Keeping in tune with my previous post about Resident Evil I felt the need to tackle one of the better films I have watched in regards to video game adaptations. Resident Evil Degeneration is a CGI animated film about the events in between the games Resident Evil 4 and 5. This is a film that takes pre-existing characters within the series and connects their stories to other canonical stories. Think of it as a bridging film of sorts, one that references elements within the franchise yet remains its own singular story. Whereas the live action film tried to blaze its own path and reinvent the franchise, Degeneration tried to remain relevant to the canon of the game.
So first off let’s delve into why this is a potentially good viewing experience. Degeneration is a story involving two of Resident Evil’s leads in their respective games. Leon S. Kennedy is a wise-cracking, gruff and stubbornly unkillable veteran of the series, and Claire Redfield is our bland protective environmental activist against bioweapons after her time during the Racoon City outbreak. These two characters are our main focuses and because this is merely a side story, neither of these two characters can go through significant changes. Yes that means our leads have already developed previously and we only are able to see the outcome of that growth throughout the movie. That doesn’t mean that the characters they are within the movie are boring or particularly dull, it just means that it is expected for them to remain the same way from start to finish. There is no reshaping of ideals, or possible breakdowns, so expect them to be two protagonists on their optimistic A-game throughout the film.
Degeneration’s plot is something relatively complex within the world of Resident Evil, incorporating a lot of political mumbo jumbo and scientific exposition. Expect it to go down as, corporations are evil, politicians are evil, and our heroes are always right. They try to shove into our face a bunch of information via news feeds montage in the beginning of the film, yet a lot of that is done in rushed cuts glancing over names and incidents relatively fast. That is primarily the focus of Claire Redfield’s involvement in Degeneration, where Leon S. Kennedy’s plotline is more a personal experience of the bioterrorism within the world of Resident Evil. The film attempts to tackle two entirely different views of the bioterrorism within the same film. It splits its focus into two stories, one built on a more thematic focus tying into the series as a whole and the other a personal story relatable only to those in this particular film.
The first story told is Claire Redfield’s tale of WilPharma and corporate espionage to sell trade secrets to terrorists for money. The film starts off with Claire in an airport as a politician, Senator Ron Davis is under attack by activists and being escorted discretely through the airport. Of course zombies happen and the airport becomes under sieged by the undead hordes as the ridiculous situation elevates with an airplane crashing through the airport with zombies on board. This opening sequence is boring and tedious, most of Claire’s storyline is boring and tedious with an obvious message. Every political or corporate figure met in the movie is bad, telegraphed a mile away and showcased every second those types of characters are on screen. WilPharma is essentially the next Umbrella Corporation and yes they come with the same baggage as Umbrella did there is no mystery to that. This can make the discussions between corporate executives and political officials very one note, with both sides only speaking to show how horrible the corporate sect truly is. There is no ludicrous notion within this plotline, playing it more by the books as a corporate thriller within the Resident Evil world rather than embracing the tone of the series. Even the live action movies did that a bit better than this plotline and they weren’t directly tied into the plot of the game franchise.
Leon S. Kennedy’s plotline is probably one of the best Resident Evil storylines in the cinematic sense. While Resident Evil is always about the corporations being evil, there is almost always a personal element in the stories. Seeing the repercussions of corporate greed upon the average man. We watch as Leon trudges through yet another biological nightmare fighting off hordes of zombies and connecting with the people he fights with. The Miller siblings in this film are that core connection we see in regards to that personal impact of people playing with other people’s lives. We watch as Angela tries to understand why her brother is taking such extremes in order to prove a point by using the G and T-Viruses. This is a story about the little man being torn apart by decisions made through people with power.
The only problem with this story as a whole is that while all of this may be true, the execution of the idea is shaky at best. Due to the first thirty minutes of the film being dedicated to the airport section, it only gives the film an hour to deal with this plotline and to tidy up Claire’s. Therefore a lot of this is not told in an easy to digest manner, but rather through long bouts of exposition to make way for large action set pieces. That is not to say they don’t have good moments to it. The reunion between the Miller siblings is emotional as we see Angela unable to convince her brother to step off that ledge of anger and be consumed by his hate. Watching Curtis burn down his house without a hint of expository dialogue is still a good scene to watch, even if it is a tad bit clichéd and done to death. Even the inclusion of this plotline actually makes the ending of Claire’s comeuppance towards the corporate figures somewhat redeemable since it incorporates the aftermath of Angela and Leon’s fight against the mutated Curtis. There is this level of competency in regards to this film that makes even the dull corporate storyline redeemable in some way even if it still mostly remains derivative and simplistic.
In a way the best part of this film was the airport section and the fight with mutated Curtis, or just simply the action segments of the film. The CGI in this movie is extremely passable by today’s standards in regards to so many other CGI anime movies. The mouths move crisply in time with the dialogue, the movements in fight choreography is impressive and it still holds up today in compared to other CGI works in the anime scene. The zombie reveal sequence is hilariously dark in how it explodes with ramping consequences, first having a small time cop trying to arrest a protestor and then a plane with zombies dropping out of it rams into the airport. That is the level of intensity and insanity you want to see from such a fun series, yet what bogs it down is the film’s incessant desire to tie itself into the video game series. The consistent mention of a political thriller intermixed in this film slows it down in some pivotal points. We switch to multiple locations, yet the only one that was used to a smart extent was the airport. We saw every crevice of that airport hunted through, we live through the claustrophobia of its halls, yet the entire section of the airport was quarantined to 30 minutes of this entire film. The rest were meant to finish Claire Redfield’s plotline or create an intriguing action set piece for mutated Curtis to thrash about in.
For all of Degeneration’s flair, it still manages to hold itself up through Leon, the Miller siblings and some well plotted action and cinematography. While it won’t win any awards for anything, Degeneration still manages to be a fun time for fans of the series.
Now while I think Degeneration is a passable film, it has less impact due to its accessibility. There is something exclusive about the film, which feels like only a niche audience can truly enjoy the full brunt of it. For no matter how hard I ribbed on Resident Evil in my last video game adaptation post, Paul WS Anderson knew how to appeal to a larger audience. Making a more easily digestible idea of b-movie horror and using the source material as needed, but never relying too heavily on it. What it really brings in as a question is “Does accessibility play into how good a film is?”
Accessibility for a franchise or singular film is huge for box office numbers or even widespread appeal to a movie going audience. When the word adaptation comes to my mind, it directly correlates with accessibility. When we go to the movies what is the first thing that comes to our mind when we buy the ticket? We want to get our money’s worth. We want to be entertained by the film we are giving hours of our time to. That sense of enjoyment can go completely out the window when we are completely out of the loop of the story at hand. When we think we are missing valuable pieces to a puzzle we can get inherently irritated. Degeneration is a film that while it is a standalone experience, has a direct correlation with the video game series. This correlation is brought to task on the audience when they are watching the movie. Degeneration dedicates little time to building up the characters of Claire and Leon or even the world at hand, more passing it over with a cursory glance rather than informing us of what is happening.
We as the moviegoing audience is directly left out of the loop, and while it may be a standalone film it manages to shoot itself in the foot with that very purpose. Adhering too heavily to the source can alienate the average moviegoer and why sometimes video game movies fail. They fail because they can’t see past the fanbase. Trying to shove in numerous elements to appease people who will already go out of their way to watch the film, instead of appealing to those who need convincing. Degeneration makes the cardinal sin of any movie, it throws away accessibility in order to appease the fans. The story is good, but never reaches the height it could have if they dedicated more time to it instead of reminding fans of the series of elements from the games. For no matter how superior Degeneration is to WS Anderson’s live action take on the franchise, it will always play second fiddle in the cinematic sense.
When you recommend someone a film to watch, which one comes to mind? The niche Degeneration or the insane live action b-movie horror with the bad one liners? That is the state of affairs that some video game adaptations are given, one’s where he clearly don’t receive the best product possible when the potential is right there staring us in the face. Accessibility is a big part in how a film is received in the way of adaptations and it shows when you ask people if they have seen the Resident Evil movie. Most will think of the live action one.
So that’s it for me! Have you seen Degeneration? Comparing WS Anderson’s live action Resident Evil to Degeneration, which do you prefer? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a great day!