a.k.a. Resident Evil: Damnation
(Japan, 101 min)
The theme has been chasing me and I do think that, maybe, this is a sign of sorts. It is the third time this year that I’ve been in the position of writing this column and talking about a film that is a videogame adaptation, and this is the second animation and, may I link the original piece here, where I talk about the definitions and divisions inside the sub-genre, and I shall link to a recent installment in my usual wednesday pieces (even if Bob Clark graciously ceded his spot this week for my piece on an anime film once again, as he has kindly done a large number of times and I can’t be thankful enough) where I talk about the issues of videogames in general as narrative experiences when talking about a too faithful film based on a succesful japanese series, here. Now, let’s keep talking about videogame movies, just a tiny bit, so that there’s not much else to say and if I ever encounter another videogame adaptation that I have to cover for this series of essays/reviews I’ve been doing, I can just jump straight ahead to the jist of the thing itself, instead of meandering around doing technical and thematical discussion that maybe no one is actually interested about. So, as I said in previous essays, there are a singular kind of films that bear the label ‘based on videogames’ where the only thing that they do is continue the story and the canon of the original games, a product usually done for and with the fans in mind, as it thrives on the reference to events and characters of the videogame franchise but not in the way that a live-action film would, but as in what continuity would think about regarding the destiny of the main characters and how it all pieces together the plot threads of the previous, and most important, the following games (as the movie is usually one of the vehicles of promotion for the forthcoming game in the series). For example, there’s the classic and much maligned ‘Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children’, that has some neat CG animation from Japan and manages to tell its own story, continuing and featuring new characters, and even I, not a particular fan of the original PlayStation game, I like the movie for what it is and because of the spectacle that brings in the final act, as well, of course, thanks to the references done to the game to make it appealing to the fans. So here comes along another CG animated film that follows characters and situations from the ‘Resident Evil’ game series, that manages to put its own story forward and at the same time pleasing the fans, how perfect is it? Well, let’s just see…
The film starts with a recount of recent events in the history of a newborn country that recently got its independence from Mother Russia (just like Georgia, suspicious stuff) and it’s in the midst of a civil war between the new government and the rebel terrorists… now, what they are fighting about, I’m thinking it’s due to the choosing of a female president that may not think the same as this para-militar group (or maybe it is the military group that wants to go back to Russia, but that politics is maybe the least interesting and most unclear part of the whole film, even if it becomes important towards the end). The thing is that our hero and american protagonist, Leon S. Kennedy, is on that country on behalf of an international overseeing organization that tries to infiltrate and then inform people on the issues regarding biological war, specially the use of B.O.W. (Biological Organic Weapon, that means a biological harmful mass weapon that is actually alive a.k.a. zombie related creatures in general). The thing is that once the film starts, he is being called back by the agency along with any american that is in the country, the reasons are not disclosed, so our heroe just shuts it off and tries to investigate on his own, solo. It is of no surprise to anyone that it’s not a long time until he finds the first zombies and then horrifying creatures (like the lickers, monsters with huge tongues and exposed brains) and finds that there is a development going on regarding the behaviour of the monsters he knows and hates, they seem to have some kind of… controlled behaviour, and due to the exposition done by Ada Wong in disguise (one of the favorite characters of the videogame series and that has found her way to be in this film and its american counterpart this year alone), where she explains the existence of a parasite that would allow you to mentally communicate with the monsters and order them to do what you want. Cool shit right there, who wouldn’t want to control a mindless horde of zombies that eat up brains and infect everyone in sight?
So, the special thing about this film that I haven’t talked about, besides it being a film that follows the characters and situations presented in the games, it also follows the events of its precedent film, because, yes, this is a sequel to another animated film from the same team and director 4 years ago called ‘Resident Evil: Degeneration’, that followed the antics of our same agent Leon S. Kennedy and the youngest girl of the S.T.A.R.S. team (a police division with huge firepower and tactical experience) Rebecca Chamdlers, that unfortunately didn’t make it to this sequel. Anyway, the film moves along with a political angle of hidden events and weapons, being the use of B.O.W.s illegal, it is clear that one or both of the sides in question is making use of the monsters created by the Umbrella corporation. Of course, the whole thing is rather foolish when you start thinking about it just a tiny bit, when you have your precedents where the infection may spread way beyond the believable, the fact that using a weapon of this kind in a war that would infect all Russia and Europe in no time, you can pretty much guess that the final solution is simple: nuke the fuck out of the country. Whenever the politics appear and try to steal the attention from the issues of conspiracy and viral terrorism, the movie itself looses a lot of points from me, because they are muddled to say the least (specially when it comes down to the final solution at the end of the film) and the other reason being that most of the time they don’t make sense at all, the struggle is never clear and sometimes we just don’t care. The film itself is action filled with lots of monster-vs-gun action that escalates to a great climax outside in the bright light of day against the biggest B.O.W.s you could imagine.
The animation is great and the voice acting is something that sometimes is melodramatic, but seems to work fine most of the time, specially regarding the female characters and the soldiers overall. One of the best achievements is to find its way to make us interested in what is going to happen in the future of these personas and we find ourselves invested through the horror antics and the digital bloodshed presented on our TV screens. If you are a fan of the series, you maybe already watched it, for the rest, I’d say watch it if you find yourself wanting to see some animated violence against zombies and monsters. The over-serious critics can skip this one fo sho.