I don't remember how my buddies talked me into seeing Resident Evil: Apocalypse in the theater without seeing Resident Evil first, but they did. I'm usually pretty hard-headed about seeing things in order, but they must've given me a run-down on What Came Before.
Anyway, I liked it enough to want to see Extinction when it came out, and since it was just released on DVD, I figured now was a good time to go back and finally watch the first one. Fortunately, I'd forgotten most of Apocalypse, so I was watching Resident Evil with fresh eyes.
It's probably the best video game adaptation I've ever seen. That's not high praise or anything, but the only other video game movie I remember sort of enjoying was Silent Hill and Resident Evil is a lot more exciting. Both do an excellent job of capturing the feel of playing a game (or, more accurately, watching someone else play a game), but Silent Hill is all about setting a dark mood, while Resident Evil is about kicking butt. Dark moods are cool, but I can get that by popping in a Sisters of Mercy CD. I'd rather see the butt-kicking.
If you haven't seen it, Resident Evil is about the evil Umbrella Corporation and its Top Secret facility called The Hive that's located deep beneath fictional Raccoon City. The movie opens as someone steals some samples of a deadly, experimental virus and then intentionally exposes the rest of the facility, causing the Hive's computer-controlled security system to lock down the complex in order to contain the zombie-creating infection.
Cut to Alice (Milla Jovovich) who wakes up without any memory in a shower. When Umbrella-employed soldiers show up to assess the situation and control the damage, Alice learns that she's a security agent and that the mansion she's in is actually cover for the Hive's entrance. There's also a stranger in the house named Matt, so once the soldiers arrest him, everyone goes down into the Hive to try to bring it back online.
The rest of the movie is a standard dungeon-crawl type story with the team exploring the Hive as it gets increasingly more dangerous to be in. It even culminates in a Big Boss confrontation. But just calling it a dungeon-crawl doesn't really do it justice, because the cast is big enough and the characters are interestingly drawn enough to keep things exciting even when they're basically just moving through rooms. The general feel is Aliens with zombies.
Zombies aren't a good trade off for Aliens, but that's the source material we're stuck with and the result is as good as any zombie movie. Better, actually, because it's primarily an action movie rather than a horror movie. But you have to understand that I don't really like zombie horror in general. Mix zombies with another genre like here or Shaun of the Dead (or, I'd argue, George Romero's stuff because it's more about social commentary than scares) and I'm better, but the usual gross-out zombie stuff doesn't work on me.
The best part of Resident Evil though is Alice, who's now one of my favorite butt-kickers. And I'm way looking forward to seeing her again in the next two movies.
Four out of five zombie Dobermans.