A mostly faithful take on the classic video game series
If you’re a long-time fan of Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise, you will probably appreciate this movie more than somebody who hasn’t played any of the games in the series.
Director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) promised a more faithful take on the games – especially the first two Resident Evil titles – and he has largely stuck to his word. This is much better than Paul W S Anderson’s take on the Resi universe, so any fears you may have heard about another director ignoring what made the games so great can largely be allayed.
Many of the key characters from the franchise make an appearance, including Chris and Claire Redfield, Albert Wesker, Jill Valentine, Leon Kennedy, and young Sherry Berkin.
Locations from the games are faithfully recreated, including Spencer Mansion from the first Resident Evil game and the Raccoon City Police Station and Orphanage that were featured in the second. There’s even a typewriter in the mansion, although we never get to see any of the characters save their progress with a typewriter ribbon!
While the story rushes through the events of the first two Resi games, it still makes time for sequences the fans will appreciate, such as the arrival of the S.T.A.R.S .team to the mansion, which is a faithful translation of the same moment in the game.
There are callbacks to the puzzle elements in the games too, such as the moment when Wesker plays a few notes of Moonlight Sonata on a piano to open a hidden door in the mansion (in the game, it was actually Jill, but it’s still a nice inclusion).
As expected, the movie features lots of zombies and there is one particular zombie moment that is meticulously recreated from the first game.
The famous zombie dogs are here too, although you shouldn’t expect the classic jump scare moment that was made famous in the original Resi title. The ‘Licker’ from Resident Evil 2 also makes an appearance and so too does the mutated William Birkin who looks just like he did in the game, complete with the eyeball on his shoulder.
If you have played the games, you will notice countless other references, including the underground train that is featured at the end of Resident Evil 2, and the moment from that title when Leon went up against the mutated Birkin with a rocket launcher. As a love letter to the games then, the movie is mostly successful, although some of the moments from the Playstation originals are skipped over to keep to a leaner running time.
But what if you haven’t played the games? Will this movie appeal to you? Well, maybe. The movie’s story – an evil pharmaceutical company (Umbrella) creates a virus that inadvertently turns the folk of Raccoon City into zombies – is largely played out in basic terms, with little explanation as to why they wanted to create a deadly virus in the first place.
So, if you’re looking for a plot you can get your teeth into, you might be disappointed. You might also be disappointed if you’re looking for lots of blood and gore. However, it’s not the worst movie in the genre, and there are lots of action and terror moments that might satisfy you if you decide to give it a try.
Video game movies are traditionally awful but this latest title largely bucks that trend. The ending is a bit naff (although there is an intriguing mid-credits scene) and the plotting is a bit of a jumble. But as the movie is (mostly) respectful of the gaming franchise from which it has been spawned, it does deserve points for not mutating into the cinematic misfires that Paul W S Anderson created.
At this point, there has been no news of a sequel but if one is announced, I would be more than happy to see it.
So long as it sidesteps Resident Evil 5 and 6, two low points in the game series, there is the potential for something great. It would be good to see an adaption of Resident Evil 4, for example, where Leon went up against an evil cult in Spain, or a version of the recent Resident Evil: Village, where Ethan Winters (who made his debut in Resident Evil 7) ends up in a creepy castle with the mother of all terrors!
Whether or not we will get to see these stories outside of a gaming console remains to be seen but as the games were already cinematic in nature, it would be a shame if sequels weren’t made.
In summary, the movie is definitely worth watching if you’re a fan of the games. It’s not perfect – you will have a few quibbles about the way certain moments are handled – but there are still plenty of Easter Eggs that you will appreciate.
If you haven’t played the games, you might still enjoy the movie, although you shouldn’t expect something as scary or as bloody as the George A. Romero movies that were the inspiration for the original game.
Verdict - 6.5/10