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Resident Evil (2002)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

review by Steven Hampton

A movie derived from a game - whether computer, console or arcade - is rarely a major commercial hit, and never a meaningful artistic success. This failing on both cinematic and financial levels (unless made on a low-budget) is largely due to the nature of these films' content and structure. Like many of its predecessors (the list includes Tomb Raider, Street Fighter, Final Fantasy, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros, and Wing Commander), the unconvincing plotline of Resident Evil is locked into the adventure genre conventions that form the decidedly weak basis of most action games, too often conceived as spin-offs from popular thrill-ride movies in the first place. So, while any measure of originality is wholly impractical - because it would work against the knowledgebase required for PC game playing, generic cinema such as Resident Evil actually benefits from fandom's understanding of fantasy and sci-fi conventions, and - more importantly - how such principles may be adhered to or broken in the questing narrative of a feature film.
   Resident Evil is a 'mission' film, rather than a quest - a basic shoot 'em up with its roots in Aliens (1986), Day Of The Dead (1985), and the lesser-known Gunhed (1989), in particular. Here we find model turned actress Milla Jovovich (from The Fifth Element, 1997) playing an amnesiac guard at the entrance to underground bio-weapons lab, the Hive, who joins a commando force sent to investigate a catastrophe that's affected the entire hi-tech complex. As Alice, Jovovich is a schoolboy's dream version of Ripley in Aliens, with the super girl fighting skills of Trinity from The Matrix. She faces hordes of zombies drawn from the ranks of scientists, technicians and security personnel who all died when a virus was released in the base, and an openly hostile super-computer, the Red Queen, that controls a frighteningly lethal defence system.
   The zombie dogs that attack our heroine are one of the very few new wrinkles added to this blatantly derivative blend of special effects horror and high calibre mayhem, and the twist ending is somewhat satisfyingly downbeat, even for a non-Hollywood production, but Resident Evil follows a dumbly predictable format (sabotage, discovery, reaction, contact, breakthrough, revelation, showdown), delivering only what it promises: 90 minutes of glamorous death and destruction, and starlet Jovovich in a miniskirt. The frequent bouts of violence offer a glossy mix of stylised gunplay and acrobatic kung fu feats, and there are just enough techno details to keep the geeks happy - but precious little to interest serious SF fans.
Resident Evil

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