Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring the voices of Alyson Court, Paul Mercier, Michael Sorich
Directed by Makoto Kamiya
The Resident Evil games are so horror movie-inspired, so cinematic in their execution that movies seemed like a no-brainer. That is, until we saw Milla Jovovich kung-fu her way through a trilogy of lousy film versions (with a fourth on the horizon). Fans have long hoped that Resident Evil: Degeneration – the first feature length anime from Capcom – would be the one to do justice to the franchise, but this aptly-named flick only ends up as a painful reminder of why most games should stay games.
Following the timeline of the game series, Degeneration picks up seven years after the Raccoon City incident. The country has since recovered from the zombie outbreak, but a terrorist group gets a hold of the deadly T-virus and unleashes it onto a large airport. Trapped in the middle of the insanity is Claire Redfield, who gets stuck in a terminal along with a small band of survivors. As the military deals with the situation, series hero Leon Kennedy arrives on the scene and, along with a rookie soldier named Angela, must rescue the survivors and discover the source of the terrorist threat.
The burning question from fans is whether this film feels closer to Capcom’s Resident Evil universe than those god-awful Paul W.S. Anderson movies. The short answer is yes, but that’s also the problem. Like the games, Degeneration is riddled with clichés, laughably awkward dialogue and cheesy voice acting without the benefit of a controller. Furthermore, it’s virtually inaccessible to all but hardcore fans. The script constantly drops references and plot points that will confuse anyone without an encyclopedic knowledge of the series, and even then, there’s little reason to care.
But the cardinal sin is the sheer lack of creature action. Through thick and thin, you could always count on the Resident Evil games to deliver plenty of slimy monsters and gore-drenched chaos, but Degeneration is damn-near bloodless, lacking those spook house mechanics that keep us coming back to our consoles. There are a few uninspired zombie encounters in the first twenty minutes before the story completely abandons every threat until the finale. There’s a typical big-boss fight at the end, but the rest of the film is dedicated to leftover conspiracy plots and droning exposition with a few moments of hysterical character drama mixed in. Particularly gut-busting is the Attack of the Clones-level romance between Leon and Angela which consist of nothing more than the two staring at each other for uncomfortable periods of time. It seriously starts to get creepy after awhile.
With the amazing work done on Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (a far superior movie tie-in) and the recent evolution in CG-animated films, you’d think that Degeneration would at least deliver in the visual department. No such luck. In fact, the animation looks at least ten-years old with flat, dimly-lit cinematics and even stiffer character maquettes. You’re essentially watching ninety minutes of cut-scenes that feel like they were lifted from an old Gamecube disc. Even the direction by Makoto Kamiya (FX director of Godzilla: GMK and the Gamera trilogy) completely fails to make use of the medium and only reminds you how much more energetic these characters and cinematics felt back in Resident Evil 2 on the original Playstation.
Despite the best of intentions, Degeneration comes off as a plodding endurance test that will have you instinctively hitting your controller’s “Start” button. Fans looking for their undead fix are better off waiting for Resident Evil 5, which offers more eye-popping cinematics in its trailer than this film does in its entire ninety-minute run time.
2 out of 5
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