Resident Evil Film Series

Resident Evil Film Series

2002-2017 . Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, Alexander Witt, & Russell Mulcahy.

Initially based on the popular video game franchise, the Resident Evil films are equally maligned by critics and revered by loyal fans.  Rather than breaking down each individual film, this review will be about the work as a whole, focusing on the themes of the series.

Filled with endless Looking Glass allegories, on the surface, these stories are about the evolution of Alice, the series’ protagonist.  The manipulation of memory, dreamlike flashbacks, and a repetitive rhythm form the basis of Resident Evil’s mythology.   Alice begins the film as the mirror of a video game persona.  Confused and abandoned in a lush mansion that sits atop a nefarious laboratory, she descends into the madness below, embarking on an odyssey of bullets, blades, and the undead.  The thing is, none of it actually matters because the films purposefully abandon the plot of the game in favor of making a rather provocative statement.

Each entry has a theme.  The first film is focuses relationships and how the same event is remembered differently by the two participants. The second film is explores the military as a business, while the third is an apocalyptic story about the culture of government surveillance.  The fourth is a dissertation on cloning and multiple past lives.  The fifth brings these elements together by forcing the hero to work with the villain in order to save humanity.  The six and final entry is the capstone, a summation Anderson’s iconoclastic vision.

It doesn’t fully click until the fifth film, when the various clues hidden in each film start to come together: There’s a beautifully shot sequence by Glen Macpherson involving an endless procession of clones, all of them various characters from each of the films.   No matter the environment, the women are always scantily clad while the men appear as macho ideas rather than fleshed out characters.  Virtually every film is critically panned but yet manages to make a staggering amount of money.  Finally, there is the idea of the good guys being forced into bed with their corporate foils in order to succeed.

These films are a scathing indictment of Hollywood and a love song to creative freedom.  They’re remarkably presented and equally catty, all while espousing the idea that art, in its various forms is a part of the creator who gives it life.

Recycled characters and plot lines, hordes of zombie like fans, authoritative control on everything we experience down to our visual memories, and on and on and on.  The argument loses some water with reference to the first two films, but in the third, when the series finally finds its stride is where it begins to reveal its true intent.  The final three films, helmed by Anderson drive the point home.  They feature some legitimately beautiful cinematography by Macpherson, pure adrenaline laced fight choreography by Brett Chan, wicked costumes by Wendy Partridge, and a performance by Milla Jovovich that is both committed to the story and loyal to the rebellious underpinnings.

Available now for digital rental, the Resident Evil series of films may not be for everyone, but the sum of its parts is an important examination of the current box office obsession that is dividing fans and critics, crushing independent creativity, and burning virtual bridges across social media.  It took a fellow film lover to point my attention to the artistic level of these films and once I revisited them with this idea in mind, I’m unable to disregard them as D level horror entries.  These (particularly the last four) movies are renegade film making at its finest.  If you’re interested in seeing some outstanding action sequences, gorgeous visuals, and an unapologetic ode to personal creativity, these films will not disappoint.

Highly Recommend.

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