Resident Evil (2002)—Video Game Adaptation Gone Wrong
Updated: Aug 19, 2022
In honor of the new Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021) trailer release, let’s take a look back at the classic 2000’s Resident Evil movies. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, famous for his crowning achievement on 1995’s Mortal Kombat, let’s see what 2000’s Resident Evil get right—and mostly wrong.
The film opens up with an amnesiac woman named Alice (played by Milla Jovovich) waking up in a mansion in Raccoon City. She briefly explores the mansion, with no memory of what happened. Suddenly, a group of commandos breaks through the windows and woodwork and they apprehend her. The commandos bring her down to the basement of the mansion, where it’s revealed that the mansion is right on top of The Hive, an Umbrella Corporation lab. A few days ago, a man released the T-Virus, a dangerous contagion that turns people into zombies, into The Hive and public. The Hive’s defense mechanism, the Red Queen, places The Hive under lockdown. The commandos explore the underground lab, trying to find out who could’ve caused the outbreak while facing hordes of zombies. After several deaths, the group is down to only Alice, Commando Rain Ocampo (played by Michelle Rodriguez), Matt Addison (played by Eric Mabius), a transferred cop to Raccoon City, and Spence (played by James Purefoy), an amnesiac who reveals that he was the one who released the T-Virus.
Despite the movie not resembling the first game at all and disappointing fans, it made a good amount of money at the box office, prompting several sequels. In the sequels, characters from the games do appear, but they’re completely different people compared to the source material. They simply faintly resemble the characters while being nothing like them. All the characters that do appear from the games, such as Leon Kennedy, Chris and Claire Redfield, and Jill Valentine are all outshined by Alice, a completely original character to the movies.
Speaking of Alice, I cannot name a more boring and one-dimensional character than her; she is a complete Mary-Sue type of character. In the first movie, she has no idea what’s going on, which works since she has amnesia. However, in the sequels, she just ends up becoming a super hero of sorts. Hell, she was even the one who finished Albert Wesker, not Chris! Because why bring to life one of the main characters of the original games and follow that storyline when you can just make up anything you want?!
I understand when it comes to adapting video games into movies, the most difficult part is creating a linear and cohesive story, since the primary purpose of video games is to explore new worlds around you. However, Resident Evil is one of the few games that has a relatively straight-forward story: you’re simply investigating a zombie outbreak caused by a lab-created virus. Not having played the games growing up, I didn’t really know what to expect out of the film. However, after seeing the movie, I hoped to God the Resident Evil games were not this boring! This led me to find play-throughs of the games and discover that they are actually very interesting and fun games. It’s such a shame that the movies couldn’t capture the games’ essence.
The film itself doesn’t have much to talk about. The characters aside from the lead really don’t stand out. The writing is unimpressive, and unmemorable, which should be a crime considering how memorable the games are in its hokey dialogue. The effects are fine, but the film lacks any real horror elements. It feels like an action film pretending to be a horror film.
The only saving grace of this film was the music. I loved the main theme, and it still plays in my head when I think of Resident Evil. It has this eerie feel to it that gives you feelings of growing dread. Marilyn Manson’s score for the scene when the commandos break in to the mansion is still epic and gets your blood pumping. It’s a shame that Manson wasn’t brought back to work on the score for the sequels, as I think he brought a unique sound to the movie.
Overall, what I and many fans of the Resident Evil games wished was that the movies followed the games more closely. Why create a movie-only character when you could bring in any of the characters from the games? Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson were apparently dating at the time, which could have influenced Paul’s decision in creating the character. However, why not just cast Milla as Jill or Claire and have the movies centered on them? It doesn’t make sense just to create an entirely new character and have them be the main character. However, with the release of 2021’s Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City trailer, it looks like they are going in a better direction with the story, despite some questionable casting decisions and the cheesy tone. Baby steps, guys, baby steps.