Resident Evil: The Novels, by S.D. Perry

I will cheerfully confess to never having played any of the Resident Evil video-games at all. Everything I know about its universe, I learned from the films starring Milla Jovovich. It was thus something of a surprise to learn that her character, Alice, was entirely created for the films, and doesn’t appear in the game series at all. That said, there’s a reason why Paul Anderson opted to make his hero a heroine. The series has been emphatic about being thoroughly equal-opportunity in its carnage since 1996. It was then the first game came out, as Biohazard in Japan, offering players a choice between playing as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine.

With the film series coming to an end (supposedly!), it seemed like a good point to dip into the more “authentic” parts of the universe. I don’t have the time or enthusiasm for the games, but figured the novels, written by S.D. Perry, would fit my lifestyle nicely. There are seven of these, with five being novelizations based on the first five games, along with two original stories, which take place between #1 and #2, and #2 and #3 respectively. While they’re not as thoroughly heroine-centric as the movies, they’re no less equal-opportunity than the games, with Valentine leading a swathe of solid and strong female characters.

resnovel1

The Umbrella Conspiracy

In the opening book, we follow members of  the S.T.A.R.S. task force, investigating a series of brutal murders on the outskirts of Raccoon City, only to be trapped in a manor house. This turns out to be a research facility for the Umbrella Corporation, abandoned after an accidental release of T-virus and now inhabited by zombies and other unpleasant creatures. These include cannibalistic plants and the “Big Bad”, the Tyrant, the end result of prolonged exposure to the virus.

In terms of spirit, this isn’t dissimilar to the first film, which similarly had a group of soldier types exploring a research complex infested with both monsters and traps, albeit a far larger one. The book’s origins as a game are sometimes clunkily obvious here, with traps and puzzles showing up in the prose here, in ways that would only make sense in a Playstation context. It’s also a little heavy on minute details, such as getting very specific on the layout of the house, which really doesn’t deserve as many words.

There’s a multi-threaded storyline, focusing on Redfield and Valentine, but also involving the other members of the S.T.A.R.S. team, and this works better than you might expect. Perry keeps all the balls in the air effectively, and things converge nicely on a rather Aliens-esque finale, the team rushing to escape the facility before it self-destructs. Which probably makes sense, as Perry also wrote several entries based on the Dark Horse Comics Aliens series

resnovel2

Caliban Cove

The second book takes place between the first and second entries in the game series, rather than being an adaptation. Despite this, it feels similar to the first novel, with another S.T.A.R.S. team – this one not officially sanctioned – investigating another Umbrella facility gone awry. In this case, however, it’s not the result of an accident, but deliberate malfeasance. Rogue biochemist, Dr. Nicholas Griffin, has created a virus which turns humans into zombies, and now is preparing to unleash that virus on the world.

The main heroine is Rebecca Chambers, the teenage biochemist who is the only significant player here carried forward from Book #1. So, I guess she’s playing the Ripley in Aliens role. The “puzzles” the team need to solve barely register: “As I was going to St. Ives…”? Really? Guess Perry didn’t see Die Hard With A Vengeance. The other weakness is the author’s struggles with the action sequences; while these are fine when it’s one-on-one, the depiction of anything involving more participants becomes hopelessly jumbled and confusing.

There are some positive aspects. One perspective provided in the book is that of someone infected by the virus, which is chilling in its depiction of the inexorable loss of control. Some of the monsters are also nicely done, particularly the aquatic Leviathans, whose understated descriptions are quite Lovecraftesque.  Otherwise, though, this feels too much like a retread of its predecessor, in both style and content.

City of the Dead

A novelization of the second game, this introduces two major characters. Along with Claire Redfield, who arrives in Raccoon City seeking her brother, the other hero is Leon Kennedy, a newly-assigned cop. Both are understandably disturbed to find it the epicentre of a zombie outbreak, and have to survive those and a bevy of even nastier monstrosities. There’s also Ada Wong, an independent agent, who has been sent in to obtain a sample of the G-virus, the even more twisted successor to the T-virus.

This is a relatively straightforward tale, simply and effectively told. That said, the Aliens aspects are almost overwhelming. Monster which crawls down your throat, gestates for a bit and then comes out? Check. [The book even calls it, “A chest-bursting parasitic creature. straight out of a sci-fi movie”…] Heroine who ‘adopts’ a little girl who has been scurrying around, trying to survive and hide from the monsters? Check. Frenzied rush to escape, as the location counts down towards complete immolation? Check.

Otherwise, though, it’s not bad at all, even if I could probably also have done without the clunky romantic tension between Kennedy and Wong. I definitely wish they had made this into a movie; Redfield and Wong provide enough action heroine-ness to go around, and the chief human antagonist is also female, Umbrella researcher, Annette Birkin. Perry delivers a solid page-turner, engaging in spectacularly moist prose to describe the creatures now roaming Racoon City.

Underworld

Sadly, not the hoped-for crossover featuring Milla Jovovich and Kate Beckinsale. Instead, it sees a five-person team of former S.T.A.R.S. sent to Utah, where the mysterious Trent tells them a simple retrieval mission awaits. Needless to say, it proves to be anything but, with the team separated. Three members are stranded up top, facing Umbrella security, while two are stuck below, to run a gauntlet through four test areas, stocked with some of Umbrella’s most lethal creations [It’s a little like the simulations in Resident Evil: Retribution, but with different terrain types, rather than different cities]

Indeed, this was disappointingly heroine-light: Leon and John Andrews do most of the heavy lifting, as the pair trapped in the underground complex. Rebecca and Claire are both left up top, and the former is wounded while trying to hide from the security team, so is more an encumbrance than an asset to her colleagues. That only leaves Claire; while brave and resourceful, she’s a civilian, with a civilian’s skill-set, and the ass-kicking which results is inevitably limited in its scope.

Like Caliban Cove, this is a standalone work rather than an adaptation of a game, though the structure of the test areas certainly has the feel of stages, with the “Fossil” at the end undeniably Boss-level. I did enjoy the “first-monster” perspective section, telling events from Fossil’s point of view; it’s a somewhat chilling angle, since its life is “Eat. Sleep. Repeat.” But overall, this would likely have been significantly improved if there had actually been considerably more Selene.

Nemesis

I was surprised to discover in the course of this one, the short time frame over which this all takes place – it’s only about six weeks since the events of the first novel, and we’re already into the fifth installment, based on the third computer game. The central characters here are Jill Valentine, returning from The Umbrella Conspiracy, and new hero, Carlos Olivera, an Umbrella operative who is unaware of the company’s secrets.

The latter is dropped into Raccoon City on a supposed rescue mission, really intended to provide data to the corporation, and it’s not long before he’s the sole survivor of his platoon. Meanwhile, Valentine seeks her own way out, having abandoned her humanitarian efforts, but is trailed by the Nemesis, a particularly unstoppable Umbrella creation programmed to hunt and kill S.T.A.R.S. members. The human villain is another Umbrella soldier Nicholai Ginovaef, a psychopath with his own agenda.

It’s decent enough, and good to see Valentine again, who kicks ass solidly. Its origins as a game occasionally remain too obvious – the laser cannon sure is convenient! – though at least the puzzle aspects are more restrained. Ginovaef is a nasty piece of work, especially disturbing since much of it is told from his perspective. Something of a shame he doesn’t get the deserved comeuppance, at the hands of Jill, since the game is played largely from her perspective (Olivera being a helpful NPC). Though Perry probably should have skipped the feeble attempt to explain her tube-top and miniskirt costume. “Mobility”? Suuuuuure…

Code: Veronica

Looked like earlier entries in the series were building toward a raid by the ex-S.T.A.R.S. on Umbrella’s European headquarters. But this entry leaps over it entirely, and the subsequent capture of Claire Redfield, and begins with her locked up on Rockfort Island, a remote corporation outpost in the Southern Hemisphere. The facility descends into chaos after a T-virus outbreak, and she is set free by a sympathetic employee, to fend for herself among the weaponized creatures roaming the isle. They’re overseen by Alfred Ashford, who’d be described by any passing psychiatrist as “batshit crazy”; she teams up with another prisoner, the even younger Steve Burnside. Cue romantic tension…

You sense even Perry is becoming jaded by the repetitive nature of the source material. Early on, Claire quips to herself, “What’s a biohazardous disaster without a crazy or two?”, and later, Steve wonders, “Keys and emblems and proofs and submarines; it was a wonder [Umbrella employees] ever got shit done.” However, Redfield’s return is as welcome as Valentine’s was – pity the game makers never saw fit to team them up. And if the nature of Alfred’s insanity will come as absolutely no shock to anyone who has seen Psycho, the story here then layers an additional level of horror on top, rescuing it from the over-obvious.

It felt like the novel is going to end at the 3/4 point, but the plot suddenly diverts to Antarctica for a final section. Claire’s brother, Chris, shows up at Rockfort in search of her, then ends up near the South Pole as well, where we get the grand finale, which seems tacked on. Again, hard to blame Perry for this, and likely not her fault either that, despite being the last novel chronologically, it offers very little in the way of a true conclusion.

Zero Hour

Hang on, didn’t you say Code Veronica was the last novel? Ah, important word there: “chronologically”. For Perry finished off the series with another novel, which comes at the beginning; it covers the first S.T.A.R.S team to come into contact with the results of the T-virus, whose ‘chopper goes does in the woods near Raccoon City. In particular, it’s the story of Rebecca Chambers, then on her first mission. She comes across a train which has been attacked by persons or creatures unknown, and also Billy Coen, a prisoner and former soldier who escaped while being taken to an impending execution.

On balance, I should probably have read this one in its position at the beginning. If there’s not much lost, I was aware Rebecca survived to appear in the subsequent entries, and Coen is nowhere to be found, so there wasn’t much tension here. However, the small cast – there is hardly anyone else present – does mean Perry has the chance to give the characters more depth than some entries in the series. The Coen/Chambers pairing is a good one too, matching up brawn and brains respectively, and I didn’t even mind the inevitable unresolved sexual tension too much.

What I particularly liked was the sense of vulnerability that we get from Chambers. She isn’t an unstoppable ass-kicking machine – frankly, after the preceding novels have left the score S.T.A.R.S 6, Umbrella 0, that’s a refreshing breath of fresh air. It left me wishing I’d seen more of her in the series.

All told, even as someone who has never so much as picked up one of the games, I generally found the novels entertaining. They’re a fast, easy read: my main criticism would be they’re too loyal to the puzzle-solving aspects. These may be an intrinsic part of the game experience, but fail to transfer at all well on to the printed page. But the books do offer a potential route forward for the film franchise, if they decide to continue with it, on past the “final chapter”.

Perhaps the main criticism from existing fans is the way they diverted from the games, but these novels do show, a more faithful adaptation can work as entertainment. There would still need to be some adjustments – tone down the puzzle solving and probably find out a way to limit the need for multiple perspectives too. But there’s little doubt that the characters, situations and monsters offer plenty of cinematic scope, and CGI has improved enough since the original movie in 2002, it is now capable of doing the creatures justice. If Sony opt to reboot, they could go back to Zero Hour, introducing Rebecca, then move into The Umbrella Conspiracy for the rest of the S.T.A.R.S. team. It would be a seam of fresh material, and one potentially also embraced by those “long-suffering” game fans.

“My name is Alice. And I remember everything”: Re-viewing Resident Evil 1-5

With the sixth (and final?) installment in everyone’s #1 zombie-killing video-game adaptation franchise now in cinemas, it seemed a good time to go back and re-view the previous five installments, stretching back almost fifteen years. The original film came out so long ago, I wasn’t actually married. Damn. Now, however, I am. Which is why, one weekend in January, Chris and I ordered out for pizza, ensured the pillows were adequately fluffed and settled in on the couch for a marathon of maximum Umbrella mayhem. How have they stood the test of time? Here are our current takes on the series, preceded by summaries of our original reviews and a link to the full thing. But first, let’s warm up and refresh our memory with the trailers:

Resident Evil (2002)

“You’re all going to die down here!”

What we said then (3½ stars). “Not as good as it could have been, with even the most undemanding viewer able to imagine improvements. Yet, as an action/SF/horror film goes, it’s not bad at all, with very little slack or let-up. The virus is released in the first two minutes, and it’s pretty much non-stop from there on, with plenty going on. Jovovich looks the part, and the final shot has me anticipating the sequel, in a kind of Evil Dead 2 way, with her character getting totally medieval on the zombies’ asses. We can but hope.”

What we say now. This has stood up very well in 15 years, not least because it’s more practical effects than primitive CGI e.g. the zombie dogs. It’s worth remembering that, when it came out, zombies were not in fashion. This was before The Walking Dead, before World War Z; heck, it was even before the Dawn of the Dead remake. Indeed, it’s 40 minutes here before the first zombie shows up, and another 10 before Alice, as we know her, is born. Still, Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez) stands in well during the early going, the character being perfectly suited to Rodriguez’s sneer. She also gets the best line in the film. After fighting off an early corpse, thanks to Rain’s torrent of automatic fire, J.D. says “I shot her five times. How was she still standing?”, to which Rain replies, “Bitch isn’t standing now. ”

At this point, the makers were stating it was a “prequel” to the games, with Jovovich in effect playing the role of Jill Valentine. Not so sure about that, given subsequent flims, but it’s hard to deny the influence of the final sequence: Alice waking up in a hospital bed, to discover the zombie apocalypse, was also used in both 28 Days Later and the first ep of TWD. There was an alternate ending shot, with her going into Umbrella HQ, but I’m glad they went with the one used, which has an absolutely spectacular final shot, zooming back from her over a devastated city. The makers certainly extracted their bang for every penny of the $35 million budget, and the industrial soundtrack, including both Front Line Assembly and Nine Inch Nails, is perfect. Current rating: upgraded to **** and our seal of approval.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

“I’m good – but I’m not THAT good.”

What we said then (4 stars). “There seemed to be two kinds of reviews for this: those who ‘get’ what’s intended here, and those who clearly don’t… How you react will likely be similarly split; given you’re on this site, I suspect the odds are in favour of Apocalypse, for its strong intuitive grasp of the ingredients necessary in a good action heroine, and its delivery thereof. Sure, the plot is some way short of perfect, and more/better-filmed fights would have been welcome, but the makers do a sound job of distracting you from the flaws, and there’s enough worthwhile stuff that will stick in your mind, to put it in the top quarter of this summer’s popcorn flicks.”

What we say now. If the original movie was Alien, this one is Aliens, upping the ante largely by vastly multiplying the number of enemies. The scope here is much broader: instead of the claustrophobic feel of a small group in an underground complex, it takes place across an entire city, and it’s not just Alice vs. zombies, she’s also taking on the human soldiers of Umbrella. Since she is the sole intact survivor of part one, we get a slew of new characters, including two from the game, in Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr); the former is particularly iconic in her costume. There’s also L.J. (Mike Epps), who adds occasional comic moments almost entirely missing from the original; not sure if that’s a plus or not.

Alice is now a fully-fledged and hardcore heroine, apparent right from her arrival, crashing through a church window on her motorbike, and capable of snapping her own dislocated finger back into place, with little more than a roll of the eyes. It’s a near-constant stream of action, offering a relentless adrenaline buzz to the viewer, although less adrenaline would have been welcome during Alice’s final fight with nemesis, which degenerates into a choppily-edited mess. And, really: who decided it was a good idea to go through a cemetery during a zombie apocalypse? Still, between Alice and Jill, this remains a two-for-one action heroine special, and can only be appreciated as such. Current rating: holds steady at ****.

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

“Good thing I like a challenge.”

What we said then (3 stars). “S’ok. Mulcahy is no stranger to franchise cinema, having done the first couple of Highlander films, and the harsh desert lighting and exterior landscape is a nice contrast to the usual, dark, claustrophobic approach adopted by most Z-flicks. His experience is of particular use in the action sequences, where he does a better job of avoiding the cinematic excesses, in which Alexander Witt indulged, too frequently, last time up. The script is merely workmanlike: it feels too much like a series of cool set-pieces joined in the editing bay, rather than springing organically from the storyline.”

What we say now. I was confused by the opening, and wondered if I’d accidentally put the first film back in the DVD player. For I hadn’t seen this since its cinematic release, and it starts off by re-running the very beginning. Once that was established, we get Ian Glen as the villain – and he’s much needed, offering us a real human “villain” for the first time, and giving Umbrella a face of evil in Dr. Isaacs. The main problem is, Alice has now been imbued with superpowers. Speed and strength, I don’t mind, but telekinesis and the ability to block fire? What is this, X-Men: Extinction? Though clearly the main influence here is Mad Max, right down to Alice’s post-apocalypse chic of a long coat – plus, for no real reason beyond coolness, stockings and suspenders.

This film also absorbs the modern fondness for “fast zombies”, with the main set-piece taking on a slew of Umbrella-enhanced sprinters. While decent, and with an impressive depiction of Las Vegas, it’s likely placed too early in the movie, as nothing thereafter comes close. The only other sequence which might stick in the mind is an attack on a convoy of survivors by zombiefied crows, so I guess you can add The Birds to the list of influences here. I did like the “Pit O’ Millas”, the discards resulting from Dr. Isaacs’s experiments, and am surprised it took them three movies to use White Rabbit on the soundtrack, given its obvious Alice-ness. But Claire Redfield is disappointingly bland, and Alice’s increasing abilities cause way more problems than they solve. Current rating: dropped to **½, though likely a little above that, rather than above.

10 Iconic Sequences from Resident Evil 1-5

These are my picks for the most franchise-defining set pieces from each film. I aimed for two from each, but #3 was so weak, it could only manage a single entry (and that, barely!), so I pulled in an extra one from #4. These are not necessarily the “best” moments. For example, Alice’s fight against the zombie dogs in the original film, is memorable more because it’s the first time we’ve seen her kick ass. It was also that moment in the trailer which sold me on the movie. But having watched all five films in the last 24 hours, these are what stick in my mind.

  1. Alice enters the church (Resident Evil: Apocalypse)
  2. Alice vs. Zombie Dogs (Resident Evil)
  3. Million Milla March (Resident Evil: Afterlife)
  4. Alice vs. Jill (Resident Evil: Retribution)
  5. Tokyo sequence (Resident Evil: Retribution)
  6. Running down that wall (Resident Evil: Apocalypse)
  7. The laser corridor (Resident Evil)
  8. Roof-top escape (Resident Evil: Afterlife)
  9. Alice and Claire vs. the Axman (Resident Evil: Afterlife)
  10. Las Vegas ambush (Resident Evil: Extinction)

The play-list below includes all ten of these. Please enjoy. :)

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

“Do you know who I am?”

What we said then (3 stars). “There’s way too much moving about in underground darkness here, and elements are lobbed in from the video game, which make no sense in the context of the movie… Nor is there much feeling of threat to the characters, who cheat death with blithe abandon – the sense of “anyone can die, at any time” present in the original is all but gone… [But] the action, is, as usual for the series, solid – meaning this is, overall, just worth the 92 minutes of your time it will take up.”

What we say now. This saw the return of Paul W.S. Anderson to the series, and wisely, opts rapidly to discard the angle which saw our heroine gaining ever-increasing superpowers. I totally loved the attack on Umbrella HQ by multiple Alice clones – what I call the Million Milla March – which lifts copiously from both The Matrix and the original Aeon Flux animations. Indeed, The Matrix is a source in other ways, not least Arnold Wesker (Shawn Roberts), who clearly is inspired heavily by Agent Smith. This and the other lifts here are a bit too obvious to work: the zombie dogs v2.0 are straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing, and obnoxious asshole Bennett Sinclair (Kim Coates) is likely too close to Steve Marcus in the Dawn of the Dead remake. Even the use of a prison as a sanctuary from zombies was previously done a few years earlier, in The Walking Dead comics.

I note the walking pace of Evil‘s zombies continues to accelerate, here without any Umbrella tampering. But generally, this is on most solid ground when working with its own content, such as the Axman, who makes a ferocious foe for Claire and Alice (despite far too much slo-mo!). It was the first of the series to be made in 3D, and a lot of the shots used by Anderson make that very obvious, though I didn’t mind that too much. For someone supposedly back to being human again, Alice still seems to be insanely competent, best illustrated in an impressive escape off a roof-top infested with zombies. It even ends on the most hopeful note of any of the series so f… Er, never mind, scratch that. My mistake. Current rating: Upped to ***½; this was rather more impressive than I remembered it.

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

“Congratulations. You’re officially a badass.”

What we said then (4 stars). “This is the best Resident Evil movie in eight years. It may not be anything significant in the plot department. There are not hidden depths or great moments of character revelation. But it does contain entirely acceptable amounts of Milla Jovovich Kicking Righteous Ass, and succeeds as an entertainment spectacle, almost entirely due to this. Though actually, this is almost a “greatest hits” package, especially in terms of participants.”

What we say now. Feels like Anderson has largely given up in terms of trying to attract new fans, with a start that’s deliberately confusing, from an opening that plays out in reverse, through Alice’s new suburban life. It also introduces, without explanation, game elements such as characters Leon Kennedy and Ada Wong, and the Las Plagas parasites. But if you’ve been along for the ride since the beginning, this is a blast. It brings in new influences, most obviously Aliens (Alice protecting a pseudo-daughter) and Blade Runner (Ada telling her, “You were one of the 50 basic models”). It’s good to see favourite characters from earlier films return, such as Rain Ocampo or Carlos Olivera, and the cloning concept allows for nice variations. Not all Rains, for example, are on Alice’s side, though you know the concept of our heroine as a happy home-maker is not one built to last.

The scenario, involving a giant Umbrella testing area of different environments, seems a bit contrived, but there was something very similar in the Resident Evil: Underworld novel. I’ll let it slide, since this offers scope for a host of spectacular set-pieces. In terms of pure hand-to-hand fighting, the Tokyo sequence may be close to the best in the series, but the film likely sprays more rounds of ammunition around than any other entry too. It’s also great to see Alice go toe-to-toe against Jill Valentine, harking back to the “But I’m not that good” comment from Apocalypse. In some ways, the gap between the games and the movies has never been greater, with this abandoning almost all creepiness for loud, rambunctious battles. However, this is so solidly entertaining, I’d be hard pushed to call that any kind of a bad thing. Current rating: retains every bit of its ****.

So, what have we learned? Generally, to answer the question asked in the intro, the films have stood the test of time surprisingly well. Video-game adaptations remain problematic for Hollywood (Assassin’s Creed says hello), and the longevity and sheer number of Resident Evil films is almost unsurpassed. I think it’s because Anderson and his team have never felt under an obligation to be “true” to the games. While that may have alienated a chunk of the core fans, it has allowed the makers to focus on a more important task: making entertaining films, for there are aspects of the games which simply would not work on-screen, such as the puzzle-solving. They were also wise to concentrate heavily on practical effects, which tend to last better than CGI.

Not to say there haven’t been mis-steps – the mid-series diversion giving Alice super-powers would be the worst of these. But at its best – and I’d order the series #5, #2, #1, #4, #3, from top to bottom – it is excellent entertainment, that looks far slicker than many films with far bigger budgets, and the focus throughout has generally been on what matters. Which is: a great heroine who kicks ass, with (The Hunger Games please note) no love-triangles and virtually zero romantic interest. It seems Milla Jovovich is certain the sixth movie will be her final chapter, at least. If so, it seems only appropriate to finish by saying: So long, Milla – and thanks for all the mayhem.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

starstarstarstarhalf
“Sometimes I feel like this has been my whole life.”

We’d skipped the last two installments at the movies, having been burned by part three, but after the excellent content of #5, and since this was likely to be our last chance, Chris and I made it a “dinner and a movie” thing on Saturday. Was disturbed by how many kids there were for this R-rated film – hell, even a couple of babes in arms, whom I’m sure loved the non-stop violence. I guess it was deemed kid-friendly by their parents, with this one getting its MPAA rating just “for sequences of violence throughout,” rather than anything truly corrupting, such as momentary Milla mammarage. Cutely, the feature was preceded by a quick personal message from director and star, thanking us for their support of the series. Yeah, it’s utterly meaningless, but nice to be appreciated.

Onto the movie, which I think probably would have been better received by us as a stand-alone entry, if we hadn’t watched parts 1-5 last weekend. #QuickPlug: re-reviews of all those to follow later this week. For there seems to be an awful lot of ret-conning going on, in particular for the Red Queen, played here by Milla’s daugher, Ever. Not only is her origin story drastically revised from Apocalypse, there’s also a new, Robocop-esque rule that she can’t harm Umbrella employees. [I note that Anderson even lifts the same escape clause used by Verhoeven] Must be Red Queen v1.1, because all the workers at the Hive she killed in the original movie, didn’t seem to benefit from this protection…

The story sees Alice (Jovovich) returning to Raccoon City, seeking the airborne antidote she discovers – from of all people, the Red Queen, little Miss Laser Corridor herself – was created by Umbrella. If Alice can release it into the wild, it will take out all the T-virus infected. Which is a bit of a problem since, don’t forget, the list includes our heroine herself. Standing in her way is Dr. Isaacs (Glen), who has set his plan in motion to exterminate the last remaining pockets of humanity and complete his apocalyptic vision thing, along with a massive swarm of zombies he’s leading back to the Hive. On Alice’s side are a few of those final survivors, including Claire Redfield (Larter) and Abigail (Rose), adding extra girls-with-guns firepower – as if it were really necessary here.

The main problem is this: editor Doobie White really should lay off the caffeine. I don’t think it’s Anderson’s problem, as Retribution was perfectly fine in this area, but the hand-to-hand fights look like they were edited by putting them through a highly enthusiastic wood-chipper. They stay just about on this side of incoherent, but you don’t so much watch these, as experience them on a subliminal level. Maybe it’s a result of protagonists Jovovich and Glen being in their forties and mid-50’s respectively: I know if I was appearing in an action movie, you’d certainly have to edit the hell out of me to look good! But it’s still annoying as hell. The best sequence is when the camera sits back a bit and we can actually appreciate Alice, dangling from an underpass, as she beats up a posse of hapless Umbrella drones (below).

Due to this, the film is at is most effective in other areas, mostly when going wide and giving us a look at the bigger picture, specifically the sheer scope of the devastation and conflict. There’s a couple of scenes where I think the zombie count may have surpassed World War Z, and that volume is undeniably impressive. It requires, naturally, equally large-scale defense and the sequence where the humans create multiple waterfalls of fire is startling and striking. An an aside, I note the film cost only $40 million, which is $25m less than last time, and little more than the price-tag for the original, 15 years ago. Anderson is clearly great at getting bang per buck, and if the box-office reception was lukewarm in North America, the film has already almost made its cost back in Japan alone.

I also was glad to see Glen back, and just as in #3, he brings a human face to the evil corporation. [Yes, he died at the end of that one. No, it’s not a problem.] I envisage a long career for him, in the mode of Charles Dance and Alan Rickman, being the go-to guy whenever a film needs a solidly British villain. Here, he gets to show a couple of facets, both coldly calculating and manically psychotic, and is fun to watch in both. But, of course, it’s Milla’s show, and she also gets to do a bit more than you might expect: if you ever wondered what she’ll look like in her seventies, this movie will answer your question. Though going by how little she seems to have changed over the decade and a half of the series, if she looked exactly the same at that age, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Otherwise, she has become Alice, adopting a world-weary stare here, reminiscent of our cat when we annoy him. It seems to say, “I could get violent, but you’re just not worth the effort,” while she re-enacts some of the series’s greatest hits, such as the laser corridor, or a whole pack of zombie dogs (well, more dog-shaped things, to be honest). Is there closure for Alice? Yes, although not as much as I would have liked. The film had a chance to draw a line under itself in permanent marker, and allow Milla to go off into the happy suburban life her character briefly enjoyed in #5. Sadly, the script doesn’t quite have the courage to do that; let’s just say, if Mr. and Mrs. Anderson need an extra wing on the mansion the franchise’s profits has bought them, it won’t be impossible.

All told, if you’ve got this far in the series, you’re not likely to be disappointed, except by the over-active editing. If you haven’t, this is certainly not going to convince you of its merits. And that’s okay too.

Dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
Star: Milla Jovovich, Ian Glen, Ali Larter, Ruby Rose

Resident Evil: Retribution

starstarstarstar

“Games without frontiers.”

While being (again) largely disappointed by the previous entry, Afterlife, I wrote: “There’s really only one reason we bother with this series: to see Milla Jovovich kicking righteous ass. Everything else is – or should be – secondary.” And that’s why this is the best Resident Evil movie in eight years. It may not be anything significant in the plot department. There are not hidden depths or great moments of character revelation. But it does contain entirely acceptable amounts of Milla Jovovich Kicking Righteous Ass, and succeeds as an entertainment spectacle, almost entirely due to this.

Though actually, this is almost a “greatest hits” package, especially in terms of participants. Not seen since the first film, are Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez) and James Shade (Colin Salmon). Apocalypse brought us Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Carlos Olivieira (oded Fehr), while Extinction introduced the audience to Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and K-Mart (Spencer Locke). Finally, Afterlife was the debuts of Luther West (Boris Kodjoe) and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller). But they are all present for this fifth edition: though the focus is kept, as it should be, on Alice (Jovovich). The others all play their parts – notably Valentine, who is now a brainwashed toy of the Umbrella Corporation, out to hunt Alice down – but it’s the MJKRA show, all the way.

The series has had a tendency to end its entries with a wallop, right from the original, with Alice discovering the infection has escaped the Hive. Part 4 was no exception, with Alice and assorted survivors on a supertanker, only for an F-sized swarm of attack helicopter to hove into view, commanded by Valentine. This takes off from there, but begins with Alice plunging into the water, only to rewind in slow-motion to the arrival of the helicopters, then playing forward again. It’s a striking sequence, that certainly hits the ground running. It ends with Alice waking to find herself in a suburban house, with a husband and daughter…or is she? Turns out it’s all an Umbrella simulation: she has been captured, and they still want her, even if she’s no longer the superhuman she was.

There’s an unlikely ally, who releases Alice, and tells her she has two hours to meet up with a rescue team coming in to the under-Siberian complex from the outside, and get out of the place before it all goes boom. To do so, both she and they have to make their way through the various simulated arenas, designed to demonstrate the T-virus effects in Tokyo, Moscow, suburbia, etc. All the while, naturally, Valentine and her many, many Umbrella minions are on their respective tails. It could hardly be a more video-gamesque storyline, and is pretty scant. Still, in an action pic, it’s better to be too simple than too clever (I recently watched both The Raid: Redemption and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, and will take dumb over aspirations to smart, any day!), providing you use the room freed up for plenty of MJKRA.

It might be wise for Jovovich to contemplate retirement from the series. After all, she turned 37 earlier this month, and there are few things sadder than an action hero/ine desperately clinging on, past their prime (see also, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning). She’s not quite there yet, being still capable of holding her own, but there does seem to be rather more wirework and greenscreen-fu here than in previous editions. Director Anderson. a.k.a. Mr. Milla Jovovich distracts us by putting his wife in a costume whose S/M inspiration is so obvious, even another character comments on it. On the other hand, we could probably have done without the efforts to imbue Alice with some kind of maternal instincts [inevitably inviting comparisons with Aliens].

The net result is something which doesn’t so much need to be watched, just simply pass in front of a receptive pair of eyeballs. As mentioned, there is not much new here, Anderson happy to recycle the best characters and monsters from the first four movies [though, regrettably, there are no zombie canines for Milla to engage in thigh-powered neck-snapping]. Certainly, it’s lazy film-making, but actually, that’s less of an insult than it sounds. It’s more like going round a friend’s house and he knows, without asking, to provide chips and beer. Sure, it can legitimately be described as lazy hospitality – but when this is just what you want, somehow it seems churlish to complain.

A sixth entry is already mooted, and Miila says that will be her last in the series [hang on: didn’t see say that after part 2?], with a reboot being considered by the producers beyond that. This decision may come as a surprise, if you look at the distinctly underwhelming US box-office figures: only $42 million, barely more than the original, even with a decade of inflation plus the cost of 3D tickets in its favor. However, as noted last time, the meat here is not North America, but overseas. This racked up more than $175 million there, easily enough to justify a further sequel. And, for the first time in a while, I am actually enthusiastic about the prospect: hopefully, Jovovich will go out with a bang like this one, not a whimper like the preceding two.

Dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
Star: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez, Ali Larter

Bloodrayne 3: The Third Reich

starstarstarhalf

“Probably just about the best of the series to date. Take that as you will.”

After the abomination that was Part 2, I’d filed the third entry under ‘watch whenever I have time’, until a spirited debate on its merits (or otherwise) broke out on over oun our GWG forums. That got this one fast-tracked, and I am here to pronounce the official word is… it’s alright, I s’pose. Malthe has improved markedly since she took over the role from Kristanna Loken. In #2, she was little more than a clothes-horse, but now possesses some genuine charisma, though in terms of fighting skills, still leaves a good chunk to be desired. The makers, apparently realizing this, offer distraction in the way of ample cleavage shots, and some gratuitous nudity – which, if your luck is like mine, is exactly when your wife will walk in. Admittedly, telling her I was going to be watching Schindler’s List was probably a mistake, in hindsight…

As you can likely surmise from the title, this takes place in World War II – if you’re playing along at home, that’s three different centuries for the movies now, so I guess the next one will have to be ‘Bloodrayne in Space’ [Uwe, send payment for this idea to the PO Box, please]. During an attack on a train taking ‘undesirables’ to the death camps, Rayne sinks her fangs into the local Kommandant (Pare). However, she doesn’t kill him, and with the help of the local resistance, has to clean up the resulting mess, before Der Kommandant and his mad doctor (Howard) can get to Berlin and turn Hitler into Der VampireFuehrer.

The main problem is that runs only about 70 minutes before the very slow end-credit crawl, and feels like a good hour is missing somehow, as the storyline leaps about, and rushes through a finale that seems completely unsatisfying and badly under-written. The result is a movie where the individual scenes are decent enough, yet you reach the end and find yourself thinking, “Is that it?” and wondering if you had dozed off someehere in the middle. The sense of unfulfilled expectations are likely down to this. If the movie is certainly a clear upgrade on its immediate predecessor, it’s hard to see how it could be otherwise. Still, I’d like to see what Malthe can do in a less apparently-hurried production.

Dir: Uwe Boll
Star: Natassia Malthe, Michael Pare, Brendan Fletcher, Clint Howard

Onechanbara: Vortex

starstar

“…and now, everything bad about a movie based on a video game.”

If the original film was a pleasant surprise, being shallow entertainment and mayhem of the most fluffy kind, the sequel is a real disappointment. It doesn’t help that it behaves entirely as if the first movie hadn’t happen at all. Different director, different cast, and the story here fails to acknowledge anything that happened previously, dead people being resurrected with no explanation. Not that some of this makes all that much difference – one Japanese actress swinging a sword in a fur-trimmed bikini and cowboy-hat, is much the same as another. But the story is laid out here with a horrific lack of clarity that makes it perhaps the most confusing zombie film of all time. Yeah: it takes a special kind of talent to screw up “Dead come back, hungry, so we have to kill them.” Instead of focusing on essentials, the movie lobs in a bunch of tedious guff about Himiko, a new threat, who is seeking to use the blood of Aya and her sister to… mumble something mumble. If they ever explained it clearly, by that stage, I’d lost interest.

However, far and away the film’s biggest single mis-step is the director’s total obsession with splashing digital blood on the lens. Once or twice, it can be cute, in a ‘breaking the fourth wall’ kinda way. But here, every slice leads to you having to peer through a red fog for a bit. It gets old after about five minutes, and after 10, you’re wishing desperately for a pair of digital windscreen-wipers. Rarely has a visual trick been so badly mis-applied, through monstrous over-use. The only thing keeping the movie going is the basic concept, but the film proves that, yes, even with a film about a bikini-clad zombie-slayer, it is possible to go badly wrong. Chris may have snorted during the original, but only once: for the pseudo-sequel, it felt like the living-room had been invaded by a herd of buffalo, and I am largely with the derision being expressed. If they ever make a third, I’m only interested if the original director, etc. come back.

Dir: Tsuyoshi Shoji
Star: Chika Arakawa, Kumi Imura, Rika Kawamura, Akari Ozawa

Onechanbara: Zombie Bikini Squad

starstarstarstar

“Because nothing says post-apocalyptic zombie killer like a maribou-trimmed bikini and a cowboy hat.”

kinopoisk.ru

The Japanese title Onechanbara [variously Oneechanbara], is a portmanteau word, combining “onee-chan”, which means “big sister”, and “chanbara”, the term for sword-fighting movies. But, since this aspect would be lost on a Western audience, who can blame US distributors Tokyo Shock for adding the helpful subtitle, “Zombie Bikini Squad”. Y’know, in case the sleeve left doubts in this area. It’s based on a very popular series of Japanese video games, which consists of the heroines, in a variety of costumes, slicing and dicing their way through an apparently endless line of the living dead. With admirable faithfulness to the source material, the movie also consists of the heroines, in a variety of costumes, slicing and dicing their way through an apparently endless line of the living dead.

There’s Aya (Otugoro), the stoic sword-wielding one seen on the poster, and Reiko (Hashimoto), the leather-clad one with the infinite-ammo shotgun. Along with fat sidekick Katsuji (Waki), they’re looking for Aya’s sister, Saki – and also Dr. Sugita (Suwa), the mad scientist responsible for the zombie outbreak which has swept the world, setting sister nibbling on brother, daughter on mother, etc. On the way to their goal, they meet other survivors, a zombie version of GoGo Yubari from Kill Bill, and several million gallons of digital blood, including a good chunk sprayed onto the camera lens. Now, I’ve never played the game at all, so can only assume everything makes perfect sense in that universe. Still, as adaptations go, this seems to capture the inherent spirit of mindless slaughter admirably, with Aya’s power-up the most devastating video-game weapon since the Defender smart bomb. I just dated myself horribly, didn’t I?

Anyway. Is it any good? Not by objective standards, no. But it is a hell of a lot of fun, soundly kicking the ass of the last two Resident Evil movies there. While the characterization is, of necessity, composed of broad strokes, that’s forgivable, and it touches all the necessary zombie bases e.g. a character who gets nibbled and has to be put down as a result. An escalating series of encounters helps provide copious action, and despite the clear CGI, this is well-staged and edited, with the actresses doing a more than credible job. Besides, Chris’s snort of disbelief when Aya threw off her cloak to reveal the fur-trimmed bikini was priceless.

Dir: Yohei Fukuda
Star: Eri Otoguro, Tomohiro Waki, Taro Suwa, Manami Hashimoto

Assault Girls

starstar

“20 minutes of acceptable entertainment gets stretched very thinly.”

A loosely-related sequel to Oshii’s last live-action film, Avalon, this is similarly set in a VR world, and muses on the relationship between real life and game life. This one is a lot less populated; there are only four people in it, roaming a desert landscape, with the targets being giant sandworms (think Dune) and the “boss” Madara, the mother of all sandworms, whom the game helpfully informs contestants, cannot be killed single-handed. The four get together to launch an attack on it, having agreed to split the game reward equally. Is that quite how things are going to turn out?

That’s it, plotwise: describing the story as “slight” would be an insult to slight things. Opening with a burst of the most pretentiously incomprehensible voice-over in cinema history, this is only 70 minutes long, but still manages to outstay its welcome. This is mostly due to horrendous pacing; we watch one character do nothing but sit and fry breakfast for several minutes, while there’s an interminable sequence in the middle, where the characters trudge around the game landscape and stare at a snail. I get the point: these are archetypes depicting different styles of game player. No, really: I get the point. Move on. Please. I was ready to gnaw off a limb to escape, by the time that ended. Matters are not helped by the characters largely speaking English, apparently phonetically, and without much grasp of meaning. I’m pretty sure I’d not win any Oscars performing in Japanese, and while one admires the effort, couldn’t Oshii have found actors with some ability in English as a second language?

Things do perk up in the final act, when Jager (Fujiki, the only male) and Gray (Kuroki), have a battle over how the spoils will be divided. She kicks his ass, to his increasing annoyance. And I certainly appreciated the visual style here, which is easily the best component on view. This, along with the potential in the idea, saves it from being a total waste of your time, and I would not be completely averse to a further installment. Just as long as someone else writes the script.

Dir: Mamoru Oshii
Star: Meisa Kuroki, Yoshikatsu Fujiki, Rinko Kikuchi, Hinako Saeki

Resident Evil: Afterlife

starstarstar

“Is There Life After Afterlife?”

Milla Jovovich, coming at you in three dimensions! Unfortunately, Chris and 3D movies do not play well with each other – as we discovered at Avatar, where the resulting motion sickness had her staring at the back of the seat in front, after the first twenty minutes. She understandably declined all invitations to see Afterlife in this mode, so please note that with regard to this review, we’re strictly discussing the 2-D version. Other reports generally indicate the 3-D is pretty spiffy, having actually been shot that way, rather than being some hacked conversion job like certain movies I could mention [cough-ClashoftheTitans-cough]. That said, we move on.

We keep bumping into the first Resident Evil movie, which has been on cable a lot lately, and I’m tending to think my 3 1/2-star review was an under-estimate. Maybe due to the underwhelming nature of the last couple of entries in the series, the original moves briskly, keeps a tight focus on proceedings, and has a nice character arc for Alice. I was hoping that the return of its creator, Paul W.S. Anderson, to writing and directing for this fourth installment would signal a return to this approach.

There’s really only one reason we bother with this series: to see Milla Jovovich kicking righteous ass. Everything else is – or should be – secondary. And for the first 15 minutes, it looked like this would indeed be a return to these basics, as Alice and an army of Alice-clones launched a righteous assault on the massive complex housing the Umbrella Corporation’s headquarters beneath Tokyo. It’s reminiscent of the lobby scene from The Matrix, with a swarm of Alice-alikes breaking in and hurling themselves against the guards like aggrieved lemmings, with no regard for their personal safety, as they try to take out Umbrella’s CEO’s Albert Wesker (Roberts).

It’s great: among the best scenes of the entire series, in fact. The bad news is, it’s also the best thing in the movie. The sequence would have made a great climax, but instead, everything thereafter feels like an anti-climax. Wesker escapes by helicopter, flipping the self-destruct switch and destroying the clones. However, the real Alice is aboard, and before the ‘copter crashes, he injects her with a serum that neutralizes the T-virus, rendering her human again. Boooooo-ring! Turns out they both survive the crash: quite why Wesker didn’t deal with her then, isn’t made clear. Alice heads to Alaska, in search of the haven called Arcadia where Claire Redfield (Larter) was heading at the end of the third film.

That turns out to be a red herring, but Alice does find Claire, albeit now controlled by an Umbrella device on her chest. Removing that, albeit at the cost of Claire’s memory, the pair fly back down the West coast, eventually locating a group of survivors bunkered down in an LA prison – Arcadia turns out to be the name of a boat, anchored just offshore. As the zombies break in, the survivors make their way towards the boat, with the help of a prisoner who turns out to be Chris (Miller), Claire’s brother. Reaching the Arcadia, they discover it’s a trap, designed to lure people to it for Umbrella’s research, with Wesker overseeing operations. He wants to assimilate (or “eat”) Alice; as the only person to successfully meld with the T-virus, he wants that ability to enhance his own superpowers.

There’s way too much moving about in underground darkness here, and elements are lobbed in from the video game, which make no sense in the context of the movie. For instance, some zombies now have their faces split open and become all tenticular: why, is never explained, and the CGI used here is less effective than the effects used for a similar concept in Blade II, almost a decade ago. There’s also the Executioner, a giant creature wielding an even-larger weapon: again, its presence from a cinematic perspective is completely unexplained. In short, the film just doesn’t make much sense, though admittedly, between the battles, there was precious little of interest going on to hold my attention.

Nor is there much feeling of threat to the characters, who cheat death with blithe abandon – the sense of “anyone can die, at any time” present in the original is all but gone. A case in point would be the leader of the survivors, who vanished from the film entirely as they make their way out of the prison, only to reappear, right at the end, to no point whatsoever. Chris Redfield is an almost entirely superfluous character; like the monsters mentioned above, he is apparently there, just so that fans of the game can go “Look! It’s Chris Redfield!” The rest of us…not so much. The whole subplot of Alice’s humanity being restored doesn’t go anywhere either; that may well be fortunate. In any case, by the end, she seems completely back to normal. Well, “normal” in the way we want to see, anyway.

Which brings me nicely to the action, and it is, as usual for the series, solid, meaning this is, overall, just worth the 92 minutes of your time it will take up. I think due to the 3-D, the editing is more restrained than it has been of late; indeed, there’s probably as much slow-motion as anything else. I particularly liked Alice’s fondness for loading her shotgun with coins – again, I suspect largely for 3-D purposes. There’s a nice tag-match between her, Claire and the Executioner, but the final face-off versus Wesker is largely forgettable. As usual, the film ends on an interesting note: this time, it’s the return of a character last seen in Apocalypse, who makes a cameo early in the end-credits, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them return.

Despite the 3-D, the movie was only a mediocre success here, but a much greater hit overseas. For perspective, the percentage of total box-office coming outside North America for the first three entries was fairly constant, at 61%, 60% and 66% respectively. Afterlife got an astonishing 80% of its takings in foreign territories, grossing $236 million there, compared to only $60m in the US, barely recovering its budget. That’s one of the highest ratios of the year, and has only been surpassed a handful of times this decade, by films with a broad Stateside release. It’s this success abroad which means a fifth installment is all but certain. And as long as they keep making them, we’ll keep watching, hoping the potential, seen in flashes, might be more fully realized. A script which makes sense on its own terms, and doesn’t bother pandering to gamers, would be a good start.

Dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
Stars: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, Shawn Roberts

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

starstarhalf

“Street-fighting Tears”

I usually have no problem going on about GWG movies at some length. Hell, I even managed 750 words on DOA: Dead or Alive, and for that one, I had to re-read my review to remember what it was about. But when I got to the end of Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, my first thought was, “What the hell am I going to write about this?” It seemed likely the only way I’d get to 750 words, would be by repeating the title one hundred and twenty-five times. For the film is ill-conceived, poorly cast, badly written and directed by the man who managed to make Jet Li look bad, not once but twice, in Romeo Must Die and Cradle 2 the Grave.

I am not a difficult man to satisfy, especially in the area of Hollywood action heroine flicks. I’m so pleased they are making the effort at all, that as long as it is in focus, and the dialogue largely audible, I am generally a happy camper. Not so here, because SF:TLoC-L [I trust you appreciate how I am not gratuitously padding my word-count?] commits the cardinal sin for the genre. It’s boring – to the extent that I actually dozed off for a bit about two-thirds of the way in. So, full disclosure: this review is based on only about 90% of the movie. It’s possible the ten minutes I missed were sublimely good, so amazing they redeemed the entire rest of the movie. However, I would be inclined to bet against that outcome, as somewhat unlikely.

I think my major issue is that the movie seems to be aimed at a mentally-challenged eight-year old. There’s way too much voiceover, which is usually the sign of a director who can’t trust the script or his skills to put over the necessary content or emotion. And it also insists on Spelling Out Everything For The Audience, which is equally irritating. Case in point. Chun-Li (Kreuk) helps a guy being beaten up on the subway: he has a mysterious cobweb tattoo. Then, later, when she’s going through Chinatown searching for someone to translate a scroll, she encounters a man in the street with the same tattoo. Not two minutes later, the same design shows up on the scroll, but Bartkowiak insists on flashing back to both the subway and street guys and their tattoos. Well, duh

The plot starts with Chun-Li growing up, and her father is abducted by Bison (McDonough) to help with his plans for… whatever. World domination, prob’ly. As an adult, Chun-Li is now a pianist, though the scenes of her in concert are incredibly badly-faked. The arrival of the mysterious scroll has her heading off to Bangkok, where she links up with Gen (Shou), who completes her training. Conveniently, Bison has just returned to Bangkok, where he grew up, and is now planning to take over a large swathe of the city, regardless of the views of the inhabitants. Interpol agent Nash (Klein) and local cop Maya (Moon Bloodgood) are out to stop him, and find Chun-Li’s presence as much a distraction as a help.

And I believed Street Fighter II was a fighting game. Silly me. It’s far too talky: all mouth and no trousers, to borrow a good ol’ British phrase. The fights themselves, choreographed by Dion Lam, aren’t bad, though the welding of some of the Street Fighter moves into the game doesn’t work – Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird Kick, for example, just looks silly. But otherwise, they aren’t awful; there’s a nice brawl in a bathroom between our heroine and Bison’s henchwomen. However, particularly in the first hour, there just aren’t enough of them, and what should be a fast-paced slugfest becomes bogged down as Chun-Li meanders her way, with a somewhat concerned expression, around the slums of Bangkok [which actually look surprisingly liveable. You want real slums, try Mumbai].

However, the casting executive who thought a member of the Black-Eyed Peas was suitable to play Vega should be taken out and flogged mercilessly. This is not sarcasm. It’s not someone who looks like a member of the Black-Eyed Peas. It is a member of the Black-Eyed Peas. His martial arts skills are almost as unconvincing as Chun-Li’s piano-playing. Almost. Klein is equally inept as Nash – the witty banter between he and Maya hits the floor with a resounding clunk, due to the complete lack of chemistry between the two actors. Similarly, McDonough has none of the charisma necessary for Bison. Say what you like about the Van Damme Street Fighter movie, and the venom is probably dripping from your lips there, it did at least have Raul Julia.

In fact, this movie pretty much makes the original look Oscar-worthy in most ways. The best depiction of the game still remains the manic sequence in Jackie Chan’s City Hunter where he and Gary Daniels went toe-to-toe in a variety of epically-silly costumes. Chan made a much better Chun-Li than Kreuk could ever hope to, and any future list of “10 Crappiest Video-game Adaptations of All Time” (admittedly, the main issue here is stopping after just ten) will be judged largely on how highly this ranks. Is that 750 words yet?

Dir: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Star: Kristin Kreuk, Chris Klein, Neal McDonough, Robin Shou