For a series inspired by a certain set of Romero films, Resident Evil hasn’t had a comfortable transition to celluloid. The live action trilogy starring Milla ‘LeeLoo Multipass’ Jovovich didn’t successfully exploit its survival horror trappings, failing to grasp the license or our attention. Degradation plants itself firmly in its universe, where the animated aesthetic acts as a natural extension of the games. Regardless of a chance for a fresh start, it takes more inspiration from the live action trilogy than the claustrophobic corridors, fixed camera angles and grisly adversaries of the games. (On the bright side, there’re no tank controls.)
Set sometime after Resident Evil 4, the now Asian-looking Leon Kennedy rescues old comrade Clare Redfield from a zombie outbreak in an airport (running out of locations, are we? What’s next, a theme park?). With more impending attacks from bio-terrorists, they team up with a cop, Angela, to uncover the operations of a faceless biomedical corporation (no, not Umbrella) to find out who’s behind the latest undead uprising. Cue zombies, shady operations, and lots of awful dialogue.
The plot stays well within the confines of the series, featuring hidden laboratories, vengeful cops, sibling rivalries, and a boss monster that just won’t die. It rubbishes the tense survival horror of the series and opts for a brash action flick with lots of explosions, but still manages to trickle out some story, even if the cast are as silicon as the computer chips used to make them. While the rubbish dialogue is right at home for the B-movie feel of the series, it doesn’t translate well to the film – expect to cringe until you feel a little undead yourself.
The so-cheesy-you-can-grate-it dialogue and even greasier American rock soundtrack nullifies any chance of tension when the living dead come a stumblin’, settling for out-dated slow motion and brainless ‘humour’ of zombies falling from heights instead. While the story brews a taste of something larger than we expect from the games, it fails to lead up to any big reveal that it seems to tease. Even though it turns away from the feel of the games, it doesn’t even bother using the source: the unique and varied list of enemies and plot points from the games are severely underused, opting for just a few shuffling zombies instead. Would a few Lickers, Hunters or Cerberus hurt? (Probably.) The thankful appearance of the Tyrant makes for a satisfying action-packed ending, as he stalks our heroes with an explosion or increased body count at every turn, even if he does outstay his welcome.
The animation is nothing special, looking bland but satisfying, considering the source material. Like the dialogue, it would have been passable because of its B-movie and gaming roots, providing it had a rousing cast of gory monsters and semblance of story that would have made an entertaining flick. The gruesome Tyrant just about rescues this mild 90 minute cutscene from being entirely pointless (the story doesn’t even meaningfully fit into the canon) and while it acts as a standalone product that anyone can get mild thrills from, it’s tame action and absent plot will fail to please fans and outside spectators alike. Degeneration just about sums it up nicely.
Extras Bloopers, Resident Evil 5 preview, interview with Leon Kennedy, Trailers, and a Making Of. A little more entertaining than the film itself.
28 January 2009