As the doors to the Hive close and the Umbrella Corporation puts down its parasols, 15 years of the Resident Evil movies come to an end. Paul W. S. Anderson hangs up his directorial duties and #MillaJovovich lowers her pistols as the franchise's final girl, Alice. Sadly, as we lose our last life and angrily throw the controller at the screen, the sixth #ResidentEvil film runs out of batteries just before the final boss fight. With such great promise at the start, and heralded as one of the best game-to-film adaptations out there, does the demise of Resident Evil also delete the save file for the rest of Hollywood's obsession with gaming?
I would like to point out here that I LOVE the Resident Evil movies, and that this article will also contain (mild) spoilers for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
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Looking at video games that became films, it didn't exactly start off well. The first recorded game-to-film adaptation was 1993's Super Mario Bros. Cited as one of the worst films EVER, the legendary Bob Hoskins went on to refuse to discuss his time as the red-panted plumber and seemingly erased all memory of ever being a part of the diabolical mess. There just seems to be a lazy attitude toward video game films, where directors throw in a green screen and some tentacled monsters in the hopes that everything will be fine. I remember the days of shooting the head of chainsaw-wielding maniacs in cinema foyers while playing the House of the Dead arcade game and thinking "wow, someone should make a film out of this." Someone did, and it was awful; sure, House of the Dead may have come from the twisted mind of Uwe Boll, but that is no excuse for a lackluster film.
Elsewhere, the likes of Silent Hill, Warcraft, and Assassin's Creed represent some of the biggest box office blunders out there, but also some of the best loved gaming worlds. There is very little love out there for video game films, unless you count(ed) Resident Evil. In its middle years, Resident Evil movies represented the glory days as they crossed over deeper into their video game history and introduced stalwart characters like Jill Valentine and Ada Wong. Anderson attempted to stay loyal to the franchise's history while still making his own mark, but then everything lost its way and the dollar signs rang.
The game Resident Evil 6 was released in 2012, at arguably the peak of the RE film franchise; while some applauded its expansive world, the game was wildly criticized for being too cinematic and appealing too much to fans of the films. It became clear that Capcom was now writing for a possible cinematic spin-off of its games and increased hype in the series, while it was a case of vice versa for Screen Gems and Anderson.
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CG-I Can't Believe It
Video game movies often see themselves as a standalone affair and hammer in as many A-list names, CGI, and corny scripts as they can for an "all guns blazing" corn-fest. Those that do limp onto the next level frequently find a continuity issue. Holding out for six video game films is no small feat, but Resident Evil is overly guilty of this crime by seemingly making up the story as they went along, without thinking about future installments or returning cast members. By the time we got to The Final Chapter, you would be confused for thinking you were watching any other action film if it weren't for Milla Jovovich's Alice.
The events of the fifth Resident Evil film (Retribution) ended with a stellar cast facing off against a last stand of zombie hordes. Sadly, Li Bingbing, Johann Urb, and Sienna Guillory all failed to return for The Final Chapter and their characters are just assumed dead. The little fanboy inside cried for some returns from the rest of the series, but the likes of Wentworth Miller's Chris Redfield and Spencer Locke's K-Mart were still M.I.A. I understand that filming schedules are conflicting, but to only really bring back Iain Glen's long-dead Dr. Isaacs for the Game of Thrones factor, and Ali Larter's Claire, was more than a little disappointing. VR gaming may be the future, but on screen, 3D doesn't exactly immerse you in a film anymore; the 3D aspect of Resident Evil had been cute for a couple of entries, but in 2017 you don't need to hurl a blade toward the screen to remind us that we need to be wearing the glasses.
Resident Evil was always known for its outlandish stunts, but zip lining off a skyscraper into a horde of swarming zombies isn't really what we signed up for, especially considering Anderson swapped out memorable characters for outlandish monsters. Video game films fall into this frequent trap of characters you just don't care about. If you look back on the previous RE films, the cast were as well rounded as the thin script could allow, but by the time we got to The Final Chapter, I couldn't tell you the names of any of the new additions. The same was the case for the Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider films, which limped into sequels with only a handful of plot with them — speaking of which...
As Angelina slipped into something a little more revealing, the two Tomb Raider films from the early '00s marginally succeeded where other action films had failed, but even they are nothing to get too excited about. Although Jolie was praised for her performance, the films were declared a critical failure and nothing more than a poor (wo)man's Indiana Jones. Hopes are high, perhaps too high, that Alicia Vikander can reboot not only the #TombRaider franchise, but video game movies in general when she ice picks onto our screens in March 2018. Certainly, the Tomb Raider games have moved away from their triangle-titted days on the PlayStation, choosing a more cinematic direction, thanks to the likes of her most recent outing, Rise of the Tomb Raider. However, as video games have evolved, it seems that their cinematic counterparts are stuck somewhere in the retro section.
Admittedly, blame can't just be laid at the doorstep of Hollywood, the same works in reverse, with video game adaptations of films normally falling flatter than a level on Paper Mario. With the exception of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, rarely does anyone say "that game was better than the film." I've written about it before, but the dire Alien: Colonial Marines game was a desecration of (in my eyes) one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, but with the right effort, it could've worked. Just look at the promise from 2014's Alien: Isolation; heralded as a superb VR #horror masterpiece, it took cinematic elements just far enough into a game, without breaking it up into one long playable movie. Clearly someone is listening, and your chests should be "bursting" with excitement that The Fox Innovation Lab will launch a VR spin-off game alongside Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant film later this year.
It is BioShocking
Is it too little too late though? Cinema missed a trick, because there is one game out there that could have made them a small fortune in ticket sales. Developed by 2K Games, 2007's game #BioShock wowed critics with its unique premise of an underwater paradise gone wrong. Combining vivid storytelling, well-rounded villains, and those all important horror elements, BioShock spun out a second direct sequel, as well as spin-off/continuation with BioShock Infinite. In 2008 it was announced that Universal had greenlit a feature film using the same techniques as 300, and that Pirates of the Caribbean's Gore Verbinski would sit in the director's chair. Concept art was created, Wentworth Miller was rumored for the lead role, and the film entered pre-production. However, after middling reviews of Watchmen, as well as concerns over Verbinski's $200 million budget and the hard R-rating, the project was shelved. Given Went's Resident Evil appearance, he probably would've vanished after the first film anyway.
YouTube is full of superb fan-made BioShock films, but Hollywood is yet to see the gold glimmering just below the surface of the water. What made BioShock the perfect game-to-film project was its villains. The bad guys in the city of Rapture weren't the genetically mutated Splicers who you battled through each section, it was the city's creator Andrew Ryan, offset by the other scientists and geniuses that populated the underwater Eden. Big battle boss fights with super beings don't translate well onto film — DOOM can show you that — what we really want is a humanized villain getting their ass kicked!
The Final Level
So, where does this leave us — time for one more level, or have you run out of lives? While box-office returns can be anything between average to abysmal for game-to-film outings, the most worrying statistic is the ratings. The genre can be summed up by the sad realization that the highest rated game-to-film adaptation is actually 2016's The Angry Birds Movie, and even that only managed 43% on Rotten Tomatoes. Even worse, The Final Chapter is the best received film in the RE franchise, with a lackluster 34%. Hopefully, the future of video game films will be upgrading its hardware, but away from Tomb Raider, the slate holds Pokémon's Detective Pikachu, an untitled Sonic the Hedgehog film, and horror-fest Five Nights at Freddy's — not exactly anything to write home about.
Coming full circle back to Resident Evil, it is easy to see how it is the most successful game-to-film franchise out there, but there isn't exactly a lot of competition. Leading on from Retribution, hopes were high that The Final Chapter would continue its winning streak, but it seemed that Anderson and co. forgot everything they had learned in the past 15 years and reverted to every other video game stereotype. Call me old fashioned, but take me back to Milla's little red dress in the confines of the Spencer Mansion at the franchise's origins.
It is certainly time to take out the cartridge, blow on it, and press the reset button. If someone could emulate the horror of the recent #ResidentEvilVII, and its back-to-basics approach, then keep 'em coming; but with Paul W. S. Anderson promising that The Final Chapter will live up to its name, perhaps it is time to quit while you are (just) ahead. Take your Resident Evil DVDs and stick them on the shelf next to that scratched GameBoy, a dusty N64, and that XBox with the red ring of death. Project Alice may have been decommissioned, but her legacy will live on.
Check out our video of the 13 most insane Resident Evil moments, and don't forget our poll below!
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