Screen Critics takes a look back at 2002’s Resident Evil movie and how it influenced the games and vice versa across all six films.
I recently saw the original Resident Evil movie again, and it made me wonder what kind of impact the movie has had on the video games if any at all. Still remembered as one of the better video game movies, which isn’t a very hard bar to cross honestly, I became curious if the first movie was able to impact the Capcom developed games in any way. In this article, I will be giving a short premise on the film, a short review of the film, and I will then compare the film with the video games it was supposed to be based on.
An amnesic woman wakes up in a mysterious mansion, where she quickly meets up with a man who claims to be a cop and a military group sent by the mega-corporation Umbrella. It is reveal that the amnesic woman works for Umbrella as well; the mansion has an underground train that connects to the Hive, a genetic research facility owned by Umbrella. Located beneath the nearby city, it is up the woman and the others to go to the Hive and shut off the rogue AI, the Red Queen.
It isn’t high art by any means, but I found the film to be a very watchable and entertaining flick. The story is fairly basic, though gets the job done. The opening scene, where the virus gets out and the Red Queen decides to kill everyone in the Hive, is probably the best part of the movie. It establishes the stakes and adds an eerily atmosphere to the whole movie. The build-up to the eventual zombies is also great, being very tense and even foreboding.
Sadly when it does get to the zombies, it turns into a more generic action movie. Not just any generic action movie, a generic action movie from the early 2000s. That is when CG was beginning to be more prevalent, with filmmakers showering their motion pictures with a bunch of CG that they would never have predicted would look terrible five years later. With that said, Resident Evil used CG more sparingly than its other early 2000s brethren. It is still very noticeable in many places, especially with the Licker in the latter half of the movie. The Licker, which serves as the end boss of the film, ends up disappointing with how fake it looks. There are moments where practical effects are used in the film, which is much appreciated.
The action is still fun, with the ridiculous moment with the zombie dogs being one of the more memorable action pieces (the lead KICKS A ZOMBIE DOG IN THE FACE!). The characters and dialogue are all really flat, with the lines of dialogue adding very little to give each character their own personality. Milla Jovovich gives a fairly mixed performance as the main character. She often times delivers her lines flat and has a hard time conveying more nuanced emotions in the dramatic moments. Nonetheless, she does act like a badass in many scenes and she undeniably looks cool throughout the movie.
Everyone else in the cast gives competent, though also uninspired, performances. I never found Michelle Rodriguez to be a good actress, and her role in the film as another powerful female lead leaves much to be desired. She ends up being okay, giving a decent performance as the film continued. Eric Mabius as the cop, later revealed to be an undercover anti-Umbrella activist, comes off to me as the one actor that is trying the hardest to give a good performance to a very flat character. Martin Crewes as the cowardly hacker is probably one of the few characters with an arc in the movie, becoming increasingly braver as the story progresses and even saving the remaining survivors in the last leg of the film. His unceremonious end at the climax of the motion picture really irked me, as his character felt to be the most deserving to live.
Overall the film is very flawed, and even dumb in many parts, but nonetheless, in retrospect, it is still very fun. While there are undeniably many plot holes in the film’s narrative, it is overshadowed in how bland the story and characters are. It makes up with its cool style and very solid pacing. No one will compare it to Citizen Kane, yet contrasted to the other garbage video game movies, this deservedly belongs somewhere at the top in terms of quality.
What it took from the games
The first Resident Evil movie was released around the same month as the remake of the first Resident Evil game. At that point in the franchise’s history, the original Resident Evil trilogy on the PS1 was released, along with Code: Veronica on the Dreamcast. Resident Evil 0, a prequel of the original game, would be released later the same year as the film, 2002. The groundbreaking Resident Evil 4 wouldn’t be released until another three years after the film. On a side note, the franchise was only six years old when the film was released, which proves how popular the series was, and still is.
The movie has a mostly original plot, though it does take a lot from the first two games. All the characters, including the lead, were original creations for the film. The sequels would add in more of the main characters from the games, including Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Clair Redfield, Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong, Carlos Oliveira, and the big bad of the games, Albert Wesker. The first game of the series took place in the creepy Spencer Mansion. The movie pays homage to the original game’s setting by having the opening scenes take place in a mansion that connects to the underground Hive. One of the character’s names is also Spencer, and he occupies the house with the lead, essentially making the mansion Spencer’s Mansion.
Both the games and films have zombies, obviously since that has been the main drive of the series since the start. Personally, I felt the zombies looked a lot less grotesque in the movie than they did in the games, however that could be because the zombies in the movie have yet to decompose. The infamous zombie dogs, called Cerberus in the games, make a memorable appearance in the film. One of the Cerberus even crashes through a glass window, just like how they did it in the original game. A Licker, a mutated creature that can climb on walls and has a long tongue, acts as the film’s final obstacle to overcome. Lickers were well-known enemies from the second game. It is weird they treat the Licker as such a big threat in the movie, considering they were actually a recurring enemy type in the games.
Nemesis, the big hulking mutant in Resident Evil 3, is foreshadowed at the end of the first film and is a major focus in the second Resident Evil film Apocalypse. The first RE movie plays it straight, which contrasts with the campy nature of the original Resident Evil games. There is some hooky-ness with the movie, most of it stemming in how outdated it is now. Umbrella, the super powerful and super evil mega-corporation, is the main antagonist in both the film series and the video games. Raccoon City, the main setting of the second and third games, is the city that the Hive is underneath. Raccoon City will be the main setting in the second movie.
What the games will later take
Surprisingly, very little from the first Resident Evil film bleeds into the video game series. In fact-based on some quick research, I couldn’t find much tangible evidence that any of the Resident Evil movies have had any effect on the video games. I’ve been referring Milla Jovovich’s character as the lead because her character was not named in the first movie; it wasn’t until the credits rolled that it was revealed her character’s name was Alice. Alice would be the lead of all six RE movies, which all-together have earned over a billion dollars at the global box office. Similar to how Disney started incorporating Captain Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, you would assume Capcom would be inspired by the movies success and decide to add in the main character that has been able to gross over a billion dollars.
But that never happened, Alice has not appeared in any of the Resident Evil games. The villainous Red Queen eventually makes her way into the video game universe, appearing in 2007’s The Umbrella Chronicles. The notorious laser hallway scene in the film, where a group of characters are literally cut into pieces by moving lasers, would be a callback in RE 4 and The Umbrella Chronicles. The leads in both games had to cross a hallway of moving lasers similar to the one seen in the movie. The laser hallway would become one of the signature action scenes in the films, appearing several more times in the sequels.
When the first movie came out, the games were still well-known for being atmospheric and having great tension throughout. The first movie only gets it half right, with the first half being tense while the latter half is more action-y. In some ways, the Resident Evil movies were able to foreshadow the games eventual reliance on over-the-top action rather than horror. Resident Evil 4, 5, and 6 will follow a more action orientated gameplay, foregoing much of the horror elements that made the series a success in the first place. It’s unknown if the films did have a direct influence on the direction the video games would later take if anything the timing is at least very coincidental. 2017’s Resident Evil 7 the game returns the series to its horror roots, while Resident Evil: The Final Chapter the movie was released in 2016 with a total box office gross of $312.2 million with a $40 million budget.