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Let’s Talk About that ‘Resident Evil’ Film Reboot

I’m pretty sure it’s not been even 24 hours since I last saw a trailer for the Blu-ray release of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, and yet, here we are, talking about what’s going to happen when the films return to the big screen with 100% less of the ass-kicking Milla Jovovich. We already know who’s been tapped to handle the new direction the Resident Evil films will head next, and to my genuine surprise, they’re actually really good picks. Yeah, no kidding.

For those of you who missed the big reveal, it was recently announced that James Wan (The Conjuring, Saw, Insidious) has signed on as a producer in what appears to be just the latest step in the filmmaker’s ongoing effort to achieve total genre domination. Wan’s also involved in Annabelle: Creation, Insidious: Chapter 4, Saw: Legacy, and The Nun, so what’s one more horror film? We also have Greg Russo, who’s been tasked with penning the script. Russo also wrote the script for the upcoming Mortal Kombat film reboot, but his resume doesn’t have much else that could help determine what he’d do with a franchise like this.

One can only hope the films will eventually be as successful in breathing new life into the films as Resident Evil 7 did recently for the games. We know it’s possible. The reboot is just the film equivalent of New Game + in that we’re able to start fresh with six films’ worth of experience and lessons learned from our time spent out adventuring with Milla and Friends. Capcom’s paved the way already by proving to the world once again that it still possesses the same impressive capacity for coming up with bold and innovative new directions they last demonstrated with Resident Evil 4.

And, perhaps more importantly, Capcom has recommitted its willingness to listen and act on community feedback, both the good and the bad. I suspect they’ll be eager to achieve a similarly successful course correction with the films as they continue to find more ways to creatively reimagine the world of Resident Evil.

Several years back I read George Romero’s script for the original Resident Evil film, because it’s online and I incorrectly assumed it’d be the greatest thing ever put to paper. With considerable respect to Mr. Romero, let’s just say that the film we got was almost certainly better than what might’ve been had his vision come to fruition. And that’s not to say there’s no merit in pursuing a more faithful adaptation of the game that started it all, because that could turn out swell. Hell, it could turn out better than swell. That’s right, I’m saying it could very well be dandy. I’m just not convinced there isn’t a better way.

The second option is also my favorite, and it involves the wiping of the slate. By eschewing much of what happened prior to the latest game, the films would be free to pick up where the games are now. Think of it sort of like what the animated feature films Degeneration and Damnation did for Claire and Leon, respectively. Neither had any real impact on the general canon, and that was by design. They’re one-offs, brief diversions from the main story. Each film is just another chance for us to further foster our relationships with characters that some of us have grown to love over decades.

This would also mean we could pair the events in the next film so no momentum is lost between each new game. It might be awhile yet before Capcom lets us in on what they’ve got cooking up now. And because of this, we’re left with a fairly significant amount of time where nothing is happening, so why not wedge a film in there to keep that narrative momentum going until we’re allowed our next fix? I personally would’ve liked to find out a little more about Sheva, who’s vanished since her first and only appearance alongside Chris in Resident Evil 5. If we had tried this already we could’ve spent some more time whooping monster ass with Ms. Alomar, but instead, we got Resident Evil: Afterlife — arguably one of the worst films in the hexalogy.

I doubt it’d be controversial for me to say Resident Evil 7 is a much stronger game, narratively speaking, than the first Resident Evil, even if it didn’t introduce any characters that seem worthy of hanging anywhere near the likes of Jill Valentine, Chris Redfield, Claire Redfield, or Barry Burton. And sure, you could argue that it’s not fair to ask any character to match the living legend that is our beloved B.B. when we all understand exactly why that’s simply asking to much.

What I like about the fresh slate approach is it brings with it a myriad opportunities for Capcom and Co. to weave their films with each new game in a way that’s actually satisfying. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy every cheeky nod the films made to their source material, but there’s a much better way to go about it. The problem is the films never did more than borrow, seemingly at random, certain aspects of the games that would look nifty on a big screen.

As far as I can tell, no actual attempt was ever made to take ideas that actually made sense once they were dropped into the film universe, and nowhere else is this laziness more apparent than the bizarre inclusion of the Axeman from Resident Evil 5 in Resident Evil: Retribution. It just made no sense in the context of the films.

Actually, I take that back. There’s a myriad other examples of this rampant laziness that are at least as good as the Axeman, but we all get the point. I’m sure I couldn’t have been the only one to recognize how ridiculous Wesker looked when he was gifted the same silly spandex outfit and superpowers that wound up being the second goofiest part of Resident Evil 5.

Chris punched that boulder off a goddamn cliff. Never forget.

Whatever happens with the next film, one thing’s for certain, and it’s something I mentioned near the end of my review of Resident Evil 7. It took about a decade for this series to overcome what could best be described as a very public and uncomfortably lengthy identity crisis, we can finally relax a little bit. We can’t know what kinds of obstacles this series will need to overcome in the future, and for now, it doesn’t matter. Resident Evil has reclaimed its crown, and there’s not been a better time to be a fan of this series for at least a decade.

This is the part where I’m going to shut up so you can share your thoughts on all this, if you like. And if any of the above resonated with you, for better or worse, let me know in the comments below!

3 Comments
  • Esteban Rios

    The films were a mess. Had no respect for the games, more than cash grab appearances of monsters and videogame characters, all as thinly written as they could be. Hell, the last film even ditches the previous ones. The writing is so damn lazy. Hopefully this reboot will appreciate the franchise and really wants to do something good with it

  • Craig Forshaw

    James Wan is so average, and most of those films he’s been involved with are barely even horror. Barrett and Wingard, please. Preferably with Dan Stevens as Leon.

  • Nik

    I agree that the films were a mess. Especially when you expected to see a Resident Evil film (which they were labeled). But when you just see them just as an action film, they were great. I would love to see the films done in correlation with the original games, but the story is so ingrained in our blood, that it may just be more of the same if it were done too closely with the films.

    I would love to see two separate entities in the RES film genre; one, something done like S.D. Perry’s novels where the characters are put through the paces in the original settings, the real original settings. As close as possible with some added new details and story line to keep it fresh. Then something similar to what the CGI films have been doing by creating individual character stories, like the recent Resident Evil Vendetta film. Maybe a combination of both where newer fans can get some backstory, older fans can get a refresher, then the two mesh together to form an all new storyline that we have not seen yet.

    As for James Wan directing, I am on the fence about him. He did great with Insidious, but because of its success, all his movies now have that same flavor to it. Mostly jump scares and the same running theme across the board. For the Resident Evil movies, he would have to get a little more creative and realistic than with the supernatural thrillers under his belt. If he could get in contact with Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire), then it might be possible to pull a Resident Evil movie franchise off. Maybe.

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