14 years since the release of the first Resident Evil film, there have been four sequels and a series box office gross of almost a billion dollars. You can't deny the success of this franchise, adapted from the popular game series, there is an audience and it keeps coming back for more.
I'm part of that audience, despite never being into the game. The films themselves have evolved in some ways over the years, but haven't escaped scathing critical reviews, so it'll be interesting to see what the final film offers, which is due for release in 2017.
For now, I'm going back through the series and writing hindsight reviews, reflecting upon Resident Evil, starting with the first. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Death Race, Pompeii) and starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, James Purefoy and Colin Salmon, the adaptation follows a team of commandos on a mission to stop a virus that has been released in a high-tech facility called 'The Hive', run by the popular conglomerate 'Umbrella'.
When the team arrive, they soon realise the virus has mutated the workers of the facility into bloodthirsty zombies.
The film opens terrifically, with the unsuspecting employees of Umbrella slowly starting to panic when the facility shuts down and locks them in. Anderson's use of silence and calm really builds tension, especially in the sequence set inside a lift, echoing the opening scene seen in Keanu Reeve's Speed.
What would've made this opening even more effective would've been ridding it of the melodramatic dialogue and just having the employers react through expression and subtle movements, but even with the dialogue this is a great start.
One big negative about this film, however, is the terribly cheesy and loud score. Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson's clash of guitars and techno/synths effects sounds like a 90's video game menu, one that grates on you as it loads the game, well imagine that in a film where it actually overwhelms speech.
The sound design is weak when the commandos first appear and seize Milla Jovovich's Alice. Colin Salmon and Michelle Rodriguez talk but you can barely make out their muffled dialogue, I don't know if it was mixed that way, or it was my Blu-Ray or my speakers but I'm sure it wasn't, cause this takes you out of the action. Luckily, this soon passes once the characters actually enter the facility.
Tonally, this film is on fine form! The atmospherics are constant, place that alongside the slow movements and steady camera pans around empty corridors and you'll find yourself on edge. The set design is marvellous, especially the creativity and quality of it, take 'The Red Queen' mainframe room, a large centrifuge that opens up from the ground. The containment room where the zombies first appear feels like something out of Alien, I do feel as if Anderson and his team took inspiration from Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece.
Another great aspect of this film is of course the action hero herself, Milla Jovovich, who plays Alice, the once head of security for 'The Hive'. Jovovich physically exerts herself throughout the film and she really looks the part, knocking out and shooting the undead in style barely breaking a sweat.
Her actual performance is solid too, though she isn't given a whole lot of dialogue nor major character development, a waste because Jovovich has the dramatic chops to really make something special. Michelle Rodriguez is as bold and badass as ever, but much like Jovovich, isn't given much backstory to her character or anything interesting, other than being tough and very, very good in combat, which is always good fun to see Rodriguez in action.
The other actors are quite flat and stale. Colin Salmon hams it up and Eric Mabius stares blankly an awful lot, the entire commando team is rather expendable and forgettable, though James Purefoy is decent enough to make an impression, particularly when his character goes through a narrative twist.
Resident Evil excels when it bursts into action, particularly the opening and the first encounter where the entire team face off against the zombified employees who all pose a real threat. The laser corridor scene is a highlight too, and when Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez come on screen, things get just that bit better.
However, Resident Evil's lack of character, poor musical score and thin narrative can't be overlooked, and that's why this film deserves a rating of: 7/10 - Recommended