Throwback Thursday Resident Evil: Degeneration

Capcom, along with Sony Pictures’ Animation and Entertainment divisions, partnered up to bring fans the first full length CG animation film based upon the world of Resident Evil video games. The result, initially given a limited 3 week theatrical release and now available on home video, has made the project, Resident Evil: Degeneration, a worldwide financial hit.

It’s been seven years since the viral outbreak unleashed by the evil Umbrella Corporation in the video game timeline of Resident Evil. Raccoon City was wiped off the map and the outbreak was buried in corporate propaganda. Some survivors have managed to move forward, carving out a new path for their shaken lives, while other devastated victims have not been quite so fortunate.

Since the disaster, special agent Leon S. Kennedy has been assigned to a secret detail working directly for the President of the United States. His primary objective is to stop the spread of the damage that Umbrella has unleashed. Another Raccoon City survivor, Claire Redfield, has chosen a different path to battle evil. By working with a peace organization called TerraSave, she now helps the victims of chemical or biological attacks.

In these characters, the viewer is given two entirely different outlooks from which to confront the “undead situation” that lingers from the initial viral outbreak. Of course, there is only one desired result: eradicate them all to save the world. When a string of biological terrorist attacks orchestrated by a radical extremist unleashes a new wave of fresh zombies, Leon and Claire join forces and rush to stop it. Weaving through the political ambitions of an over-zealous Senator and a pharmaceutical company with questionable tactics, they must get to the bottom of the new string of outbreaks before it’s too late.

The movie likely was made specifically for fans of the Resident Evil video game series. In watching the film, it actually feels like you are waiting for your turn to play. A good amount of the back-story is revealed in Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4, and for viewers who haven’t played the games in a while (or at all), this information might be missed. Along the same lines, for people whose only exposure to Resident Evil is from watching the Paul W.S. Anderson films that showcase the character Alice, ‘Degeneration’ may be a rough introduction. In ‘Degeneration,’ there is very little in-movie back-story built, beyond the quick newscast at the beginning, to bring general fans of the series up to speed. Confusion on the part of both the game-players and the non-gamer groups may have been the reason that the film had so many mixed reviews by the public upon its DVD release.

It’s a CG film with zombies, so some things have to be considered with varying degrees of realism. For instance, it’s entirely realistic that a person’s tragic losses can drive them to dark extremes. That basic human trait is the most believable of all. I was disappointed in Claire’s reaction to the zombies. She acted just as bewildered as the bystanders, as if she’d never seen one before. Leon felt as cold as cardboard, delivering wooden lines without much emotion one way or the other. What the bad-guy terrorist became was very much video game styled and not based on reality, though there’s something to be said for him becoming the physical monster that he had already become on the inside.

The main conceit of the plot was a good one, but things often became a bit frenzied as other viewpoints and stories came into play. There were some unanswered questions and silly twists toward the end that maybe made sense on a biological level, but didn’t in terms of the overall storyline. Frankly, these twists were quite unexpected in an eyebrow-raising kind of way. Overall, for me, it really felt a little too “let’s throw the kitchen sink in for good measure.”

I was pleased to hear a very notable male voice actor, Steven Blum (‘Samurai Champloo,’ ‘Cowboy Bebop’), in the role of Greg Glenn. Blum has done a lot of anime voice acting over the years and I’m always happy to pick out his voice among ones I don’t know. The film took a lot of hard work to create and I can appreciate that, because it has a good general aesthetic look to it but I have to say that, overall, I was dissatisfied. It didn’t bring anything new to the table and the dialogue and lip-syncing were horrible. The gore was minimal, with no defining horrific or graphic moments being featured, the way one might see in a clip from a video game. It was just a bunch of zombies getting lucky…no real surprises. Save for the dramatic entrance of a truly neat airplane crash sequence at the beginning, I felt no emotion for the zombie scenes whatsoever. Given that the film was a film based on the game series, I expected more thrills, chills, and scary content than it actually produced.

I’m a fan of the Resident Evil franchise. While I have not played every game, I’ve sampled enough over the years to know I’ll throw my controller in the air at the scary parts (or run into a wall and get eaten when I don’t respond to a threat fast enough). I’ve read the novelizations of the games written by S.D. Perry and I’ve seen the live-action movies. I understand that this series may be more action-based than horror-based, but the video games are often the very definition of “zombie survival horror” at its finest. ‘Resident Evil: Degeneration’ had potential because it had a bigger stage to dazzle fans with, but overall, it fell flat for me.