Monday, October 04, 2010

Resident Evil: Degeneration

Posted as part of Operation 101010
Category: anime / In category: 9 of 10 / Overall: 90 of 100

Does ‘Resident Evil: Degeneration’ count as an anime? I don’t know, but I’m on the home stretch of Operation 101010 and I figure ‘Degeneration’ ticks three boxes worthy of inclusion: it’s a Japanese production, it’s animated (albeit from motion capture) and it’s a fuckload better than the Paul W.S. Anderson live-action instalments in the franchise.

Full disclosure: I’m not a gamer and my only exposure to ‘Resident Evil’ has been the aforementioned affronts to the filmmaker’s art. The first movie was just about serviceable and at least had a convincing action heroine in Milla Jovovich. The second had a couple of halfway decent set-pieces but offered little other justification for its existence. The third was a patchwork quilt of borrowings from other (better) movies, enlivened only by the addition to the cast of Ali Larter as Claire Redfield.

It’s Claire Redfield, rather than Jovivich’s Alice, who is the central character in ‘Degeneration’. The story picks up seven years on from the Racoon City outbreak, finally contained after the military nuked the place, and Claire has just arrived at Harvardville airport. There, she notices the presence of political protestor Curtis Miller, a campaigner demanding the government release the truth about Racoon City, but thinks no more of it. Then an airliner crashes into the main airport building, a horde of zombies spill out of it and chaos ensues.

Claire finds herself holed up with corpulent Senator Ron Davies, a man who knows more about this new outbreak than he’s letting on. Their escape from the airport – a tense and excitingly staged sequence that occupies most of the first third of the movie – is enabled by Claire’s fellow Racoon City survivor Leon S. Kennedy and SWAT team member Angela Miller … who happens to be Curtis’s younger sister. And with Curtis the number one suspect and a deadline engendered by terrorist threats fast approaching, these mismatched allies are forced to work together as it soon becomes apparent that no-one else is to be trusted.

With a plot that plays like a throwaway episode of ‘The X Files’ pumped full of steroids and populated by zombies, more action per square inch than the whole of Anderson’s offerings put together and a script that values exposition and pacing above quality of dialogue, ‘Resident Evil: Degeneration’ is formulaic but value-for-money entertainment. The animation is variable, the characters generally well rendered facially but often awkward in their body movements, whereas vehicles, hardware, buildings, backgrounds, gore and explosions are vivid in their detail. The vocal cast sleepwalk their way through line readings, however. Unsurprisingly, I guess, given how clunky the script is.

Still, if you a fan of zombies, military/political/pharmaceutical conspiracies (here represented by WilPharma, the new corporate bad guy in town after the downfall of the Umbrella Corporation), snivelling Machiavellian types in suits getting what’s coming to them, and kick-ass chicks with guns doling out zombie-killing, conspiracy-exposing justice, then ‘Resident Evil: Degeneration’ has guilty pleasure written all over it.


The Film Connoisseur said...

I've been curious for this one for the longest time, but since its a straight to video animated feature, I have the impression that it will suck. Still, you are not the only one to say that it doesnt entirley suck! I need to give this one a try since I actually ended up enjoying 'Afterlife'. It was empty calories, eye candy, but fun times non the less.

Neil Fulwood said...

My personal opinion is that it was shoved out unceremoniously as a direct-to-DVD title in order to protect the live-action franchise. For my money, this is a lot more pacy, exciting and entertaining than any of Paul W.S. Anderson's 'Resident Evil' films. It's no classic, but it make for a fun 90 minutes. Like you say, empty calories, but eye candy and good fun.