The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 51.0°F | Overcast


The Need to Feed

Adrenaline, Zombies, and Jovovich

By Jumaane Jeffries

staff writer

Resident Evil

Written and directed by Paul Anderson

Starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez

Rated R, 100 minutes

The fickle American movie audience has finally embraced the practice of live-action cinematic adaptation of video games. Or has it? Don’t be fooled; the financially successful Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider were merely movies based on video games inspired by live-action films. This year’s entrant in the console movie sweepstakes is Resident Evil, based on Capcom’s twisted, bloody foray into the world of survival horror. While at times chilling and visually stunning, this movie itself falls prey to vicious beasts of its own, namely formulas and clichÉs.

This version of Resident Evil wastes no time in getting down to the nitty-gritty. We are immediately treated with the image of a scientist in a chemical protection suit handling mysterious chemicals. After he sabotages the Umbrella Corporation laboratory by breaking a glass vial, we see him rush beyond the ultimately doomed staff of what seems like an urban high-rise office building. Chaos ensues, causing the scientists to become trapped.

Suddenly, we see a gratuitously nude woman (Jovovich), unconscious and apparently amnesia-stricken. As soon as she puts on her obligatory bright red heroine’s blouse, she is met by several shadowy armed figures in riot gear, who need her help to reach the disaster site, known as “The Hive,” in order to prevent the spread of the deadly T-virus into Raccoon City.

The plight of the zombies as they struggle in futility to survive sets the tone amidst an eerily gray and metallic environment with an artificial view. The most heartless killer in the entire movie, it can be argued, is the laboratory’s artificial intelligence. After you witness her gory cookie-cutter algorithm, you’ll see why.

After quite a buildup, the epic battle against the bio-horde is a bit of a letdown. The remaining team is unsure what to make of the zombies, and feisty femme-fatale Rain (Rodriguez) pays for it with a piece of her thumb. Afterwards, director Paul W.S. Anderson attempts to create tension through repeated close calls with a giant horde of blood-feeding zombies, inciting a mass wave of gunfire while managing to avoid a bloodletting carnival. The recovery team members are always at the brink of becoming human chum, and somehow escape. What’s perplexing is the predictable and often infeasible manner in which they do, and I say this even after I incorporate the perspective of the video game.

As is typical of a horror film, character development takes a backseat to the action. However, the zombies seem to be more of a source of symbolism than outrageous bloodshed, revealing insight into the plot, and perhaps human nature in general. It would be useful if the plot weren’t so stagnant.

The movie begins with full chaos and remains fully chaotic, without ever truly developing. Frequent, quick-cutting flashbacks reveal the memory recovery of our two amnesiac protagonists. But they don’t change how we feel about them; they’re all Umbrella agents, they’re all subversive in some way. The archetypal cast, evocative of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (with the same plot, in many ways), and the trite, unnatural dialogue don’t exactly help their struggle either. Even the highly developed Red Queen AI, whose little girl personage is never expounded upon, spouts catch phrases like “the need to feed.”

The film also confines itself to its horror formula, which sometimes works very well and at other times is a hindrance. There are several montage sequences, or more simply, fakeout scenes, in which the expected doesn’t happen. They generate tension fairly well, even if they are false alarms.

However, the other tried-and-true elements give the film a somewhat predictable quality. The excessive body count is an understandable given, but you know that the camera’s going to focus on the eyes of the first awakening zombie. You know that Kaplan (Crewes) is going to survive after he valiantly proclaims his perseverance. You know you can’t run away from a big-ass monster like that so easily, etc.

On its own, Resident Evil turns out to be just another futuristic horror film, period. It also has a somewhat unfortunate attachment to a video game, which comes with the responsibility to win over a general audience (possibly with Jovovich’s shapely body), and to appease the game’s fans.

Ultimately, while its violence is barely excessive enough to make you cringe, its plot is not dynamic enough to make you truly care. If you’re looking a cheap thrill ride, Resident Evil can adequately conjure your adrenaline. If not, then avoid this one like the T-virus.