Resident Evil: The Games vs. The Movies

With another cinematic turd on the way, Rod takes us back through the Resident Evil movie franchise and where they took inspiration from the games… or ignored them completely. 

Resident Evil (1996) was the beginning of what would become one of the most successful video game franchises in the survival horror genre. Despite the limitations of the time, it was a really immersive experience that added to the B-movie feel. Resident Evil 2 (1998) was even more successful than its predecessor. It even had a live-action advertisement for the domestic market (the game series is known as Biohazard in Japan) directed by George A. Romero, the “Grandfather of the Modern Zombie Genre.” who established that zombies eat the flesh of the living in Night of the Living Dead (1968) and continued the series with Dawn of the Dead (1978) and so on.

It would be no surprise, then, that Romero was offered the Resident Evil movie, and in 1999, he wrote a screenplay with the intention to direct. However, Capcom weren’t happy with the screenplay and decided not to go with his version. Later, Paul W.S. Anderson, who had previously directed Mortal Kombat (1995), Event Horizon (1997) and Soldier (1998), pitched Capcom his idea for a Resident Evil movie and they were duly impressed, giving him the job of writing and directing.

The result was Resident Evil (2002) starring Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, James Purefoy, Eric Mabius, and Colin Salmon. The first film pretty much acts as a prequel to the events depicted in the first game, because you don’t have any characters from the series appearing or even mentioned, and there’s no references to events happening at the same time. The only character in one of the games that is referenced by name is “Nemesis,” the Tyrant that stalks players in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999). This is at the end of the film when the character Matt, played by Mabius, is going to be the test subject who becomes Nemesis.

The other references to the games that are in the first film are: the T-Virus, the Umbrella Corporation, and the close-up of Alice’s eye as she wakes up. Also, the location she awakes in is a mansion referencing the Spencer one  in Resident Evil, which acts as a front for the underground Umbrella facility. A statue Alice examines is similar in design to those found in the first game, too, and crows are visible and can be heard when Alice investigates outside the “Mansion.” The underground train looks similar to the one in Resident Evil 2, except this version bears the moniker “Alexi-5000″ which is a reference to the villain named Alexia Ashford who appears in Resident Evil: Code Veronica (2000). There’s also the Licker from Resident Evil 2, the Cerberus (zombie dogs), and the S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics and Rescue Service) logo that’s visible on the police cruiser wherein Alice swipes a shotgun at the end of the film.

The first film was enough of a success to guarantee that the cinematic franchise would continue forward. Even though the first has its flaws, I personally think it’s the best live-action version (there are two really good CG-animated movies that actually exist in the same universe as the games, unlike the live-action version). Anderson’s initial effort wasn’t as overblown as what the others became.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) stars Jovovich returning as Alice, Sienna Guillory as Jill Valentine, Oded Fehr as Carlos Olivera, Zack Ward as Nicholai Ginovaeff, Iain Glen as Dr. Isaacs, Jared Harris as Dr. Charles Ashford, Sophie Vavasseur as Angela Ashford, Thomas Kretschmann as Major Timothy Cain, and Mike Epps. Anderson wrote the screenplay and acted as producer, but didn’t return to direct (he was busy with Alien vs. Predator at the time) and instead the director’s job was given to Alexander Witt for his debut.

The film is set in Raccoon City which is where Resident Evil 2 and 3 took place, so you would expect to see Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield, Leon S. Kennedy, William Birkin, Annette Birkin, or Sherry Birkin at some point. Well, you’ve got Jill, and while she definitely looks like Jill Valentine, she doesn’t act anything like the Jill from the games. There is no mention of her affiliation with Chris, or any mention of Leon or Claire being in the city, or even any mention of the creation of the G-Virus by William Birkin. Or, indeed, any of the events that take place in the Resident Evil 2 game. Alice meets Valentine, and Resident Evil 3‘s Olivera and Ginovaeff are incorporated into the film series, and they are actually closer to their video game counterparts than the others, at least in terms of them being soldiers working for Umbrella. Oh, and S.T.A.R.S. members are shown in this film except that none of them are from the games, and they get taken out pretty quickly for people supposed to be the best at what they do.

Everything that happens in the films from Apocalypse onwards can be considered part of a separate universe from the events and characters in the games, because everything you know about what happened and what the protagonists went through is altered or left out entirely. The characters from the games are made to suit the existence of Alice, instead of the other way around, which is what I would have preferred. It was entirely possible for Alice to have her own experiences in Raccoon City without coming into contact with any of the characters from the games, and if she were to come into contact with them, it could be done in such a way that it doesn’t mess with the events that take place in the games, or disrupts what the characters were doing.


Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) has Jovovich returning once again as Alice, Fehr returning as Carlos, Glen returning as Dr. Isaacs, Epps returning as L.J, and also stars Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, Ashanti, Spencer Locke, Christopher Egan, Jason O’Mara, Madeline Carroll, Matthew Marsden, and Linden Ashby. The latter played Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat. Anderson again wrote the screenplay and acted as producer but didn’t direct. Instead, the director of Razorback (1984), Highlander (1986) and Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), Russell Mulcahy, takes the helm.

This film excludes Jill Valentine and instead introduces Miss Redfield into the film series, and she doesn’t look anything like her game counterpart, or mentions anything that happened to her prior to the events of this film. Essentially, her backstory here is unknown. All we know is that after Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Carlos somehow met Claire who is in charge of a convoy of survivors travelling across the country. Albert Wesker is introduced into the films as well but doesn’t really do much here because he has a larger role in the next two films. There are only a handful of references to the games in this one, such as the crows that attack the convoy, the Cerberus, and Dr. Isaacs turns into a Tyrant that looks similar in design to what William Birkin mutates into after injecting the G-Virus into himself. That’s about it.

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) has Jovovich coming back as Alice, Larter returning as Claire Redfield, Spencer Locke returning as K-Mart, Wentworth Miller as Chris Redfield, Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker, Sienna Guillory returning as Jill Valentine, Boris Kodjoe, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Kacey Barnfield, Norman Yeung, Mika Nakashima, Ray Olubowale, and Kim Coates (who also starred in the first Silent Hill movie).

The fourth film was heavily influenced by Resident Evil 4 (2005), a game that sees Leon S. Kennedy, now working as a government agent, tasked with rescuing the US President’s daughter, Ashley Graham, from a cult. There are no zombies in this game. Instead, the enemies are humans that have had creatures called “Las Plagas” implanted in them, which take over their body but still allows them to pass for human. However, when they are injured or killed, the Las Plagas parasite may erupt and attack until it is killed as well.

These “Ganados,” as the infected villagers were called, were introduced in Resident Evil: Afterlife but there is no explanation given for their appearance, and so they are pretty much thrown into the mix to make things a bit different to the previous films. It doesn’t feel like there’s any other reason for them being in the film in terms of the story. Also in Afterlife is a huge Majini from Resident Evil 5 (2009). The Majini are the African equivalent of the Ganados but they are carrying an advanced form of the Las Plagas parasite. This towering Majini carries a massive sledgehammer.

As with the previous entries in the film saga, a character from the video game series is introduced and doesn’t mention any of their experiences in said games, and in this film’s case, it is Chris Redfield. Claire never mentions her brother in Resident Evil: Extinction, and in this one, since she has amnesia, she doesn’t recognise him but he recognises her and informs her that they are siblings. Jill appears in a post-credits sequence with the metal bug she had in her chest, similar to the one Claire herself had in her chest at the beginning of the film, signifying that she’s under Umbrella control.

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) starred Jovovich as Alice yet again, with Boris Kodjoe returning as Luther West, Sienna Guillory returning as Valentine, Shawn Roberts returning as Albert Wesker, Michelle Rodriguez returning as Rain (from the first Resident Evil movie, but in this one she’s a clone), Colin Salmon returning as One (another clone), Oded Fehr returning as Carlos Olivera (two clones of this character – one good and one evil), Johann Urb as Leon S. Kennedy, Kevin Durand as Barry Burton, Li Bingbing as Ada Wong, as well as Megan Charpentier, Aryana Engineer, and Mika Nakashima.

Three characters from the video games are introduced here, and they are Leon S. Kennedy, Barry Burton, and Ada Wong. There is no explanation as to how these three characters meet, which definitely isn’t surprising at this point, and it’s safe to assume that whatever they experienced before their appearance in this film, it isn’t what their video game counterparts experienced. Aside from the Las Plagas zombies, other references to the games are the metal bug on Jill’s chest, Alice and Ada’s fight being reminiscent of the one betwween Leon and Ada in Resident Evil 4, and an action scene inspired by Resident Evil 5 where the characters are driving while being chased by zombies.

The only real similarities between the characters as they’re depicted in the movies is in how they look. Well, some of them at least. In Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Jill wears her outfit from Nemesis, and in Afterlife and Retribution, she wears her duds from Resident Evil 5. Also in Retribution, Leon wears his get-up from Resident Evil 4, Barry is in his gear from the very first, and Ada Wong wears her ensemble from Resident Evil 4.

Those are the influences the games had on the movies, but what were the affects of the films on the games? The first game to incorporate things from the films was 4, which was released a year after Resident Evil: Apocalypse came out. The main reference being the appearance of a laser corridor, just like in the first and third movies. From here on out, the influences that the movies had on later games is in terms of their tone, which changes from being focused on brooding suspense and gritty horror, to being more about the action and spectacle. Resident Evil 5, to me, is still a good game in the canon but it definitely does focus more on action. However, it still had moments of what made the previous games the great survival horror titles they are. Chris Redfield has massive arms and is able to punch boulders! Sheva is his partner in 5 and they work together, marking her first appearance in any Resident Evil games. She has yet to be put into a movie…

Then comes Resident Evil 6 (2012), which is the most action-oriented video game in the entire saga. Admittedly, I haven’t played through the full game, but I have seen other people play portions of it throughout the whole story at certain points. From the little first-hand experience I had, I can safely conclude that Resident Evil 6 is 90% action and 10% survival horror. It looks like a game trying to bring in the non-survival horror crowd, such as those who enjoy playing the Call of Duty games (which I like as well) but might not usually play efforts like Resident Evil.There were rumours about the Alice character from the films being incorporated into the game series at some point, and this is something I would definitely not want to see happen. My dream is that after the film series ends (hopefully) with the sixth entry (currently in development, rumoured for a 2016 release to coincide with the 20th Anniversary of Resident Evil), that there will be a reboot of some kind years later.

Overall, the influences of the games on the movies have been larger in number compared to the influences the films have had on the games. But you can clearly see the shift in tone and atmosphere that has occurred in the latter titles in the series. I hope that the games will return to their survival horror roots, as was the case with Resident Evil: Revelations.

Rod Petrie

Gamer since 1988 at the age of five. First system was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Favourite retro systems - NES, SNES, N64, MegaDrive, PS1, and PS2.

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