A film based on a successful electronic pastime franchise, Resident Evil was released on the 15th of March 2002. It has a neat run time of one hundred minutes, and a pleasing commitment to financial sobriety by its writer/director — a Mr. Paul W.S. Anderson — who married his lead actress, a Ms. Jovovich, in what I can only presume was a successful attempt to reduce outgoing wage bills. And yet I still cannot recommend this film. If only such estimable respect for the world-as-is had been extended to the rest of the production.
We open in a laboratory, one that has apparently been constructed by a madman. Air is clearly flowing out of the room – yet later events reveal that work involves microorganisms that easily meet or exceed the World Health Organisation’s classification for risk group four. These biohazards should thus be dealt with only in a laboratory with an inward directional airflow – such that negative air pressure passively prevents any airborne contaminants from leaving the room and entering other parts of the facility. The neglect of this important safety feature shows a lack of professionalism on Mr. Anderson’s part.
As events progress, we are introduced to a group of mercenary soldiers, who find themselves at the mercy of a corridor full of laser beams. The beams appear to have an incredibly high continuous power output, and slice straight through the cloth, metal, and human forms in their path. Such a contraption would indeed by useful in my own field, offering an apparent clean, neat and simple way to divide living or once living flesh into consumable chunks. And yet I confess that my mind must be less inventive than Mr. Anderson’s, as I can find no explanation for the seamless way this feat is accomplished.
While light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation creates a fine and precise cutting tool, it is one that works primarily by creating heat – with the attendant smoking and scarring over any cut surface. Those individuals who have undergone laser eye surgery can attest to the unfortunate smell created as their corneal tissue is burned away. A carcass prepared in the same way as the commander of the mission would, in reality, be rendered unfit for human consumption.
For the remainder of the film we are treated to a sad barrage of reanimated deceased bodies. The human and canine wanderers offer little of interest to those in my field – one would hope that even a simpleton could see that once dead bodies are unlikely to get up and move around, no matter what biohazard they have been exposed to. The drive towards cannibalism displayed by the bodies is merely the cherry on top of a poorly thought out cake of assumptions.
Perhaps of greater interest is the reaction of one character, whose infection appears to call forth tentacles from a gaping wound on his body. Indeed, throughout the film many bodies react to said infection by producing tentacles or appendages from various bodily orifices. This seems unlikely.
Certainly, the human genome retains many basic body plan genes that are as active in a fly, or a snake, say, as a Homo sapiens. The Hox gene family may, perhaps, be involved in these early stages – as a set that appear across vertebrate and invertebrate lineages, they decide the identity of a section of the body, and could perhaps be prevailed upon to create writhing pseudopods. But to suppose that the infected could so rapidly marshal their body’s resources in the service of tentacles with no obvious, immediate utility? This seems without logic.
Of most importance is the actions of the film’s artificial intelligence – a sensible entity that appears to desire the protection of the wider world, via the destruction of the facility. Indeed, one feels that this destruction is well overdue, poor laboratory biosafety practices alone surely damming the place long before the infection. And yet Mr Anderson chooses to deny this sensible intelligence its victory, and allow several main characters to survive their experiences. This is disappointing.
As the production comes to its end, we see the true cost of this choice: a city in ruins. While I applaud this realism, I cannot help but feel that a greater practicality displayed by all parties could have avoided much unnecessary suffering. I understand that the film has several sequels – let us hope that Mr Anderson was able to exhibit a greater coherence in those future efforts.
Helen lives in the UK, where she works in science media and wastes too much time online. She has a degree in the history of science.