The first Resident Evil film was something of a guilty pleasure for me. It’s filled with every sort of cliché and contrivance that you could declaim, but that also made it a grab-bag of fun things I liked. While the central design of the monsters was based around zombies, the structure of the film was really a deadly lock-box, similar to Aliens in most ways. Doom is a virtual re-make. Resident Evil: Extinction is the third film in the sequence, and I see a 6th is in production. I’m not generally in favour of sequels, but as long as there’s an audience, why not?
This film is set in Nevada, a grim burnt desert. Alice [Milla Jovovich] meets up with a small group of survivors, travelling somewhat aimlessly, just trying to stay one step ahead of the zombie horde. Once again, the film grabs a bunch of well-worn tropes to build a story. It’s great fun, and certainly hangs together well enough to entertain for the snappy running time of 94 minutes. There is an awful lot to like about this film. It is beautifully shot. The shots are well composed, the images crisp, the fight choreography kinetic. And since it’s not shot with shaky-cam, you can actually see all those virtues.
Probably what distinguishes it most from its competition is its gender politics. The main protagonist is female, and within a few minutes of the credits, it was apparent that a substantial portion of the supporting cast were too. It passed the Bechdel test within 5 minutes. Part of the reason is that, as a post-apocalyptic story, everyone has more immediate concerns than sex. Indeed, sex is almost completely absent from the story. Nobody falls in love, or even has a casual tumble. Of course, the women are still beautiful, so there is clearly a sexy aesthetic in play somewhere in the design of the film. The heroes and survivors of the film are predominantly women, while all of the antagonists are men. It has strong female characters without substantially exploiting them for sexual allure.
This all shows an admirable restraint of focus – it’s a film about surviving the zombie apocalypse and fighting evil corporations, so that’s all that happens in the film. It doesn’t allow itself to become distracted, hence the snappy running time. It also shows a confidence in both the characters and the material it represents, it doesn’t need to shoehorn in a love story or fetishize it’s beautiful women to get or hold its audience’s attention.
Obviously this is a movie for specialist tastes, but if you’re interested in some pseudo-zombie action fun, you could do an awful lot worse than embarking on the Resident Evil journey.