A few years ago, I attended a conference on "The Future" at a Los Angeles convention center. Unfortunately, the escalators didn’t work that day, so all participants had to use the stairs. "I’ve seen the future, and it’s broken," quipped one of my colleagues. Resident Evil, a sci-fi horror film based on the popular video game series, also depicts a broken future --- and the film itself seems damaged, too.
After witnessing last year’s Tomb Raider disaster, I probably should stay away from any movie with a video game as its source. Like Angelina Jolie in that disappointing flick, Milla Jovovich (Joan of Arc: The Messenger) plays a heroine who must save the world. Although just as beautiful, she’s even more unbelievable. But, hey, it’s not easy fighting off hungry zombies, mutating monsters, and blood-thirsty canines while wearing a slinky red dress --- especially one with a long, flowing train. Her weapons? Sexy boots, a scowl, and not much else.
Alice, Jovovich’s character, suffers from amnesia, so she’s not sure how she got into such a perilous situation. But here she is, along with Rain (Michelle Rodriguez from The Fast and the Furious) and a few male task force members, on a deadly underground mission. She and her teammates work for the Umbrella Corporation, a powerful company conducting research on viruses and other mysterious stuff. One of the deadly viruses has escaped, killing infected employees and turning them into ravenous zombies who resemble trick-or-treaters at my door last Halloween.
Why is Alice so deeply involved in all this mayhem? She doesn’t know during a good part of the film, and I didn’t care. I was too busy trying to stay awake. Even with the movie’s clunking soundtrack, I found myself starting to nod off every few minutes. The last time this happened to me so frequently in a movie was during Event Horizon, another futuristic horror film. I just realized Paul Anderson directed both of these dreadful movies. (Thank heavens he did a much better job on Soldier, starring Kurt Russell, an excellent sci-fi updating of Shane.)
Anderson admits being a huge fan of the Resident Evil video game series. Although the filmmaker wanted to make a movie version that was "respectful of it, builds on the premise and delivers on its promise," he decided not to use the Jill Valentine character from the first game. "To be scary you have to be unpredictable --- and that’s why I used a set of fresh characters," he explains. "The suspense dynamic of who is going to live, who is going to die and what people’s allegiances are was only going to work with new characters."
Sorry, Mr. Anderson, although I admire your attempt to give this movie an "Alice in Wonderland" touch, these new characters didn’t create any suspense for me. I couldn’t tell most of the male actors apart, and no one emerged as someone to care about, except maybe the Red Queen, a supercomputer speaking through a child’s holograph. Because the commando team is struggling to outwit this omnipotent Red Queen, I doubt if that’s how I’m supposed to feel.
To be fair, Resident Evil includes bits of blood and gore that horror-flick fans might appreciate. My husband found the decapitation scenes, with laser beams substituting for the guillotine and axe, quite original and effective. (I never watch heads rolling, so I’ll take his word for it.)
Do escalators work in the miserable future showcased by Resident Evil? Hmmm. I didn't see one anywhere. Evidently, they’ve been replaced completely by elevators that can be deadly to humans. And they’re broken, too.
(Released by Screen Gems and rated "R" for language, strong sci-fi/horror violence, and brief sexuality/nudity.)