Alice In Umbrella-Land: Three Things The Resident Evil Movies Do Right (Besides Make Buttloads of Money)

'Resident Evil' movies and video games

As Paul Thomas Anderson painstakingly rolls out his latest labor of love, The Master — next stop, New York City, with a 70-mm screening at Manhattan's Ziegfeld Theater on Tuesday night — another Paul Anderson with different middle initials — W.S. — is preparing to infect the worldwide box office like a zombie virus  on Friday with Resident Evil: Retribution. It's the latest chapter in the movie franchise based on the blockbuster game franchise, which will also spawn a new installment, Resident Evil 6 on Oct. 6.

Guess which film will fare better critically?

The Resident Evil movies are the most mocked video-game movies because they’re also the most popular. Four movies earning almost half a billion dollars over budget usually wins most logical arguments when it comes to this subject. Unfortunately, heated Internet arguments have little to do with logic or reality — particularly if you take into account the graph I've prepared using data from Metacritic.com and Box Office Mojo.com.  You'll find it after the jump, but the gist is that when it comes to box-office revenues, Metacritic reviews are about as essential as unicorn insurance.

Wait a minute....So Internet whiners aren't the entire world?

The exponential growth in Resident Evil profits is a clear sign that Constantin Films, the producer behind the franchise, is doing something right. As an unabashed fan of movies,  I count three:

For many kids this was worse than Bambi’s mother dying.

1. Streamline the Core Plot: Some games are so impossible to convert that the process drives screenwriters completely insane, as proven by Mario Bros.

Resident Evil is not one of those games. The plot is good guys versus evil zombie corporation, and the movies aced it. The most common complaint is that the movies don't follow the plots of the games, but all the producers did was cut the repetitive rubbish which stretched what amounts to a 90-minute story into more than 12 hours of gameplay. In the Resident Evil games, the sinister Umbrella Corporation's two most loathsome products were voracious zombies and utterly unbreakable doors. The movies wisely dropped the the latter.

2. Jettison Irrelevant Sub-Plots:  The Resident Evil games have more dubious sub-plots than a soap opera — sub-plots, by the way, that require the brain activity of  bracket fungus to grasp. These plot tangents tended to be designed to justify and set up a sequel rather than advance the story at hand. You had characters chasing after their brothers, hunting down rogue mercenaries, searching for missing presidential family members, and in one memorably stupid case, learning that the city was going to descend into zombie hell but patiently waiting until that happened before making an escape.

Anderson smartly left most of that crap out of the Resident Evil movies and this ties back in to my first point: The essential conflict of the movies is simple and amounts to: sexy badass Milla Jovovich shoots monsters, which takes the occasionally stupid complexity of the video games and refines it into a concept that is almost as beautiful as the theory of relativity

Dressed for a night of clubbing.

When the basic gameplay and the basic conflict doesn't change, you contrive reasons to keep doing the same things over and over.

The first Resident Evil game was a mansion full of hallways and a lab;  the second, a city with suspiciously narrow hallway-like streets and a lab;  a later sequel featured another mansion full of hallways and a lab in Antarctica — which also contained the first mansion! (I am not making that up). One more thing: every lab consists largely of hallways.

Another effect is the pointless multiplication of viruses and corporations. At last count, there were nine different viruses and parasites creating the monsters, and since the first t-virus could clearly do anything it wanted in the first game, all this did was give the fan-wiki editors more to edit .

Likewise, the Umbrella Corporation has been replaced by WilPharma and then Tricell, which did nothing but allow a graphic designer to bill additional hours by slapping the logos of these new nefarious companies on the exact same Generic Monster Laboratory equipment that Umbrella was using. If you saw a movie sequel in which the names were changed but the plot was identical, well, that would describe just about any horror franchise out there. I’m glad Anderson & Co. didn't do that.

3. Escalate: The Resident Evil movies went the action movie route, which meant that the stakes had to be escalated with each subsequent sequel. Ditching the game plot allowed for this genuine progression. The first movie was about a secret lab infected with a virus. In the second, it was an entire city. In the the third, the plague had spread around the world.  The ante was upped in each case, which was far better than the game's plot of,  “Where’s Wally’s next secret viral base which will blow up at the end of the game?”

Behold the exotic hallways of Antarctica

The movies' disconnection from the source material is justified. Players have already seen the game plot, and non-players couldn’t care less about it. If the movies slavishly copied the games, they would amount to glorified extended cut scenes — and many gamers skip those when they’re playing.

Complaining that Resident Evil movies don’t follow the original story is like saying Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes movies don’t follow their source material. Translating Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 19th-Century fiction into movies that won't bore the hell out of ADD-suffering 21st-Century audiences makes a note-for-note translation impossible.  Ritchie recognized this and  the results were fun.

If the master works of Conan Doyle can be interpreted in this fashion, then it certainly shouldn't be a problem when you're dealing with mowing down and blowing up loads of zombies. Keep up the good work, Mr. Anderson.

Luke McKinney loves the real world, but only because it has movies and video games in it. He responds to every tweet.

Follow Luke McKinney on Twitter.

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Comments

  • Angel says:

    Finally a well thought out argument that approves of the way the film series has turned out. Thank you so much for this Luke. I appreciate this very much. I love the games series and the film series plus I love Milla Jovovich, without her the movies would'nt be anything. Can't wait to see Retribution.

  • Shawn Gordon says:

    And here I thought I was the only writer with love for these movies.

  • CocaineHeart says:

    good points, but I'm sorry these movies are BAD. Like, ridicously so terribly bad. I've watched people play the RE games and just watching them shoot zombies in a really weird camera angle and their cut scenes are a billion times better than those movies. I keep hoping Anderson will please let these movies go in pursue another franchise to destroy. All of those Twilight movies are COOLER and better written than the RE films, yeah I said it, that's how bad and blasphemous those movies are, yikes! Please don't give these movies any credence and let them die to be reborn.

  • Hope this isn't Chris's blood says:

    Yeah! Every other critic in the country is apparently an idiot, and they just don't get the RE movies like you do! Can honestly say I've never seen such a spirited defense of Paul W.S. Anderson of all people, so kudos for the guts to voice an unpopular opinion, I guess? But the article really should've been "The Resident Evil movies make buttloads of money. End of story." Trying to justify them as quality films in any respect is just embarrassing. All the RE franchise is now is Anderson throwing a lot of characters from the games in there for name recognition, who all stand around while his wife saves the day. Brilliant. No, of course it doesn't have to follow the games' plots exactly, but it could at least be ABOUT the characters from the games. God forbid someone from the game was the main character, because that would just be too crazy... Instead, we get Anderson's wife playing a made-up character who turns into a psychic ninja and destroys everything in her path with relative ease, completely in super slo-mo, while Chris holds her purse and Claire asks if anybody wants coffee. Every scene follows the mold of 1) drop in a familiar character, 2) let them try to fight their way out of trouble, and fail, 3) Alice shows up to save their asses. "Hey, there's Barry Burton! Watch Alice spin 10 times in the air and kick 15 zombies in the face! Look, there's Chris! Remember him? Now watch Alice do 27 backflips and gun down every enemy in the room!" At this point, it could be any zombie movie; that's how little it has to do with the video game.

    • You win the award for favorite comment. Love your perspective.

    • shittits says:

      So much win right here, couldn't agree more. I am so so so sooooo against these movies. Fuck Alice. I vehemently despise these "films". I wouldnt even accept a free burned copy of any of them. Id piss on it, then in Millas coffee. Then again she is a psychic ninja, she probably doesnt need it. Only got the part because your horrible director husband told you you could! WAY TO GO HO
      And seriously, I dont want to see her terrible tits again.

  • Dylan says:

    The new movie has the line "Good luck. You'll need it." And the trailer is an atrocious ripoff of Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, complete with the "pan around to see all the destruction" shot.

    Sorry, but that's lazy filmmaking and all it proves is that these movies pander to the lowest common denominator.

  • Inconvenient Truth says:

    Lol, this guy wrote a horrible article about a highly contested topic (good taste vs. consistent Paul W.S. Anderson drivel) just to generate page views - and here I am, aiding in his goal.

    Video games are still a limited medium, even moreso with the old RE games which were programmed with late 90s technology. Anderson is using (and failing with) film to craft a worthy narrative...instead just shoehorning his wife into the story arc as a Mary Sue.

    The fact that these films make money is nothing more than a testament to people worldwide (most of the ticket sales come from overseas markets) having bad taste. Of course, this is nothing new as the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo Child feed off the same penchant for rubbish.

  • I'm now going to watch this movie in GSC, lol~~~

  • shittits says:

    These are the highest insult to a beloved video game franchise that I have ever seen. Mikami is probably shaking with anger, of course thats cooled down by the royalty checks. Alice was a madeup character for the movies, shes a terrible actress who hogs the movie screen, and I didnt want to see her terrible tits in the first movie. The only reason why she has a career now is because of these movies. After they are done, she will be too. In other news, the only reason why I would be pumped for the next installment in this garbage-fest that is Resident Evil movies is because of Chris and Jill. (Changed the actress and her whole getup to match RE5, also because they fucked her over in the 3rd movie, once again because of RRS screen hogging) Fuck that movie franchise, hope its done after this one.

  • Adamjessiel says:

    I was reading some of the comments here and that's not criticism that's being haters" you all wish you were Milla looking hot kicking zombies ass" now it's obvious you people are bitter and jaded" if this kind of movies don't do anything for you guys than I hate to say it but all you are DEATH INSIDE" who really knows what happen in your lives to have die inside but showing hate like this no one is going to care" it's true the movies are not breath taking but they are good in all their elements getting better and better" this last movie is very good so full of action that the movie seems to last for like 25 minutes leaving you wanting more" I will watch this movie this weekend for the second time as it was inteded for people like me" and all of you haters that don't like these movies or Milla" well go and ride a bike without a sit and stop putting your worthless negative stuff in here and go do something productive with yourselfs" resident evil rocks and Milla is fucking amazing...

  • Kiyo_88 says:

    The only reason why RE looks so bad is because CAPCOM didn't allow Paul to use the original storyline/plot from the game...this is a clever way to get profits from the films without screwing the original storyline that is not finished yet....those haters, plez wait another 10 years for the reboots...

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