Thursday, January 8, 2015

Anime review: Resident Evil: Damnation

Set between the events of the Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 6 video games, Resident Evil: Damnation sees Leon S. Kennedy return to the spotlight as he is sent into a small former Soviet nation to investigate the use of B.O.W.s amidst civil unrest. Despite the political reforms that followed the nation’s detachment from the U.S.S.R., rebel groups have risen up arms against the government, and have resorted to the use of Lickers, skinless quadrupeds that are easily identified by their snaking tongues and exposed brain tissue. Given his wealth of knowledge on B.O.W.s, as well as his decorated experience from Raccoon City, Saddler’s cult, and more, Leon is strategic and careful in his actions, but not without the boldness to forge his own path and bend the rules from his superiors a bit (despite Hunnigan’s protests). Even with the tense political struggle going on around him and the serious threats of biological warfare, Leon doesn’t shy away from making the occasional snappy one-liner, most of which are mildly amusing and surprisingly less cheesy than in most RE properties.

There are ties to the more recent Resident Evil games through the use of the parasitic Las Plagas, and while many of the people fighting in the streets turn into the mindless infected, others use the Plagas in tandem with the Lickers, allowing them to directly control the actions of the terrifying beasts like hounds. However, this master-servant relationship comes at a price, in that once the Plagas are willingly injected into the controlling individual’s body, it is only a matter of time before they join the creeping hordes. Limiting the variety of enemies Leon and the freedom fighters encounter is a smart decision, in that it keeps the story and action sequences focused, as well as maintains an appropriate scale for this particular struggle.

Resident Evil: Damnation adopts a more action-heavy aesthetic than some of the other RE tales, though the horror vibe ala RE4 is not lost entirely. The dimly-lit and narrow tunnels beneath the city offer a gloomy atmosphere as the infected pursue Leon and company, while the grime inside parking structures and along old brick alleyways provides a strong contrast to the pristine Imperial halls of the president’s estate. Aside from Leon, the film focuses on two rebel fighters, who initially take him captive as they believe he is a spy employed by the state, but later allow him to aid them in their push towards the capital. Sasha is more of a dark and brooding individual, and while his reasons for fighting are explained in brief, the film does not dwell long on this, an act which is both a blessing and a curse – on the one hand, the narrative does not find itself bogged down with pushing a dramatic angle for some silly romantic subplot, but at the same time it makes it a bit difficult to feel for him or even properly gauge his emotions in the midst of all this fighting. The narrative implies Sasha has experienced some emotional and moral detachment since joining the fight, however, so perhaps this depiction is not wholly inappropriate. The other rebel fighter, JD, is a more gung-ho individual, but dorkishly obsessed with the image of being cool and views Leon’s American identity as a prime example of what he wants to associate with. He may be a goofball, and his dialogue may be among the weakest in the film, but at the end of the day JD has a heart of gold. Ada Wong acts in a supporting role, serving primarily to interact with the nation’s president, but also offering Leon tidbits of advice now and again.

The level of detail seen in the environments and character models is phenomenal, a significant step up from what the previous CG film, Resident Evil: Degeneration, had to offer. Similarly, the story is an improvement, as it chooses to keep itself ground in both its smaller cast and limited scope for the setting of one particular city within a small nation. Though many of the scenes take place underground or in the city streets at night, the eerie lighting does well to evoke the feel of a proper Resident Evil game. While not a narrative that will significantly change up the way viewers understand the pre-existing RE universe, Damnation does offer a satisfying stand-alone narrative that has sufficient levels of intrigue and thrills to keep both old-school and new-school fans engaged for its concise hour-and-forty-minute runtime.

My rating: 7.75 (out of 10)

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