Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes
Scientific innovation by humans has led to so many advances in all areas of life with the hope of extending it for as long as naturally possible. Continuing this pursuit comes at a price when we begin to play God, which can lead to some treacherous results when taken too far. This results in what creates the zombies in Resident Evil as in nearly every story about the undead. With its video game source material driving it, this feature struggles to find its footing leading to mixed results when discussing its quality.
After a vial containing the T-virus gets unleashed in an Umbrella Corporation laboratory, everyone inhabiting the space gets forcefully killed by the operating system controlling the facility. Following this tragic event, a group of special ops gets sent down there to shut down the artificial intelligence program responsible for the merciless killing, but they do not come properly prepared for what they will face down there.
Often maligned but serving as a guilty pleasure of mine, even if I feel no guilt for what I enjoy, the Resident Evil films occupy such an interesting place where lovers of the game hate how it strays away from the source material but each film has enjoyed plenty of success commercially even if admonished critically. An interesting franchise to examine as a whole, but a common theme that emerges with this feature and will power the rest of the series of films as you can see in my reviews for those comes with the establishment of a strong lead character in Alice (Milla Jovovich).
Having given so much of her career to this role not requiring her to do much strenuous acting, Jovovich begins her reign as this character with a sense of mystery in trying to parse out her existence. Seemingly hit with a gas causing memory loss, we follow Alice as she must go down with this special ops team to this Umbrella Corporation facility. Things begin to come back to her, but something becomes evidently clear; she knows how to kick some butt, and when it comes to fending off the zombies of this film, she has plenty of fun in doing so.
As intriguing as this feature has as a setup with a protagonist not knowing herself and a mysterious artificial intelligence program trying to take them out this film still finds a way to struggle in being fully engaging throughout. Part of this comes from the delay in bringing out the zombies for the narrative. It makes sense to tease them and how they will inevitably inform much of the plot but in getting there this film really struggles in its pacing with such a simple mission. We get these moments where the characters take breaks and seemingly try to get to know each other, but the writing does not lend for this time to be used properly, which certainly does not help the engagement of the narrative. It certainly becomes something rectified in future sequels fully embracing the utter ridiculousness of its concept but this film tries to instill a level of seriousness not fully making for something wholly engaging.
With this also being an introduction to this world, Resident Evil needs to do a plethora of world-building and the sheer amount of exposition dumped in this feature gets absolutely ridiculous. It ultimately becomes one of the charms these films have to offer but the way it gets done in this feature will make some eyes twitch at its lack of shame. It certainly helps the antagonist is a murderous Siri who can answer questions whenever the plot needs some explanation as to what these characters have to take on.
All in all, Resident Evil does a decent job of introducing the world of these zombies and other creations that need to be taken on. It all turns into a race against the clock for these characters to survive. The film sets a good enough foundation while maintaining a sense of seriousness throughout making for something enjoyable if you buy into what the film wants to achieve. For all its issues, it brings forth a good lead character in Alice as she discovers her potential right with us audience members leading to something worth enjoying even if not very competently constructed.