After the triumvirate of train wrecks that were the live-action Resident Evil movies, Capcom have been beavering away on their own CG movie that fits into the tangled narrative web that makes up Resident Evil’s convoluted world. Enter Resident Evil: Degeneration, a movie that ticks every box for the Resident Evil fanboys. Shady corporations? Check. Sneering villains? Check. Meathead soldier types? Check. Guns? Zombies? Mutants? Check, check, check.
Degeneration tells the story of a new outbreak of the G-Virus first featured in Resident Evil 2 where this new strain of the original game’s T-Virus originally played host to a whole new breed of monsters and introduced series stalwarts Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy. It’s fortunate then that the same protagonists from that very game happen to be on the scene to deal with yet another wave of zombie carnage as the T-Virus hits Harvardville Airport. The events of Degeneration take place one year after Resident Evil 4’s Las Plagas infection turned Spanish peasants into rampaging, pitchfork wielding nutters, and marks a return to the traditional T-Virus infected zombies of old and the pulsating mutant abominations of Resident Evil 2. The plot of the movie bridges the gap between Resident Evil 4 and the forthcoming Resident Evil 5 with a yarn that involves dodgy companies with dubious ethics, a new love interest for Leon and plenty of claret-soaked, zombie slaying action.
You can look at Degeneration as either a fully fledged chapter in the Resident Evil timeline or a feature length cut scene. In truth, it’s both and will either whet your appetite for Chris Redfield’s impending return in Resident Evil 5 or turn you off completely - it all really depends on how big a Resident Evil fan you are. Ultimately, Degeneration isn’t all that successful as a movie and feels more like a concept for a new Resident Evil game with an opening airport stage and then a vast facility split into four security levels, each ascending level representing a higher degree of danger. In fact you can’t help but think that Degeneration would have made a cracking Resident Evil game, but instead it’s a sub-standard movie, which seems a little like a wasted opportunity. Degeneration is by no means a bad movie, but the fact that its lead hero is even less expressive than his in-game counterpart is a real problem, making it difficult to identify with him or care what happens to him. Leon’s face remains fixed in the same vacant, glassy-eyed thousand-yard stare for the duration of the movie, which simply makes him an unsympathetic hero. Claire Redfield is far more interesting, but is marginalized and operates on the sidelines for the majority of the film, which is a shame.
Opening in Harvardville airport terminal, the first half of the movie follows a protest against the WilPharma Pharmaceutical Company followed by a T-Virus outbreak when a commercial aeroplane full of zombies ploughs into the central concourse. Watching zombies drop out of the wreckage is a disturbing image that has you itching to pick up a controller. Claire who now works for TerraSave is caught in the middle of the action after she arrives at the airport. Naturally, the Special Response Team show up in an effort to contain the outbreak, which is why they enlist the help of Leon, a veteran in dealing with these unique situations. While the movie’s opening moments are mildly entertaining, leading us gently into the head-popping action, there are no real scares to speak of, just a few gooey moments and some nasty jugular gnawing by the ravenous undead.
Naturally the media get involved when the zombies start shambling around the airport. Guess what happens to them. Yes
It’s during the second half of the film that the action begins to enter its stride and once the G-Virus is inevitably unleashed, we get to see yet another William Birkin-type monstrosity straight out of Resident Evil 2. Leon and SRT operative Angela Miller naturally become embroiled in the conspiracy and end up confronting the hideous beast in the movie’s best and most pivotal set-piece. It’s just as the movie starts to heat up that the credits roll, but not before offering a teasing glimpse of yet another shadowy corporation named TriCell who may or may not crop up in future Resident Evil titles.
We ended up wanting more from Degeneration, not because it’s particularly stellar stuff, but because we expected more. Degeneration is a seemingly pointless instalment in the Resident Evil canon that neither builds upon nor develops the overall mythology of the series. Claire and Leon share a few memories of their first encounter with the G-Virus in Raccoon City, which pays service to fans of the games, but otherwise there’s little in the movie of any consequence. We also remain unconvinced that any of the stuff featured in Degeneration will come to light in Resident Evil 5, which renders the story even more inconsequential. We may be proved wrong in time, but for now Degeneration’s story remains a self-contained chapter. It’s a film that’s worth watching if you’re a Resident Evil fan and proves to be a million times better than the live-action bilge we’ve seen thus far, but then this is faint praise. Still, we wouldn’t say no to a sequel and an expanded videogame version wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Watching the film made us desperate to revisit the games if nothing else.
The Blu-ray disc itself is a decent enough transfer with nice sharp picture quality and crisp, deep audio which does a good job disguising the otherwise plinky-plonky music. Voice acting is patchy and the lip-sync can sometimes look a bit off, but otherwise Degeneration is a fairly slick production for the most part.
The extras on the disc are largely pointless with a 30 minute documentary being the only extra of any real value. The rest is disposable fluff, some of which is frankly bizarre. For instance, the ‘Faux Leon Interview’ is a chat with the motion capture performer in full mo-cap suit talking about his role in the movie. It induces a couple of sniggers, but you’ll only ever watch it once. And the less said about the Voice Bloopers, the better.
Overall, Resident Evil: Degeneration is an essential purchase for the Resident Evil completist. For everyone else, it’s a curio that you’ll watch, enjoy and then quickly forget. Nonetheless, Degeneration is still well worth a rental.
Resident Evil: Degeneration Blu-ray Extras:
- Interactive Picture In Picture - The Generation Of Degeneration’ Featurette - Character Profiles - A Look At The Resident Evil 5 Videogame - Blooper Reel - Faux Leon Interview
- The Generation Of Degeneration’ Featurette
- Character Profiles
- A Look At The Resident Evil 5 Videogame
- Blooper Reel
- Faux Leon Interview
Running time: Approx 96 minutes
Overall Score: ................6.0