Resident Evil: Degeneration

Resident Evil: Degeneration (バイオハザード:ディジェネレーション)
Made in: Japan
Language: The version I saw was dubbed in English
Director: Makoto Kamiya
Starring (Voices): Alyson Court, Paul Mercier, Laura Bailey, Roger Craig Smith, Crispin Freeman, Michael Sorich, Steve Blum
Year: 2008

Synopsis: Zombies. Viruses. Shooting. Corrupt politicians. Skinny girls with big guns. No, it's not a commentary on the crisis on Wall Street. Instead, it's a feature-length, computer-animated movie based directly on one of the most popular video games on the market. The plot is somewhat of a sequel to the game Resident Evil 2. To get you up to speed, in that game a horrific virus (known as the T-Virus) swept through a town called Raccoon City, turning its citizens into a mob of flesh-eating zombies that resemble Marilyn Manson fans. Among the few survivors were Claire Redfield (voiced by Alyson Court) and rookie cop Leon Kennedy (voiced by Paul Mercier).

They escaped the Raccoon City disaster by shooting, stabbing, and blasting their way out of the nightmarish situation before the whole town was nuked by the US Government. The T-Virus was created by the Umbrella Corporation, which is a company that makes Enron look like Chuck E. Cheese's.

The events of Resident Evil: Degeneration occur years later, after the collapse of the Umbrella Corporation. Claire Redfield is now working for a group called Terra-Save, which organizes search and rescue operations for victims of bio-terrorist attacks. The group is not happy with a company called WilPharma, which bought out the Umbrella Corporation.

Without giving too much away, another T-Virus outbreak occurs. This time, it's at an airport where Claire is waiting to be picked up by a friend. Brought in to help deal with the situation is Leon Kennedy, who is reunited with Claire with the help of two Special Response Team agents Gregg Glenn (Steve Blum) and Angela Miller (Laura Bailey). This new turn of events is directly related to the cover-up of the Raccoon City mess, and involves a corrupt senator (voiced by Michael Sorich), a top WilPharma researcher (voiced by Crispin Freeman), and Angela's brother, Curtis (Roger Craig Smith).

The Good: The CG sets are very well done. For fans of the Resident Evil video games, this movie is pretty faithful to the look and feel of the series. It builds up some pretty decent suspense in parts, and the filmmakers make a genuine effort to create a sophisticated plot.

In the English version, Alyson Court reprises her role as the voice of Claire Redfield. Keep in mind that she's done the voice of that character since the second Resident Evil game. And Paul Mercier, who did the voice of Leon Kennedy in the fourth game of the series, reprises his role here as well. It may not seem like much, but having these actors come back for the movie demonstrates a good understanding of the fan base.

And as you might imagine, this movie is made specifically for fans of the game, and director Makoto Kamiya knows his audience. The action, anatomically-enhanced CG characters, monsters, and of course, zombies, are all in line with what most gamers would expect.

By far, this is the best Resident Evil game-to-screen adaptation to date...

The Bad: That being said, this is by no means a stellar movie. First and foremost, the human protagonists are only marginally more expressive than the zombies. And after a while, it gets really distracting. And weird. Emotionally intense moments look really stilted and awkward.

Some of the plot holes are problematic, but even worse is that there's too much story exposition (aka slow scenes), which only calls even more attention to the expressionless characters. The action is pretty good, but the movie could have benefited from more zombie stuff.

Resident Evil is one of the cornerstones of the "survivor horror" genre of video games, and I think the film should have stayed closer to its roots. For instance, there's a pretty exciting action sequence that takes place in an airport that references the dark atmosphere of the games. Unfortunately, just as it gets good, the scene ends and the momentum of the movie sort of hits a wall.

Who would like this movie: This is definitely for fans of the video game. And if you aren't familiar with them, you simply won't know what the heck's going on.

(2 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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