Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)
By: Mr Intolerance on January 15, 2010  | 
DVD
Sony (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 92 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Makota Kamiya
Voices: Paul Mercier, Alyson Court, Laura Bailey, Roger Craig Smith, Crispin Freeman, Michael Sorich
Screenplay: Shotaru Suga
Country: Japan
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
The irony to me about Resident Evil: Degeneration is that despite all the hate that film fans lambasted it with on its initial release ("Boo-hoo! It's a 92 minute cut-scene!"), it's actually the only feature length adaptation of Capcom's runaway survival horror franchise success story that's canon to the original idea of Resident Evil. Other complaints like, "Oh, it just looks like a computer game!" are equally null and void for the simple fact that it indeed is based on a computer game – so why shouldn't it look like that? Plus, you base your critique of any text on the merits of that text itself and not your expectations of it, and so without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Resident Evil: Degeneration!

Seven years after the US government sterilized Raccoon City after an outbreak of the T-Virus (a mutagen that in small does reanimates the dead as zombies, but in greater doses turns people into nightmarish monsters), our action begins in Harvardville. Via a montage that fills the gaps between the two time-frames, we can still see that the government is in cahoots with big business, and its almost a no-brainer that the Umbrella Organisation (the developers of the virus) are still out there, and doing dreadful things behind a new front. First of those terrible things – the creation of a new mutagen, the G-Virus. Opposed to these kind of biological shenanigans is eco-group Terra-Save, whose erstwhile prime activist Curtis Miller has gone underground, accused effectively of being a terrorist. There's a little bit more there than meets the eye, by the way.

At Harvardville airport, Senator Davis is arriving to attend a conference looking into the activities of WilPharma (Umbrella in all but name), and he's obviously a shady no-good character from the get-go, equally obviously in WilPharma's pocket. Unsurprisingly, Terra-Save are picketing the airport wanting their demands to be heard first hand by their elected representative. Also at the airport is our first familiar face, Clare Redfield (if you're familiar with the game series, you know the character, and if you don't, you should play more video games – you'll become a better person), now working for Terra-Save.

Approaching the airport is an airliner with a bit of a problem – a viral outbreak mirroring the one we're starting to see in the airport itself – zombies, folks! And the blood starts to fly! Especially when the plane-load of zombies crash into the terminal. Almost all of our main characters are on deck – the senator, Clare, the irritating child, Curtis Miller, and a bunch of expendable victims, so it's time for the action to begin. The military lock-down the site and the troops are sent in – and the word terrorism gets bandied around an awful lot. I kept wondering if this was a Japanese perspective on America's mindset about the "T" word, or one of their own.

Enter: all-round good guy, Leon S Kennedy, who's gone from humble rookie Raccoon City cop (Resident Evil 2), to special agent under the direct orders of the president (Resident Evil 4). Leon takes two SRT (think SWAT) soldiers with him and goes into the airport to rescue Clare and the others, and hopefully elude Miller – but his SRT help is actually more of a hindrance – why is it when people are told to shoot zombies in the head, they never listen, and then have to find out the hard way?     

And so we begin Act 2, oddly enough without having to go through a "boss fight" first. The political angle of the story and the role of WilPharma becomes a lot more complex (well, in a computer game kinda way), and there's some attempt made at characterization, albeit with pretty broad brushstrokes, and a hell of a lot of Scooby-Doo style exposition. In other words, just like a cut-scene in one of the games. That to me was the only frustrating aspect of Resident Evil: Degeneration – I kept waiting for the bits where I could get involved and start blasting zombies and mutants myself! I did immediately go to my trusty old PS2 and load up the Mercenaries mini-game on Resident Evil 4 as soon as the film was over, I must say. But I digress.

Having escaped the airport massacre, defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory when WilPharma's convoy of T-Virus antidote is blown up, and Leon, Clare and Angela (an SRT operative and Miller's younger sister) have to save the day. Clare heads off to WilPharma's head office with a rather shifty head researcher of theirs, while Angela and Leon go off to try to find Curtis Miller (whose enviro-friendly, anti-big business terrorism seems a little more understandable considering he lost his wife and child in the Umbrella-led cluster-fuck that was the outbreak in Raccoon City) before he gets up to some no-good.

Things start deteriorating rapidly at around this point, and a few misconceptions we might have been having get cleared up tout de suite. A bomb goes off in the WilPharma building – guess who's been working on the G-Virus, by the way – and Leon and Angela head on down to save Clare. Now, the film had been sagging a little until this point – the traditional second act slump that B-grade films are often prey to; exposition and building relationships and such, but the pay off is definitely in the third act, when the director just starts hurling action set piece after action set piece at the audience. Sure, none of it's terribly original or groundbreaking, but it's definitely as entertaining as all get out, and it's where the guns really start blazing and also where your speakers get the biggest workout, too, in what becomes one big race for the finish line. Y'see, somebody's infected themselves with the G-Virus, the violence escalates wildly, chaos ensues, and there's an all new apocalypse just around the corner…   

It seems a little redundant maybe to have to lecture folks who've lived through the whole War on Terror/poison gas in the subways/anthrax/Weapons of Mass Destruction scares about the dangers of terrorism and biological warfare, but that seems to be part of the agenda here. Sure, some of the above (the WMDs, most obviously) were only scares whereas some of them (9/11 and the Falun Gong) were all too horribly real. But Resident Evil: Degeneration really does labour the point – and that very idea sits badly with me, being somewhat too right-wing and reactionary for my taste. Particularly in what is ostensibly and nominally an anti-authoritarian and left-wing film. When does a freedom fighter become a terrorist? Or vice versa? Guess it's all down to your point of view, huh?

Strengths? Plenty. Resident Evil: Degeneration features a lot of zombie-blasting action, stays 100% true to the spirit of the games and visually is pretty impressive to look at. As a zombie film, it's kinda neat and ticks all of the boxes, thankfully avoiding the inevitable "siege at the end of the film" set piece/cliché that most zombie films fall prey to. The plot's kind of neat, if obviously aimed at a much younger audience than a crusty old bastard like myself, in terms of its twists and turns, which are a little lazily scripted at times. A film is not a computer game, after all. Weaknesses? A few. The voice acting suffers from the kind of melodrama that computer games are prone to, trying to transmit a lot of information quickly through stereotypes and clichés – the character of Senator Davis being a cringe-inducing example. People deliver lines that no-one would say outside the realms of a gaming franchise, and if you're not a keen fan of the series, you might find a fair bit of distance between yourself and the action. A fella I know described the experience of watching the film as "cold" – good action scenes, fine animation, but no emotional connection whatsoever. I guess them's the breaks when you're watching an animated film. I can understand the point, but rabid fan of the franchise that I am, I can overlook it.
Video
Well, the picture is entirely CG animation, so that might infliuence your opinion in terms of what makes a "good" image. Me, I don't like CG much, but I do like modern computer games, which this rather obviously looks like. The motion seems a little unnatural (odd considering the use of motion capture suits and such in the making of the film), but I've got no real problem with the way this looks. After all, it's a cartoon, when it comes down to it.
Audio
5.1 sound with gunfire and explosions from all directions – in other words, it's pretty neat! Loud and crystal clear.
Extra Features
As a package it's not what you'd call comprehensive, but it'll do, particularly as this is a cartoon, and watching animatics gives me a headache. First cab off the rank is a "making of" featurette, which is definitely worth a watch – this wasn't simply created by a whole bunch of animators in a Chinese sweat-shop being paid a dollar a week; a lot went into making Resident Evil: Degeneration, and possibly more than you'd think. There's a bunch of trailers for the film (the teaser, two different Comic-Con trailers, one from the 2008 Tokyo Game Show and the theatrical trailer), some text character profiles which allow you to watch action montages of those characters, some voice bloopers (basically, re-voiced scenes for comedic effect; sometimes works well and are quite amusing, sometimes…), a faux-interview with Leon (annoying kind of self-aware pseudo-ironic boasting and self aggrandizing – the interview is with the fella who plays Leon, not the animated character, which might well have been funnier), "special footage" from the game Resident Evil 5 (which was released a few months after the film, although it doesn't share any of the same characters – the footage consists of a "theatrical" trailer, and the 2008 Tokyo Game Show trailer) and trailers for Standard Operating Procedure, The Edge of Love, Step Brothers and My Best Friend's Girl. And that's yer lot.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Realistically, Resident Evil: Degeneration is aimed fair and square at the fans of the video game franchise. The live action films with Milla Jovovich have a much broader audience appeal simply due to the fact that they feature live action as opposed to computer animation. That to me is going to be the sticking point for any potential viewer, so I'll just say that if you don't dig the games, I pity you because they're really top shelf (for the better part), and you won't enjoy this film at all. Don't even bother - there's really nothing much here for you. If you do dig the games, then I call you brother, and fire this baby up on yer DVD player. It won't change your life, but it'll entertain you, and it'll provide a nice link between Resident Evil 4 and Leon's next whacky splatterific adventure on your console of choice. Not essential, but fun, nevertheless.

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