects hold up well, some of the digital effects do look a little dated, whilst the soundtrack is very much of its time, the early 2000s, when techno and rock were used at will with no regard whatsoever for their suitability to situation or genre.
What’s more is that the story is exceptionally simplistic. An initially strong combination of The Matrix and The Terminator concepts, Resident Evil really runs thin as it goes along, ultimately turning into little more than a zombie shoot-em-up fest rather than following through on any of its ambitions surrounding the allegedly sinister workings of the villainous Umbrella Corporation.
And yet, depsite lacking in so much quality, I find myself looking forward to seeing more from this series. The simplistic story, whilst unenthralling, ends up working well in the film’s favour, brilliantly furthering the over-the-top and silly video game vibes that make for some good laughs. As bad as so much of this film is, it’s not a boring watch by any means, and watching a team of pretty likable characters on a very simple and easy-going mission just killing zombies was far more fun for me than I could have ever anticipated, and that’s why I’m giving Resident Evil a 6.8.