karamashi’s review published on Letterboxd:
I haven’t seen this since I saw it in theaters on the day of its release. Younger me was definitely disappointed and I’d carry that disappointment with me. Whenever a new Resident Evil film would crop up, I’d just remind myself of how disappointed I was before and most of the sequels were generally critically hated. Seeing it now, especially in a marathon of earlier video game adaptations, I’m a bit more objective about it(considering my super fandom of the game series).
The film starts strongly as it formally evokes the game via its angles and shots. It gets the eerie vibe of an amnesiac character, in an unfamiliar place. But that’s the only kind of vulnerability on display and the film quickly devolves to largely relying on zombie cliche after zombie cliche.
Now, the Resident Evil games have always had convoluted and poorly localized writing, made worse by infamously bad voice acting. But the very human element of you, the player, taking on the role of someone under an insurmountable amount of stress and horror is what makes the games so incredibly personable, tense, and scary.
The film fails to develop any actual characters. All dialogue is exposition or expletives. So all the characters are as one dimensional and boring as the dime a dozen zombies on display. There isn’t any sense of tension or suspense. And before anything else develops, Alice is inexplicably jumping off walls and karate kicking zombie dogs.
I like Milla Jovovich—but having just seen Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film rendered more interesting and entertaining because of Angelie Jolie’s approach to infusing her one-dimensional character with an air of charm and class, Jovovich feels under utilized.
I know it’s suppose to be some larger set-up for her to turn bad ass in the sequels, but it’s a missed opportunity to not have utilized the vulnerability she displays early on. That’s not to say I’m against bad ass female characters—it’s just the should have some emotional weight or dimension.
So the film is just on auto-pilot and while Anderson shoots everything in a precisely stylish and clean way, the film feels like a hermetically sealed, director for hire job. It feels like something cynically missing the most important element that the games had, which as cheesy as it is, is what makes them unique.
And here is the thing, by this point in time, circa 2001-2002, videogames we’re starting to not just reference their obvious cinematic inspirations but build off them in better and more interesting ways. The Resident Evil remake is arguably the most perfect example of a survival horror game. It’s an all around more deep and rewarding experience than a two hour Hollywood iteration.
So the larger issue is, people then think the games are like the films, when that’s really not the case. As if it matters since the films would become the most successful video game adaption series of all-time. It’s interesting seeing it’s place among other adaptations, even if it’s certainly a turning point for removing the human qualities of the medium in favor of more blunt and hollow experience.