On the surface, the Resident Evil movie franchise might seem like just another tired, old zombie flick with the customary dose of blood and gore, questionable scientific premise, and all the usual zombie tropes. However, look deeper and you would find not just one of the more popular and successful franchises of the genre, but also one with interesting quirks and a spark you cannot quite put a finger on.
Originally adapted from a video game, Resident Evil takes the tried-and-tested zombie apocalypse formula and turns it on its head, with enough pomp, show, and violence to satisfy even Takeshi Miike aficionados. It’s not as deep or substantial as The Walking Dead but it’s not supposed to be.
Let us look at how the Resident Evil movie franchise sets itself apart from the regular zombie flick.
The Premise of The Resident Evil Movie Franchise
The premise of the movies that happen to be the most profitable zombie franchise ever follows an established pattern – a virus escapes a lab and infects a few people, they turn into zombies and infect thousands more, and soon the whole world is infested with billions of zombies and one or more survivors trying to flee and survive. However, the Resident Evil series treats this a little differently as the super-large and powerful Umbrella Corporation and its resident housekeeper, a computer known as the Red Queen, come into the mix to complicate things. Throughout the first movie of the series, viewers get answers that make the situation clear.
However, the ragtag band of survivors and the protagonist (we will come to her later) have their work cut out as each successive wave of zombies turn out to be more powerful than the last and there are also gigantic mutated creatures and grossly overpowered supervillains to contend with. The almost cartoonish, caricatured nature of these antagonists, instead of lending a cheap and tacky feel to the movie, actually manages to up the stakes and help viewers invest in the story.
One of the most important reasons behind the success of the Resident Evil movie franchise and why fans fondly invest in it is the protagonist, Alice. Played with sheer pluck and complete immersion by the highly attractive Milla Jovovich, Alice has a complex backstory that comes back to her in bits and pieces after she loses her memory.
Over time, she emerges as a strong, skilled, and resourceful survivor with exceptional combat skills, often brandishing an assortment of weapons.
Moreover, Alice has her abilities heightened when injected with the same virus that causes the apocalypse and develops certain mental powers. She also gets cloned later in the franchise by her enemies, gains control of the clones and ends up with her very own clone army.
Alice, apart from being a feminist icon, is a protagonist with an exceptional balance between the zombie-killing badass and the emotional, vulnerable survivor trying to come to terms with a radically changed world. Jovovich’s portrayal is very real and endearing, and her sheer presence in the combat scenes and the skills with which she executes them is stunning, to say the least.
If you love thousands upon thousands of zombies being slaughtered by an unlikely hero, this series is for you. However, of special note is the expertly choreographed and high-stakes action sequences, filmed in the traditional, chaotic style of director Paul W.S. Anderson.
The overpowered zombies make it easy to believe that the stakes are real and throws the combat proficiency of Alice into sharp focus. Iconic images, such as Alice decimating a large group of zombies in a series of perfectly choreographed moves or using her newfound skills to bring down a group of zombie dogs, will forever be etched in the memories of fans.
While the Resident Evil series does have continuity elements and is best watched in sequence, each movie brings something different to the table. From the slow-burn tension and twists and turns in the first movie to the out-and-out carnage in the third, the entire series keeps busy with interesting plot points and changes of scenery. Add all the cloning to the equation and you have quite a handful to take in once you sit down to watch this series.
Alice’s character, as well as those of some of the mainstays of the franchise, develop over time through small nuances and story elements and keep the audience engaged. The visuals are stunning from start to finish, but also display progression with more finish and polish coming to the later movies, along with 3D treatment, which is a treat for the eyes.
The Bottom Line
You might sit down to start watching the Resident Evil movie franchise thinking you would get “more of the same”. However, you would be in for a wild ride into a dystopian future where aggressive, monopolistic capitalism, and a zombie apocalypse collide, only to be met with one of the most iconic female protagonists of our time.
You might not have the stomach for all the parts of the whole, but the series is definitely a must watch for horror action enthusiasts who love a good zombie flick but want more – in many ways more than what Zombieland brings to the table.
Last Updated on October 22, 2021.