Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil (2002)

Genre: Action and Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: March 15th, 2002 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson Actors: Milla Jovovich, Eric Mabius, Colin Salmon, Martin Crewes, Pasquale Aleardi, Michelle Rodriguez, James Purefoy

 


 

E

arly in the 21st century, Umbrella Corporation becomes the largest entity in the United States. Its political and financial influences are felt everywhere, especially as 9 out of 10 households contain their products. And while it’s the leading supplier of computer technology across the world, its primary sources of profit come from military tech, genetic experimentation, and viral weaponry – all of which are mostly hidden from shareholders and the public.

The secrecy and corruption lead to drastic events in Raccoon City, where an airborne chemical is unleashed on unwitting employees and citizens. After a biohazard warning is initiated, it becomes too late for panicky, trapped scientists in an Umbrella lab, as they’re gassed, flooded by the fire extinguishing system, or, quite horrifically, decapitated (or otherwise killed off) by malfunctioning elevators. And all of this is monitored by security cameras that seem to invite the catastrophes.

A short time later, Alice (Milla Jovovich) awakes prostrate at the base of a shower, naked but with perfectly curled hair, and suffering from amnesia. Hilariously, she covers her breasts with her hand as she dons a robe, but then exposes a nipple to the audience as she slings the garment over her shoulders. Mere minutes after initiating an exploration of the vast mansion in which she finds herself, a squadron of black-garbed soldiers abseil through the windows, demanding that Alice report on her situation, as if she’s one of their team. As they move underground into a subway car, they also take captive a local police officer, Matt (Eric Mabius), who stumbled into the building. As they descend into what is clearly a heavily-guarded Umbrella Corporation compound, called the “Hive,” the situation worsens; the top secret research facility has been overrun by T-Virus contamination that has turned the 500 or so occupants into flesh-eating zombies.

With some overactive camerawork and lots of computer augmented perspectives, there’s an undeniable effort to mimic some of the components from the video game origins (including the slowly unfolding mystery of the mutative viral predicaments). But the familiar mansion at the start is quickly abandoned for a cold, steel labyrinth that rarely attempts to feel like the source material. Instead, the well-armed soldiers carry more weapons than were ever available in the game, and they’re confronted by booby-trap defense mechanisms that are entirely new (and an evil A.I. that is utterly annoying). Strangely – and incongruously – the security operatives encounter a laser ambuscade that is so much more gruesomely graphic than anything players endured on a Playstation.

Just as odd is the delay in revealing the core opposition; the first zombie doesn’t make an appearance until 40 minutes in. But, once they do arrive, the action gets more interesting and the threats more exhilarating. Makeup effects (with some dated CG), creepy set designs, pyrotechnics and explosions, and amusing zombie movements (some of the stunts are quite impressive) further aid the terror. What doesn’t work as well is the poorly manufactured scenarios for attacks – particularly when the group splits up, becomes surrounded by enemies, or has individual members wander off alone, only to inexplicably rearrange themselves seconds later. It’s as if entire scenes are missing or transitions were never planned; perhaps the filmmakers were hoping that audiences wouldn’t notice abrupt shifts in time or locations (or absolutely impossible escapes). Nevertheless, a few jump scares are effective, the zombie dogs are nicely done, and life-threatening obstacles are consistent. But it’s too bad that the final antagonist is a predominantly computer-animated monster that just doesn’t hold up – and that the film eventually devolves into a grand setup for a sequel, without much concern for telling a standalone story.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10