The history of video game film adaptions is a famously spotty one. Often the directors and writers practically ignore the main point of the game in question, leading to a film called Street Fighter that contains absolutely no street fighting.
However, there's one person I've always trusted to adapt my favorite video games into movies. Someone who understands exactly how to translate an over-the-top series into an equally over-the-top film that everyone can enjoy, without forgetting the fans of the original game. That man is Paul W.S. Anderson, director of Mortal Kombat and, more importantly, many of the Resident Evil movies.
From Console To Screen
It's almost impossible to do a straight adaptation of a video game story, especially one still in progress. Capturing the charm of a mix of gameplay, environmental design and atmosphere in a film that's usually around a fifth of the length of a game is no easy task. But the #ResidentEvil series has always succeeded in style.
The key to these films was to capture the spirit of the games, if not the exact details. Like the games, the films began as a horror homage to classic zombie properties, with a touch of sci-fi action lurking beneath the surface like a secret underground research laboratory.
As the games progressed in scope and began to lean increasingly toward spectacle and action, so too did the films. Giant creature battles and awesome set pieces took center stage, with designs that recalled the games that inspired them. #Capcom and Anderson knew that no monster stays scary forever — call it the Alien effect — and if you want to keep a series fresh, you have to adapt out of the horror niche.
Remembering The Fans That Brought You Here
Perhaps the best aspect of the Resident Evil adaptations is how they never forgot the fans of the games. Throughout the series, even as the two plotlines diverged over time, Resident Evil would always find ways to integrate elements of the games back into its stories.
Sometimes it was the monsters: Fan favorite Nemesis showed up in Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Executioner Majini from Resident Evil 5 turned up for an awesome fight scene in the films Resident Evil: Afterlife and again in Retribution. Las Plagas Undead — and the parasite — were even introduced in the later films.
Other times it was the characters. The introduction of Wesker as a badass (and occasionally delightfully hammy) villain was perfect, and though some of them got only minor roles, almost every Resident Evil protagonist made it into the films. Sometimes the links were so minor they felt like an obscure Easter Egg. I still believe Alice's coin-loaded shotguns in Afterlife were a reference to the way zombies dropped piles of treasure in the games.
They were a nod to the video game series we all loved, a way to say that even if the storylines no longer matched up, the creators still understood the source material and hadn't forgotten where the films had come from. Capcom responded in kind. References to the Resident Evil films showed up all over the games, including the infamous laser hallway, which made a showing in #ResidentEvil4, and the badass Wesker fight from Afterlife, recreated in #ResidentEvil5.
Alice In Horrorland: Creating A Through-Line To Resident Evil
As much as I adore the Resident Evil games, they often lacked a central narrative thrust. Characters would show up as the protagonist of a game, then vanish for a long time (sometimes forever, in the case of Billy Coen). The cast sometimes felt like they were constantly undergoing various high school reunions as they met up years later, having taken a break for two or three games, possibly volunteering abroad in the meantime. It worked in the context of a game series yet would have felt odd on screen, like a scattered collection of slasher films instead of a continuous (and wonderfully absurd) saga.
Alice gave the films a continuity of character the games lacked. She was a little bit Ada, a little bit Jill, a little bit Chris and Leon. She was a badass, but a badass with heart, always trying to salvage human lives and her own humanity in an increasingly hostile post-apocalypse. Characters from the huge cast of the games entered and exited the story, experiencing their own smaller arcs as part of a larger universe alongside Alice's story. It was an elegant solution to a difficult narrative problem.
Resident Evil has always been a series that mixed horror and high camp in a unique way. From the very first game, where we reveled in dialogue like the famous "Jill sandwich" and blew away the Big Bad with a quadruple rocket launcher, it's been a series that knows when to plant its tongue firmly in its cheek and throw caution to the wind. It was a series about giant monsters, triple-crossing villains and the renegades that survived them. In terms of capturing the unique tone of such a series, no one could have done it better than the creators of the Resident Evil movies.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter releases on Blu-ray on May 16. You can find out more on Evil Comes Home!