I hated the Resident Evil movies. I hated the first one, I hated Apocalypse, and I hated Extinction. I know a lot of you did as well. In terms of art, they were hackneyed garbage, a hamfisted fast food meal spit in by Beelzebub himself. I despised the actors, the dialogue, and the inconsistency of the plot itself. In terms of zombie films, there was little that had not been addressed in earlier movies. (How many times do we need to see the I'm-infected-but-I'm-okay-oops-I'm-a-zombie-now subplot?) The few new ideas it brought to the genre (psychic zombie!) were imbecilic. In terms of adapting the video game, they failed miserably. Though Apocalypse did feel more like Resident Evil 2 and 3, the first film only took the "zombies made by experiments gone wrong" premise and nothing else, while Extinction almost completely abandoned the franchise's roots. The movies failed in all three areas in which I would go see a Resident Evil film.
But I want you to do something for me. Let's pretend that we could fix the Resident Evil series. Let's pretend that, instead of trying to churn out sequels like they were Capcom, the studio decided to just make one film. Let's pretend that Paul W.S. Anderson ended up a garbage man instead of a filmmaker and someone decent produced the films. Let's pretend that the script was not cobbled together by retarded one-eyed pedophiles with sausages for fingers. Let's pretend... let's pretend that it was true to the first game.
Would it be good?
Don't take that the wrong way. I love the Resident Evil series and am really looking forward to where the plot goes in Resident Evil 5: Shoot the Darkies Edition. However, I don't feel that this video game is really worthy of a film adaptation. It just works much better as a game.
First, I'd like to examine the influences of Resident Evil. The game is one big tribute to classic zombie films, especially George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. The concepts of running away from zombies, conserving ammo, and generally avoiding conflict where possible all originated from that important film; what mattered to the characters was not winning, but survival. The film established zombie mechanics like their slow movement and weakness to headshots that Resident Evil became famous for. There is even a homage to Night of the Living Dead in a room in RE1 with animal heads mounted on the wall. It's clear that the development team took great care in reproducing the zombie menace while mixing in their own spin on biological horrors.
But while Night of the Living Dead succeeded, a true Resident Evil film would fall short for multiple reasons. The chief difference to me would be a lack of meaning. I love zombie films, but most of them are simply B-movie fare, which is okay at times. The reason why Night of the Living Dead and its sequels were such great films is because of Romero's keen social commentary and insight to the social culture of the decade of each respective film. Resident Evil has never been about social commentary or making a point, just a vacation into the realm of bio-horror. (Capcom, feel free to prove me wrong with RE5.) So in what will come as a great shock to you all, we have to eliminate the possibility of Resident Evil being considered art.
And that's fine with me. While I prefer Romero's films, I see nothing wrong with watching zombie movies just for the sake of seeing people get munched on. (It was certainly the only thing that got me through the real Resident Evil films.) And it has been proven that it's possible to do a great zombie film that's not a shining example of the power of film. Just this year, Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror established that there is still a place in cinema for good B-movies. Some of you may argue that its tongue-in-check presentation makes it art, and to that, I say put down your Starbucks cup and stop being so pretentious. It doesn't have to be art to be good.
So now that the film is free from trying to be meaningful, we can just worry about whether it will be a good film. And yet again, I would argue that it would fail. Let's reexamine the plot of Resident Evil. In the process of trying to create bioweapons, Umbrella accidentally releases the T-virus on its research lab. The police are sent into the scary mansion to investigate. They fight some zombies and solve some puzzles. They descend into the lab, realize Wesker works for Umbrella, and escape after they kill the Tyrant. Notice something about that? Other than the fact that it's more true to the game, it's still uncomfortably similar to the barebones plot in the real film. Now, if you want to give the screenwriter the freedom to embellish and rework the plot, you might be able to salvage the it, but it would not be Resident Evil. It would be something else, and that's not what we are trying to do here.
Furthermore, there are the characters. We know nothing about any of them, except for Wesker, who is really a villain, and Barry, who has a daughter. Whoop-de-doo. In a video game, this is not as much of an issue. Even in story and character-centric games, any emptiness in a character's development is made up for by the player subconsciously inserting their personality. But in a movie, the expectation is to have developed characters who might even experience internal growth by the end, and in this case, the simple game characters are not suited for the big screen. Even simple zombie films have some depth of character, but the Resident Evil characters are only differentiated by one having a flamethrower and the other one being the master of unlocking. (I know some of you were waiting for me to make that reference somewhere in this article, and I hope it was worth it for you.)
The movie could be cinematic, with really creative visual effects, and it could still be everything we expect from Resident Evil, but it would be an empty shell, all style and no substance. And in case you blocked the first film from your mind, we already had a Resident Evil film that was all style and no substance. I just don't see what could be done with the source material that would make it fit for the big screen yet still stay true to its roots. Besides, why would you want to adapt a series so well-known for its bad acting? That's asking for trouble.
So should there be a Resident Evil film at all? No. There are plenty of good zombie films already. There is no need for the barebones Resident Evil story to be taken to the big screen. Instead, Capcom should work on taking advantage of everything the video game medium has to offer them and continue expanding what can be done with zombie horror games. RE4 was a great game, but compared to the first Resident Evil, it was lacking in bone-chilling scares. I'd like to see RE5 learn from the shortcomings of RE4 and possibly incorporate some of the on-the-fly mayhem of Dead Rising to create a truly scary zombie game on-par with the horror of the original classic.