When it comes to bad video game movies, there’s nothing like the Resident Evil franchise. It’s not just that the movies are inaccurate as they have active contempt for the source material’s lore, choosing to tell a wholly original story starring long-time series director’s (Paul W.S. Anderson) wife (Milla Jovovich) as a godlike zombie-slaying badass.
That’s not to say they’re beyond redemption, since ironic entertainment can be mined from Resident Evil if it’s viewed as a modern-day B-movie fiesta. In getting a lot wrong, Alice’s six-movie fight against the Umbrella Corporation does enough to become one of the 2000’s most well-known guilty pleasures.
10 A GREAT B-MOVIE: The Mutations Are Fun
When it comes to innovation and originality, zombie movies have it tough. There’s only so much one movie could do with the idea of a reanimated corpse, let alone an entire franchise about them. Fortunately for Resident Evil, the games provide a ton of unique monster designs that are relatively easy to adapt.
From zombie dogs to the Licker to the Nemesis, each Resident Evil movie features a unique undead monstrosity that has few comparisons in other zombie movies. Some of the boss monsters’ context is lost due to the translation from game to movie, but at least Alice always has something new to shoot.
9 FALLS SHORT: The Zombies Are Generic
As of this writing, zombies are beyond passé. Long gone are the days when the undead represented something deeper as seen in George A. Romero’s satirical masterpieces. Now, they’re just disposable bad guys for movie heroes to gun down en masse guilt-free.
Resident Evil doesn’t do itself any favors with its cardboard cutout zombies. Some are infected with Las Plagas and/or G-Virus thus giving them tentacles or larger jaws but for the most part, they’re just another crowd of shambling corpses. Making things worse is that Resident Evil doesn’t do anything noteworthy with them, cribbing older movies’ ideas such as making them sprint (28 Days Later) or use guns (Day Of The Dead).
8 A GREAT B-MOVIE: Every Installment Tries Something New
Something Resident Evil doesn’t get enough credit for is its experimental nature. Whether or not this was intentional is out of the question because even if it was (not) accidental, the fact that each Resident Evil movie is (mostly) distinct from the last is something not all B-grade action movie series can achieve.
If the first movie is an escape from a claustrophobic zombie-infested lab, the next one (Apocalypse) is be a city-wide zombie apocalypse. Next thing audiences know, Alice is in a Mad Max-styled wasteland (Extinction) before fighting her way through VR recreations of major cities and even previous movies (Retribution). While every movie follows the same baseline formula, the fact that the backdrops and sub-genres keep changing is worth pointing out.
7 FALLS SHORT: The Music Is Bland
If there’s one thing nobody remembers Resident Evil for, it’s the soundtrack. The movies’ chosen music is just a mix of random rock songs of the time and instrumental tracks meant to pump up the fights. Basically, it’s exactly what anyone would expect from the most boilerplate action movie around.
Some fights, even with Executioners lumbering around, can feel like a slog because of the droning and repetitive score. Instead of firing up viewers’ adrenaline in scenes like the one where Albert Wesker throws his shades at audiences, all the music does is set a routine, becoming the equivalent of elevator music before even reaching the movie’s halfway point.
6 A GREAT B-MOVIE: There’s Little To No Internal Logic
Part of the joy of watching B-movies is trying to decipher what’s going on, not because it’s a deep mystery but because nothing makes sense. The more nonsensical the movie, the more fun a group of friends will have yelling and/or throwing questions at the screen. Luckily, Resident Evil shuns the very idea of logic.
While each movie could just barely stand on its own, as a long-form story they lack continuity. Every sequel undoes the immediate predecessor’s rules, reverting the status quo because nothing matters. Extinction could end with Alice waking up her super-powered clone army, and Afterlife will just kill them all in the first 10 minutes. Extinction may occur in a now-desert world, but succeeding movies ignore this because why not? This sloppiness makes each forthcoming contradiction and unintentionally unpredictable twist a joy to watch out for.
5 FALLS SHORT: The Slow Pacing Kills The Fun
A major issue with every Resident Evil movie is that its hilariously bad moments are few and far between. Each installment is mostly comprised of narration, exposition, and characters walking around with guns aimed at a corner. For every bonkers fight like Alice kicking zombie dogs midair, there’s a ton of padding to get through first.
To be fair, this problem isn’t unique to Resident Evil and is prevalent in all B-movies. Part of the challenge of enjoying bad movies is the daunting amount of filler that must be endured to get to the schlocky diamond at the bottom. It’s for this reason that’s it’s understandable why some people prefer to watch Resident Evil compilations or reactions on Youtube instead of suffering the entire franchise.
4 A GREAT B-MOVIE: It’s Always Over-The-Top
Schlocky entertainment lives and dies by how outrageous things get or otherwise. No other mainstream movie franchise does this better than Resident Evil, which constantly finds a way to surpass the crazy standard the previous movie set.
What started as a derivative zombie movie evolved into a globe-trotting conspiracy thriller that just so happened to have zombies. How can The Final Chapter go wrong when its villain is a Bible-thumping, kung-fu fighting Ser Jorah Mormont who’s also the nth clone of the bad guy from Extinction? Helping matters was Alice herself, who’s basically a gun-slinging super-soldier who somehow got her strength from a zombie virus.
3 FALLS SHORT: The Action Isn’t Spectacular
The irony is that for an action-horror franchise, Resident Evil doesn’t excel in the action department. Thanks to Alice’s endless wire-fu stunts and surprise power-ups that lack any in-story explanation, fights just drag on forever. At some point, all those slowed down projectiles and heavily choreographed brawls become a chore to watch. For better and worse, Resident Evil is the perfect embodiment of the post-Matrix action movie from the early 2000’s.
Part of the series’ charm comes from how archaic its fights are but by today’s standards, they’re too polished to be laughably bad yet too outdated to be taken seriously. Souring matters are the fatal accidents on The Final Chapter’s set, with stuntwoman Olivia Jackson losing her left arm following a career-ending crash and crewmember Ricardo Cornelius dying after being crushed by a Humvee.
2 A GREAT B-MOVIE: Everything About Milla Jovovich
Resident Evil wouldn’t be what it is without Milla Jovovich. Much has been said about Alice being a movie-only character who has no basis in the games, but it’s undeniable that Jovovich brought the franchise’s heroine to kick-ass life.
Jovovich is perfect for the role, giving an otherwise transparent teenage boy’s fantasy and juvenile interpretation of what constitutes as “female empowerment” a life, depth, and personality of her own. More impressive is that with few exceptions, she performed most of her own stunts. Despite Resident Evil’s many flaws and valid criticisms, Jovovich cemented herself as an action star and modern-day B-movie legend through Alice.
1 FALLS SHORT: Anyone Who Isn’t Alice Is Forgettable
On the flip side of Alice is literally everyone else, who nobody can’t be faulted for not remembering. Minus the game-accurate characters who are easy to identify thanks to brand recognition and are only faithful in an in-name-only status, nobody in Resident Evil is worth getting invested in.
Everyone who isn’t Alice is a mix of zombie movie and action movie archetypes, showing that not much thought was put in anyone’s writing and conception. They serve their purpose and die, sometimes off-screen. At best, the supporting cast is forgettable and disposable but at worst, they’re glorified stepping stones for Alice’s story and development.
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