Friday, April 20, 2012

Anime review: Resident Evil Degeneration

A CG film starring series veterans Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy, Resident Evil Degeneration returns to a formula that is in keeping with the roots of the video games. The opening montage revisits the history of Raccoon City in brief, as well as the Umbrella Corporation's involvement in the outbreak of the T-virus. Flash-forward seven years to present day in the Harvardville airport, and demonstrators have lined up to protest one Senator Ron Davis, as allegations have surfaced that the pharmaceutical company WilPharma has been testing similar viruses on human subjects, and that Senator Davis is supporting them.

Claire enters the scene almost immediately as she is meeting up with some friends of hers who are familiar with a recent viral outbreak in India. It doesn't take long for the virus to find its way into the airport, however, and a plane crashes right into the building, quickly escalating the danger. Claire, the smug and selfish caricature known as Senator Davis, and a few other survivors manage to hole themselves up inside a safe area of the airport while the entire area is placed under military lockdown. When a rescue mission is planned, the White House sends Leon S. Kennedy to personally oversee it due to his familiarity in dealing with hordes of the infected. Leon asks that only two soldiers accompany him, as he wishes to keep casualties to a minimum, and they enter the airport via a rooftop entrance that has been deemed safe.

For the next half hour, the film plays out exactly as one would expect, with Leon and company leading the charge into dangerous territory, running and gunning as they go. It is rather predictable and leans more toward the action-style that Resident Evil 4 and 5 have come to be known for as opposed to the horror-style of the older games. But after their escape, the cast splits into two parties. The first is led by Leon who hopes to track down Curtis Miller, brother of soldier Angela Miller, as Claire claims she saw him in the airport moments before the outbreak. Claire, meanwhile, visits WilPharma in person to see if there was in fact any connection between the company and the turn of events at the airport. It is at this point that the story really gets going, with everything in the airport providing more in the way of setup and an obligatory zombie routine.

The CG looks pretty good, though perhaps not quite as impressive as the likes of similar projects like Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Resident Evil Degeneration's character models are well-rendered and maintain the look of the more recent video games. Occasionally, mouth movements will not sync well with the dialogue, though the actual voice acting is pretty good overall. Similarly, character models can appear stiff and robotic when engaging in conversation, though they are very fluid when in combat. Lighting effects go a long way in adding atmosphere to the different environments, each of which stands out as being particularly well-rendered. The water and fire effects, though brief, are standout mentions as well. There is some great attention to detail in scuff marks on battle gear and the loading mechanisms of firearms during close-up shots. Dynamic camera angles keep the viewing experience entertaining, while the soundtrack is a combination of moody melodies that add more of an emotional atmosphere and generic, redundant action themes.

There are a few notable logical gaps in the way some of the characters behave that range from slightly odd to eye-roll ridiculous. The fact that Leon and company do not exit the airport with the survivors the same way that they entered seems peculiar, while one character in particular has access to seemingly every restricted area in every building without so much as a convenient plot device to explain this. Also, the number of failsafe mechanisms WilPharma has in place is downright ridiculous. Regardless of any precautions they might be taking with the knowledge of what happened in Raccoon City, the funds it would take to install and maintain all of the failsafes displayed outweighs the amount of money the company would spend on the pharmaceuticals by seemingly exponential amounts.

There is a break in the action between the airport and visit to WilPharma that explores the family history of Curtis and Angela. It serves as a nice change of pace and prevents the film from seeming like it is trying to dish out too much action at once. However, the dialogue that Angela and Leon share here drags on a bit longer than necessary and staggers into the realm of sappy and cliché.

As the intro makes clear, the film does attempt to work its way into the larger Resident Evil Universe. There are even some ties to Resident Evil 5 toward the end of the film. But for the most part, Degeneration stands on its own as a new chapter in Capcom's franchise. That is not to say that the content in this chapter is particularly eye-opening; it revisits a lot of familiar territory. As a tie-in property, it serves as a decent action flick. Just don't expect anything near the caliber of 28 Days Later out of this zombie movie, nor even the quality and quantity of what the video games can convey.

My rating: 7 (out of 10)

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