Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Frank Review of "Resident Evil: Degeneration" (2008)

The Short Version? CGI animated zombie video game movie.
What Is It? Survival Horror.
Who Is In It? Jubilee.
Should I See It? Probably not.

Being a zombie fan, and at one time a video gamer, it was only natural I'd gravitate toward the Resident Evil series. My introduction and favorite edition was Resident Evil 2, an innovative two-disc game where you would choose to play once as one character, then as another, and your actions in the first would effect change in the second. Leon S. Kennedy starred on one disc, a rookie cop on his way to join the Raccoon City Police Department, who ran smack dab into a citywide viral outbreak that reanimated the dead as flesh eating ghouls. Claire Redfield was your avatar on the other disc, the younger sister of Chris Redfield, the missing star of the previous game whose disappearance Claire was investigating. Leon and Claire worked their way through a variety of monsters and evil corporate machinations to escape Raccoon City before its destruction.

Claire Redfield was reunited with her brother in a later game, subtitled Code: Veronica, and appeared in a reworking of both games called The Darkside Chronicles. A character by the same name appears in the live action movie series, but those films have so little in common with the games' lore, they're essentially separate entities. Leon S. Kennedy turned up in a slew of cameos amongst the many Resident Evil game sequels, and starred in the very popular Resident Evil 4. I myself stuck with the series until Code: Veronica around 2001, but I had lost interest in gaming in general by that point, and never finished it. I tried a few of the later installments, but they had shifted toward first person action/shooting, where I preferred the cold, creepy, awkward cinematic tension of the early games (not to mention their emphasis on strategy over reflexes.)

You may wonder why I'm droning on about video games during what should be a movie review. Well, this computer animated feature, released theatrically in Japan and direct-to-DVD stateside, is the first repairing of Leon and Claire since in 1998. If you're not already a fan of the games, there is absolutely no good reason to watch the film. This is a ninety-six minute cut scene, filled with endless exposition, the most basic characterization, bad voice acting, terrible lip-synching, shots swiped directly from actual movies, stiff character movements, thin plotting, average music and of overall low quality. I watched it with one of the friends I worked through Resident Evil 2, and we spent the whole time pointing out flaws and shouting nostalgic references to the games at the screen. There was a comforting predictability to it all, and it even had Alyson Court reprise her voice work for Claire once again eleven years down the line.

The story tries to go to new places for a zombie movie, including allowing for a non-apocalyptic aftermath, liberal protesters against the Umbrella Corporation's successors, and an outbreak at an airport. These novelties are burned through in the opening minutes, before reverting to a tired Romero-meets-Matrix retread. The characters are so plastic and lifeless, both in animation and voice acting, it's tough to tell the mannequins-as-protagonists from the living dead. The lead characters are reunited after seven years apart, and there's no actual reaction on either's part. "Oh, it's you. Hi. Time to kill zombies again, huh?" An overwrought love interest for Leon is introduced, but beyond their complete lack of chemistry, she overcompensates for her vague masculinity through comically enormous breasts. The story is a hash, and the whole affair reeks of imitation without comprehension. People say and do things because they're based on other film's characters who said and did similar things, but usually within a context with greater depth than a thimble.

Honestly, the video games were better thought out and more involving than this, but if you're already a fan, it isn't completely inept as a diversion. I reckon this was done on the cheap, but all these years after Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, realistic CGI animation continues to make the same mistakes with less attention to detail. It's positively regressive.


  • The Generation of Degeneration Welcome to the incredible world of motion capture! Wait-- you've sat through a great many tedious effects/behind-the-scenes documentaries already? Now, do it with subtitles! See: "Creators" draft plots by committee in board rooms! See: An SFX man turned director, and how enthusiastically he's received by nobody mo-cap actors who speak another language! See: How clueless they are about the near absolute absence of storytelling whilst slavishly hewing to a decades old formula! See: Or better yet, don/t!
  • Character Profiles A headshot for each major player with text biographical information. Optional action montages for the leads, and photo gallery for the rest.
  • Voice Bloopers Awful vocal gags grafted onto scenes from the movie.
  • Faux Leon Interview A grating waste of everyone's time, as a mo-cap actor plays make believe without the benefit of CGI, or even a reasonable camera angle.
  • Resident Evil: Degeneration Trailers
  • Resident Evil 5 Special Footage Cut scenes edited into trailers for a game that looks a lot more involving than this movie.
  • Previews There are thirteen trailers and a Blu-Ray ad that collectively are almost as long as the damned movie. The best was for a Sean William Scott/Randy Quaid vehicle called "Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach." Not as terrible as it sounds, but you really should be doing something better with your time.


wiec? said...

nice review for a movie i slight if no intention of watching. the best was your reviews of the extras though. hilarious.

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah, watching this movie is a definite "don't" for the vast majority of the human population.


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