Ahh.. Resident Evil aka RE. One of the most beloved franchises in gaming history that revolutionized the Survival Horror genre hasn’t done as well when we look at its film counterparts (arguably, the games have also sucked since RE4 but hey, that’s not what this article wants to discuss). The live-action films were… mediocre at best, mostly action films that took inspiration from the source material and left me always desiring for more.
But the live-actions lacked one very important thing: character. And that’s where the story from the games deliver well (once again, let’s focus on RE 1-4 for discussion’s sake).
Then I met this gem of an animated film: Resident Evil: Damnation.
And I fell in love. It was like watching a cutscene compilation of whatever the characters from the games would do, such as crazy feats of slaying zombies and saving the world from B.O.W.s (Bio-Organic Weapons) once more, along with the campiness the series was known to have from the original games. So what did it do well? Let’s take a look.
DISCLAIMER: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film dives into exposition about a fictional take on the Soviet Union and the fall of the famed Berlin Wall and how the countries that supported the Soviet Union left one by one, focusing on the Eastern Slav Republic and how a rebellion rose. A civil war breaks out in the country and of course, we learn that B.O.W.s were involved. We get introduced to Leon S. Kennedy, our main character, and his colleague, who urges him to evacuate the country after the USA decides to terminate his mission. However, Leon mentions he wants to investigate the matter further and disobeys his orders.
He encounters a monster known as a Licker in a carpark after he finds the man he was apparently supposed to meet for information, who dies to his injuries. However, he gets knocked unconscious in the fight in an explosion. We then see a mysterious man that is able to control the monsters approach Leon’s unconscious body.
Rating: 7/10. It leaves a good impression on the viewer for quickly going into an action sequence this early into the film to keep expectations high. However, it does suffer from one problem: it requires past knowledge of the games’ story to understand fully what is truly happening and to appreciate it for what it aims to do, which is to deliver a film that stays true to the story that the games in the RE franchise has already established.
It might not be a good entry into the franchise as it is actually the second film in a series of RE animated films but this is an absolute treat for fans of the franchise, such as for me.
This film shows a good understanding of its characters and what the plot needs to make it a spectacle for the fans and is almost like a master class in how to make a video game adaptation of a film for fans to enjoy.
Rating: 7/10. Leon S. Kennedy can arguably be the best character in the show. He is depicted as a badass yet shows weaknesses by just being human. Other characters are okay and do what they do well, such as Buddy. The plot was kinda meh, but the characters do serve their purpose well and make our fan favorites look good and give us some sweet sweet action sequences that are both campy and fun to watch. Once again, though, the film is built off the source material so some character motivations are not explained well, and is mostly dependent on fans knowing their backstories.
- Leon S. Kennedy – Hands down, my absolute favorite character of the film, carrying the film as the main character as a badass without any equals among the cast. There was a very memorable scene where Leon runs out of bullets fighting B.O.W.s and after tossing away his pistol, he pulls out a military knife and prepares to fight with only that – What. A. Badass.
- Buddy – A teacher turned insurgent/rebel after his significant one died in the war, who turns on its head the cliche where another character decide to no longer use the B.O.W.s after the main character gives a heartfelt speech about how using them will take away everything from you. He rises up from being another bland, brooding rebel to earning his stripes to become a co-main character of sorts along with Leon with the dynamics of characters: Leon is strongly against the use of B.O.W.s in any situation VS Buddy who is willing to use any and all extreme methods to bring down the government’s tyranny. And we get fights where he controls the Lickers too, so I’m not complaining.
- JD – The first among the rebels to trust Leon, he initially served as comic relief, but seeing him die later was kind of a downer. Even Leon lamented his passing saying “I was looking forward to showing you America” after his fall to the Plaga. A nice foil to the more serious Buddy and he was annoying initially but that cheerfulness in times of war is contagious.
- Svetlana – The first female president of Eastern Slav and our main antagonist, she was also revealed later to be a former trainer of spies and had an awesome fight against Ada Wong. It was interesting to see a more “Cold War” take on the story with elements of modern politics and her having a character that can be cold and calculating is very disturbing too.
- The Eastern Slav Government and The Rebels – BIG MISSED OPPORTUNITIES. I know the film is supposed to just be about the B.O.W.s but come on, show us more on why we should root for either of them (or just the rebels since they were painted as the “good guys” here). The film could have played the ‘reluctant villain’ card for the government saying they need the money from selling the oil from the rebels’ land to serve the people better and just have scenes where soldiers try to avoid killing the rebels or something.
- Ada Wong – How can we ever forget our favorite spy in her signature red dress? She returns in this story and has a hidden agenda. I do find her a very interesting character, as she always seems to find herself wherever Leon is. That tiny dynamic is fun but she kinda feels out of place here. Other than the excellent fight scene with Svetlana, she doesn’t really serve much of a purpose other than being a fan favorite among fans. However, she feels shoehorned in and we could definitely do without her though.
Rating: 5/10. The plot is just passable and wasted. A civil war backdrop with B.O.W.s sprinkled in is an awesome opportunity but wasted as the civil war takes a backseat to the B.O.W.s very quickly. It’s possible the film wants to avoid boring its fans with politics as most of its action sequences involve Zombies/Plagas/Lickers in some way or form. We do get an easter egg in the form of a familiar boss monster from the games but the ending was sort of a cop out for me.
The worst plot hole was trying to explain why some of the rebels would turn into zombies upon infection by the Plagas virus but some don’t and can use the powers it grants. Really meh here but the action sequences, along with its strong characters, save the film from absolute mediocrity.
However, some of the scenes involving tense moments, especially the first encounter with the Licker, was top-notch and nails the atmosphere the games do. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, there is a sense of a campy action flick where Leon spits out badass one-liners that keep it feeling like its an extension of the RE games.
Rating: 7/10. Although the plot was merely a vehicle to push for RE in a civil war setting, it had a decent plot but excellent characters and atmosphere, and retains some campiness to keep it from feeling like the live-action flicks and lets it feel like a natural extension of the source material.
However, it also requires you know what the story in the games were about before diving in as it assumes that you do. But that’s a huge boon for fans as we get to see the characters we know and love from the games and see them go on an adventure like never before and it’s hella amazing.
This film is a testament that the RE franchise CAN and SHOULD get on the silver screen but please, let someone who knows the characters do them this time round, okay? Till next time!
P.S. Fans, Resident Evil: Vendetta is out too, will try to check out the film and review it when possible!