Thursday, 3 April 2014

Resident Evil: Degeneration - review

2008 (Japan)

Contains mild spoilers.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with Sony's CG animation departure from the increasingly over the top on screen antics brought to the big screen by Paul W.S. Anderson. If anything being a return to the franchise's video game roots Sony should be applauded. It's no longer the Milla Jovovich show instead going back to a time of feisty and moody young heroes battling geopolitical greed and corruption and trying to protect a world from big baddies with some really nasty biochemical goodies. I've read the film is ultimately fan service, written for those invested in the deep convoluted story arcs and quiet suppressed sexual tensions; Resident Evil 4.5 without the game-play. Now I've played through RE4, 5 and 6 and respect the film for playing out as an elongated cut scene, but this is ultimately the heart of the film's problems too.

The thing about video game cut scenes is they're intrinsically, and I may be opening myself up for some heat here, boring. Good cut scene design is to keep it brief and to use them as extremely satisfying rewards and momentary respite for completing a particular intense sequence of game play. You make it through the airport finally scurrying outside to be rescued just before the zombies catch up; cut scene of shooting guns, the survivors hugging one another, a bit of exposition to set up the next chapter, then back to shooting zombies in the head. The problem here is the interspersed interactive game play between each cut scene is more cut scene. There's still the 'BIG' dramatic cut scenes but the action in between that you feel you should be playing is played out for you. It's not you running to the doors, it's you watching someone else running towards the doors. And there's a problem with this.

I wanted to like Resident Evil: Degeneration, it played with some nice ideas, the action scenes were entertaining, the dialogue pretty crisp and coherent, the voice acting good and the animation competent; it's just whatever I tried, namely coffee, opening all the curtains, opening a second screen on my lap with saucy pictures of Milla on, I just couldn't keep my eyes open. I'll freely admit that it probably didn't help that I'm not au fait with the full RE mythology, having not played 1-3 and if I'm honest I didn't pay too much attention to the cut scenes and story of 4,5 and 6, and as such maybe the film just isn't for me. 

Putting aside the question as to whether Resident Evil: Degeneration is deserving of automatic praise because it stays true to its origins against Anderson's bastardisation, my main problem with it is that the story is incredibly bland and tiresome. Derivative narratives can work to a certain extent in video games because they're not the main focus. For most action titles the story is there to enable some amazing fire fights and set pieces; take it out and critique it in any serious way and most likely it'll all fall apart. With some pretty uninspiring whingey characters, cookie-cutter villains and weary locations there's never any moments to really get excited about and even the final boss fight, which lasts a good half of the film never gets the heart racing, which is a shame as there's not an awful lot wrong with the presentation.

After the constant drive from Anderson to move away from telling anything resembling a good old zombie survival story there's a lot commend in director Makoto Kamiya's decision to focus on a small group of survivors versus a plane load of t-virus traditional zombies, at least for the first half of the film anyway. The action also comes thick and fast as snarling, blood thirsty, ambling undead ankle biters demonstrate how easily they can replicate given a good food source. There's a bit too much deliberate and obvious visual exposition to teach us how zombies work (head shots, biting, they're not human, alive or nice); I mean c'mon it's 2008, but at least they do stick to the rules. As said with the second half and the introduction of the g-virus RE does what RE does and goes a bit manga and implausibly excessive. It's just even with buildings exploding, rockets being fired and people being batted about like paper balls it was just hard to get too excited about the whole thing, though I think I know why.

Watching someone else play a video game is generally quite a dull experience, especially when the danger that they might actually do something wrong or die has also been removed. Add to this a story that's safe, derivative and really feels like it's dragging the whole thing out to come in longer, and you end up with a film that's wholly flat; competent yes, but incredibly dull. As said, and reading the many positive reviews this has got, I can see an appeal, to some, of a fairly safe resident evil fan film that doesn't deviate too far from what is required; yet to the rest of us and as a film in its own right, zzzzzzzzz, 4/10.



  1. I LOVE this review. This movie TOTALLY feels like watching someone else play a video game. Both of the RE CGI films left me pretty much ASLEEP.

    The sad thing is, there was probably SO MUCH work that went into these.

    1. Cheers, honestly this was may be the hardest film I've watched. I struggled so much keeping my eyes opened and like you said you can tell a lot of effort and money went into making it.

      I might save the second for when I have insomnia.