Movie Review: Resident Evil: Damnation

Director: Makoto Kamiya

Producer: Hiroyuki Kobayashi

Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Format: DVD, Blu-ray, Xbox Live, PSN, Zune

Release: Out now

Video game-based movies, to put it politely, have not fared well critically. The Resident Evil movies are no exception – they are clearly still box office hits after five iterations, and while they certainly have their fans, the general consencus is that they’re not great. The first movie was an acceptable standalone film that you could enjoy if you mentally separated it from the rest of the franchise, but after that the  live-action series went downhill into cheesy dialogue, unnecessarily ridiculous action sequences and just generally poor scenarios that barely resembled any of the great horror archetypes that Capcom created in their games.

However, Damnation is the new CGI sequel to 2008′s Degeneration. These movies aren’t to be confused with Paul W. S. Anderson’s live-action movies (although you could be forgiven for any confusion considering all the RE subtitles ending in “-tion” – Degeneration, Retribution, Revelations...). Degeneration, while it had its faults, successfully broke the trend of bad video game films. This could be due to fact that, unlike Anderson’s movies, Degeneration and Damnation are canonical and fit inside the official Resident Evil timeline, meaning they don’t descend and digress into a Milla Jovovich super-woman fantasy and have gained the benefit of Capcom’s supervision. Does Damnation continue to deliver what Degeneration began? You bet.

Again we have Leon S Kennedy, one of the main faces of the franchise, returning to the protagonist role after his zombie adventures with Claire in Degeneration. The film opens with a narration, explaining that territories in the Soviet Union have split and seperated themselves to declare independence. Rebellions ensued over the years, eventually escalating into violent wars across Europe. Not just any wars – soldiers have begun using B.O.W.s, the beloved Umbrella-developed monsters of RE, to fight one another. They are now controlled with a master-slave relationship that is created after a human ingests a parasite. An interesting theme that continues across the movie’s runtime.

Leon, a US federal agent, is sent to investigate, but after his arrival he is ordered to retreat immediately. Being the heroic chap he is, Leon ignores his agent advisor Hunnigan’s orders to uncover the horrific truth once again.

The film relentlessly throws the audience into action, as Leon is promptly greeted by a not-so-friendly European citizen – a Licker B.O.W. The Lickers are the stronger, faster and more vicious evolved forms seen in RE5, which leads to some very impressive action scenes. Every dodge of the Licker’s swiping claws, every leap and lunge performed by the monster and every flip, roll and kick from Leon is expertly displayed in CGI with impressive detail.

Leon of course survives the encounter, but runs into more trouble when kidnapped by a group of freedom fighters, who are suspicious of him. When an outbreak ruins the men’s plans, Leon of course is free and gains the upper hand, but chooses to partner up. We are introduced to JD, who provides some comical dialogue and a more serious and broody soldier named Buddy. While JD serves his purpose, Buddy’s characters never really develops into anything much interesting despite becoming Leon’s survival partner. Leon is back to his witty self though, which is a welcome return after his admittedly bland and strangely serious persona in Degeneration.

Ada is also back and crossing paths with Leon, with their encounters bringing more of their fighting/flirting dynamic. She’s just as shady, laidback and sexy as ever before and, like Leon, has her own acrobatic combat/escape antics against the monsters. A new villain by the name of Svetlana Belikova is the former president of the republic. She is a combat instructor and is seemingly untouchable, constantly out-doing Leon and Ada in their skirmishes.

Any Resi fans disappointed in the amount of action scenes I’ve described after wanting a return to the series roots are still catered to here. Jump scares are few and far between but are effective, and emphasis is very much given on the monsters and there’s many gory sequences that are surprisingly excessive even for RE‘s standards.

Zombies are of course present – they are technically Plagas enemies, yet they seem like a mix between both the undead and parasitic enemies due to their lack of speech, discoloured flesh and stumbling movement. Some will run after spotting prey though, and there’s a particularly tense moment as Leon and JD attempt to escape from a small horde in a narrow corridor.

Its a shame that other iconic creatures from the games couldn’t make an appearance, as zombies and Lickers are the only threat. The zombies also oddly seem to disappear after the first half too, giving the spotlight completely to the Lickers. There are some clever throw-backs to iconic scenes in the games though, such as RE2’s first Licker encounter. There also is one more enemy that makes an appearance towards the end thatI won’t spoil, but fans will certainly be pleased about and this leads to an awesome showdown finale.

Damnation has also vastly improved on its predecessor’s main flaw: the lip syncing. It is occasionally a brief issue, but the animation, facial expressions and of course action scenes are very well done. Voice work is similarly stellar, and while it was initially sad that Paul Mercier couldn’t reprise his role in voicing Leon, Matthew Mercer does a great job in delivering Paul’s previous wit and emotion in RE4. The same applies for Courtenay Taylor as Ada who, despite being a replacement, also brings back the calm tones of our favourite female spy.

While it may not be considered an honour to shout about, Resident Evil: Damnation is likely the greatest video game adaptation film ever. You’ll soon forget that you’re basically watching a 100-minute cutscene because not only is Damnation thrilling, the animation is so impressive that at times it seems real. The movie is a milestone in many different respects: a technological masterpiece, the most interesting plot that Resident Evil hasn’t really had in a long time and the film that proves that great video game movies are possible. Start taking notes, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Boll.

Score: 8.5/10

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  1. Great review, I haven’t seen a resident evil movie since the first one (and the animated one that came out a few years ago). this one looks good as you gave it an 8.5 out of 10 so I may check it out!


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