The (allegedly) Final Installment in the absurdly long running ‘Resident Evil’ movie series comes to theaters this week. ModCon takes this as his cue to argue the merits of another in an increasingly long list of Lost Causes…
First off, I’m talking about the FIRST of the 33 or so ‘Resident Evil’ movies made so far. I happily admit to watching pretty much all of them, but the only one I’ll actually, y’know, DEFEND is the FIRST ‘Resident Evil’ movie. The one from 2002. That one.
Yep. That’s it right there. Lotta red in that poster.
Look. I realize that people have legitimate problems with the ‘Resident Evil’ movies. I understand. And, no, I never played the video games so I won’t even get into that whole ball of hate. I’m well aware that these are not cinematic masterpieces. Maybe they suck as far as being adaptations of beloved source material. And yes, the 2nd ‘Resident Evil’ movie – ‘Resident Evil: Apocalypse’ – is a genuine stinker. But the FIRST ‘Resident Evil’ movie?
The one from 2002?
Yes. That one. The one where Milla wears the Red Dress. That’s it.
It’s a good movie.
Not a ‘great’ movie. Certainly not an ‘important’ movie. But it absolutely does what it sets out to do, and it does it honestly and well.
What it sets out to do, simply, is show Milla Jovovich kicking the shit out of evil zombie monsters in an awesome red dress. In this endeavor, ‘Resident Evil’ succeeds in a way that most movies can only dream of. As I like to say, “it does what it says it will right on the tin”.
To be fair, my particular tin was probably a bit different from long-time fans of the Capcom video games. They wanted a zombie horror movie. I wanted a Milla Jovovich kicking the shit out of evil zombie monsters movie. After years of buying a tin called ‘Resident Evil’ and getting a zombie horror experience, I can understand being annoyed when this new tin has the same name but a very different product. It’s a bit like drinking a glass of milk only to realize you accidentally got lemonade: each is fine on it’s own, but if you’re expecting one and get the other, well… It can be traumatic.
‘Resident Evil’ isn’t a horror movie. It’s really not a zombie movie, either. Sure, it’s got both of those elements but really it’s a sci-fi tinged action movie. And if you watch it on those terms, as I did, it’s a blast. It’s flawlessly paced, nicely shot, well edited and they spent just enough on the special effects so that it holds up 15 years later.
The cast is full of great character actors like Colin Salmon, Eric Maibus and James Purefoy. Michelle Rodriguez brings her rising star power to a role that could have just been a xerox of Private Vasquez from ‘Aliens’. Her character (the brilliantly named Rain Ocampo) has attitude aplenty, but Rodriguez gives hints of a real person under the bad ass. I swear she’s slyly flirting with Milla Jovovich’s Alice towards the end.
But it’s Milla Jovovich who has to carry the movie, which she does beautifully. For much of the first half, her Alice is like a trapped deer – always gauging her surroundings for possible escape routes or danger. When she explodes into full-on action hero mode, it’s all the more effective for having held her back early on. Jovovich has a natural grace that is vital for a character who is essentially physical rather than verbal. Look, I’ll never argue she’s the next Kate Winslet, but Milla has genuine screen presence. In a movie like this, that quality is worth more than all the facility with accents in the world.
‘Resident Evil’ also has enough visually striking moments to raise it above the standard B-movie stodge. Director Paul W. S. Anderson is a sensitive subject around the Echo Base hallways (theoretical hallways, but, still) so I just know I’m gonna get crap for saying this, but… fuck it. The guy has chops. The opening sequence is a little masterpiece of tension building, with a truly grisly payoff. Colin Salmon gets one of the best death scenes ever put to film. That final shot is a doozy. I could go on. Really.
None of the sequels come close to any of these moments, even when Anderson returned to the director’s chair. (I blame an over emphasis on CGI, but then, I would.) Jovovich is dependably charismatic, even getting some nice acting moments in 2012’s ‘Resident Evil: Retribution’. They’re all fun in fits and bursts, but if I’m honest, I only watch them because of the affection I have for the original.
‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ comes out on January 27th, and believe me, I’ll be there. More out of misguided sentimentality than any expectation of quality. But, honestly, as long as it does what it says on the tin, and Milla Jovovich gets to kick monster zombie ass, I will be happy.
You pick your battles, comrades. I’ve made my peace with this one.
‘Resident Evil’ is a good movie, damn it.
Come at me.