Wednesday, February 08, 2017

'Resident Evil' Movie Formula Still Works

To continue with the Resident Evil talk, the "last movie" in the series was released on January 27th just in time for RE7 to hit store shelves. 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter' is pretty much everything that you would expect from the series at this point, when it comes to the movie version. Action. Adventure. Lots of shooting of zombies. And so many plot holes with 0 relationship to the video games. Audiences like it. Critics don't. Like any "last movie" there's an ambiguous ending that makes you wonder "is this really over?" Because surely if this movie makes enough money (so far earning over $100 million on a $40 million budget) they will shoe-horn in another.

The state of the 'Resident Evil' movies is a curious one. To date it is the most well known and successful of the video game genre. They have made the name last for 15 years and maintain a connection to the audiences to keep them interested for that long. Most movie franchises can't and don't do this. Unless you're 'Star Wars' or 'Lord of the Rings.' But if you look at movies that try to make sequels 20 years later like 'Independence Day' it doesn't work. We saw how fast that movie fell out of the public consciousness and people weren't lining up for it. It may have made a profit, but that doesn't make it a good movie.

What makes the 'Resident Evil' movie series work is that they don't play out like the video games. Unlike 'Doom' which tried to capture more of the gaming essence, even using camera shots that were in first person, it didn't make the film experience enjoyable.

What makes the 'Resident Evil' movies so annoying to watch is that they have little in common with the original source material. Names about the only thing you'll find as the connecting thread. There's Alice, Claire and beefy big brother Chris, Albert Wesker, and....yep. Names! The movie version of the characters don't act like their game counterparts at all. Alice is too much of a Mary Sue in the movies. Wesker's fall from grace isn't showcased - he's a bad guy because the movie says he's bad and he wears black. The writer/director/producer, Paul W. S. Anderson, is a self-professed RE game fan. Made all the more amusing that the movies do not replicate the games at all. They work independently of each other. And maybe it's better this way?

I'm still of the mindset that the movie-going audience is being cheated out of the creative, and dastardly story-line of the games. I fully understand that a shot by shot remake of a game is not going to happen with a movie. Some sub-plots and characters have to be removed to fit that two hour time-slot. I get it. But those limitations shouldn't give writers the license to write whatever they want. The content needs to connect to the games with more then the names of the characters. What's the point of having source material if you're not going to use it? The 'Tomb Raider' movie did a nice job of blending the original content with a new story. The movie felt like it belonged in the Tomb Raider legacy, as if it were an extension of the games. The 'Mortal Kombat' movies and even 'Street Fighter' psuedo-worked in this manner too. While they were a bit more off the wall in the settings, the characters, the actions, and the stories flowed well together that they could be seen as byproducts of the games. (By the way, Mr. Anderson directed 'Mortal Kombat.')

So now we're in this odd time of trying to figure out what to do with video game based movies. According to ticket sales, 'Resident Evil' is doing something right. And the movies are highly revered among audiences then 'Warcraft' or 'Assassin's Creed.' The later films stayed more true to source with some changes to the content to fit modern audiences, and did make a profit. However they too suffered from the bad reviews phase and the US crowd did not respond favorably. If you were to look at all video game movies that have been produced up to this point, you'd go after the 'Resident Evil' model to make your own. It works. It sells. Audiences seem to enjoy them.

'Resident Evil' has set an example for what future video game movies should look like.

I want to believe that gaming movies will get better. It took a while for comic books to hit their stride. They have found their niche and pulling in bigger box office numbers and higher ratings by critics. Much of this could be attributed to finding a balance between the comic book fans and the general audience both finding enjoyment in the content. Movies like 'The Avengers' have a strong focus on the source material without cluttering up the screen with decades-worth of content. Sure they do things differently and spin the story to fit the current audience interests, but they also don't shy away from making Captain America, Captain America. He's not a gritty, beat-up, down on his luck version of the hero. He's the stand up guy we have always known him for in the comics. That resonates with audiences. There's a reason why we enjoy the 1980's Superman movies more then today's version (Zack Snyder needs to stop making everything "edgy" and bring back the Superman we love). When you are using a story and characters from a preexisting property, you have to make those personalities pop on the big screen the same way that they do in the video game. You can't change who they are. Fans will know.

My two cents. I know not everyone will agree with this opinion since clearly 'Resident Evil' did something right to keep making money. I just wish the movies were more 'Resident Evil' and less 'we used some character names so we can call it Resident Evil.' Maybe next time...

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