Reviving that which is Not Dead Yet

Reviving that which is Not Dead Yet
by R.C. Murphy

One does not simply march into Cannes four months after dropping what was billed as the final film in a franchise and announce a new six-film deal to revive it.

But that’s exactly what Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board for Constantin Film, did during the international film festival. With absolutely no plan under their belt, the production company, which already owns film rights to Resident Evil, announced hopes for a six-film arc in an upcoming reboot. Variety scooped the original interview, but couldn’t get any juicy details from the chairman during their chat. Probably because no one was ready for him to jump out and announce something this big so soon.

Days after Moszkowicz’s Variety interview, Deadline dug up more dirt on this poorly-timed revival. According to them, the first film installment will be directed by James Wan (Saw, Aquaman). Wan made a name for himself in the horror industry, delivering films which on the page could become utterly ridiculous, but often end up being at the very least fun thrill-rides for the audience. I’ll never forget the night I sat to watch Dead Silence as a joke and wound up sleeping with the lights on. His work on Saw set the tone for virtually every scary flick released after 2004. It’s almost natural for anyone working in the genre to court Wan, and I don’t blame the RE team for wanting someone solid to lead the charge.

The wildcard in Constantin Film’s plan is the writer slated to bring a new voice to the franchise which earned $1.2 billion in its lifetime. Greg Russo is currently working with Wan on the upcoming Mortal Kombat revival. And that’s about it for his film writing career from what I managed to find. As a RE fan, that’s cause to raise a brow. A seemingly untested writer is handed one of the largest horror franchises with no notice and no plan from the production company besides grabbing Wan and apparently whoever he’s currently tied to professionally. A few articles said the MK script wasn’t half bad. But Constantin Film still demands massive faith from fans if they expect us to forgive rushing the original franchise into its grave, then they hand the lot to someone we’ve never heard of except that he’s working with a well-known horror director.

Wan’s name alone won’t make Resident Evil live again. Constantin Film hung the future for the reboot onto Russo’s ability to capture the magic which made the games so popular and drove the film franchise into horror history. It’s almost too much pressure to put on one person. Like someone simply walked up on Monday and said, “Here, we just told the public this is the last movie, but we’re going to have you rewrite the entire thing from the start. Don’t muck it up.” As a writer, I’d run far from that offer.

Keep in mind, there is no actual script yet. Everything has been announced, but all parties are currently focused on other productions. It’s entirely possibly Constantin Film will never get the Resident Evil reboot off the ground, or they’ll change the main production team before filming begins. These folks want to talk a big game in order to remain relevant, or simply to keep the film rights. There’s no planning behind this announcement; it’s giving me little faith in what’s to come.

Jovovich, the face of the film franchise since its inception, delivered this parting shot for the new Resident Evil team during an interview with “I would suggest that you find people that have that same passion for the property before you talk about reboots. I think if you get into this kind of genre, people are very sensitive to fakes. There’s some real fans in the sci-fi/action/horror world, and they’re not idiots. They can smell when something is done because people love it and when something is done just to monetize an opportunity.”

If you were given the monumental task of writing the first Resident Evil reboot film, what changes would you make to the universe, or do you prefer the tale laid out by the original series? Personally, I dig the idea of a reboot because they never did reach the universe’s full potential. However, the timing makes this news like dancing in the cooling ashes of a funeral pyre. It’s the ultimate case of, “Too soon, bro.”

A. Zombie Reviews…Resident Evil: Retribution

Rating: R (for sequences of strong violence throughout)

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, and Michelle Rodriguez

Another field trip out of the ZSC Command Center and into the world at large. This time around, I was stuffed into the back corner of yet another undisclosed movie theater to see Resident Evil: Retribution. I’ve been looking forward to this film since last year when the first pieces of casting news went out. The main question then was, “How in the world will they bring back these old series favorites?” The answer is slightly disappointing.

From the Resident Evil website:

The Umbrella Corporation’s deadly T-virus continues to ravage the Earth, transforming the global population into legions of the flesh eating Undead. The human race’s last and only hope, ALICE (Milla Jovovich), awakens in the heart of Umbrella’s most clandestine operations facility and unveils more of her mysterious past as she delves further into the complex. Without a safe haven, Alice continues to hunt those responsible for the outbreak; a chase that takes her from Tokyo to New York, Washington, D.C. and Moscow, culminating in a mind-blowing revelation that will force her to rethink everything that she once thought to be true. Aided by newfound allies and familiar friends, Alice must fight to survive long enough to escape a hostile world on the brink of oblivion. The countdown has begun.

First off, please note the lack of any real, solid information in the synopsis. Alice discovers more about herself, she’s been doing that for the past four films. It’s a given that, at some point, we’ll learn something new. There is always something new to learn about this character. Second, we’re lead to believe that the plot of the story takes us all over the world. Ready for your first spoiler? It doesn’t. The characters are stuck in the same building for the majority of the film. The novelty of how vast the space is wears off very quickly and leaves viewers with a sense of cabin fever about half way through.

There were a few strange style choices made very early on in the film. Do viewers really need to see the same scene played out forward and backward nearly back-to-back? Hell no. They’re not stupid. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out, you’re repeating things—not only from prior films, but from this film as well—in an attempt to find more content. Wouldn’t it have been easier to write in an actual plot that covered more, instead of rehashing old Resident Evil plot lines to try and tie them up with pretty little bows made of infected intestines? The only breath of fresh air came from characters they brought over from the video game franchise. Even then, they weren’t given enough screen time to truly get to know the characters.

Speaking of characters…What the hell was up with Jill Valentine? Okay, sure, she’s all, “Umbrella Corp is cool” in the film. However, that is no excuse for the director making the actress come across horribly. Jill Valentine was great the last time she was in a RE film. A character so many were looking forward to returning got really poor treatment. And the other characters who seemingly came back from the dead? Spoiler number two: Filmmakers used the tired troupe of clones. Yes, clones. The only entertaining thing that came from it was a joke the youngest character popped off.

Things I learned from Resident Evil: Retribution – There is such a thing as too much slow motion. A Roomba can be refitted to shoot buckshot. There are no laws of physics in the Umbrella Corp facility. Undead Soviet Soldiers have bad aim.

I’m giving Resident Evil: Retribution three and a half gnawed on spleens out of five. If you want to go watch an end-of-summer film with lots of pretty fighting, fancy sets, and no over-complicated plot to get in the way, go for it. You get what you expect going in to watch a RE movie, blood, guts, and women in form-fitting costumes. And on the off chance that you dig that sort of thing, don’t worry. RE:R leaves plenty of room for another film.