5 Things You Might Not Know About the Resident Evil Films
Today marks the release of the fifth movie in the Resident Evil film adaptation series, Resident Evil: Retribution. And recently, I was commissioned to write a book about the various Resident Evil franchises, The Unofficial Resident Evil Trivia Challenge, which was just released this month.
During the process of doing the huge amount of research for the book, I came across lots of little tidbits about the films, video games, adaptations, novels and comic books
Resident Evil was supposed to be a prequel to Resident Evil
When he first wrote the script for the original Resident Evil film, director Paul W. S. Anderson intended for the two storylines to be able to sync up, to some degree, even though the film stories aren’t canonical. Anderson deliberately set the movie before the events of the first game, revealing his version of the underground lab which Chris and Jill eventually find themselves exploring.
Anderson deliberately didn’t want to remake the game stories into films because he was concerned players would be bored seeing what would essentially be a straight port to the movie screen, and he took quite a few liberties with the source material to differentiate. Up through the third film, Resident Evil: Extinction, however, the movies were supposed to be at least something of a parallel, similar storyline to what was presented in the games. Anderson thought that Extinction, the film in which the T-Virus eventually leads to the general destruction of the entire world, was taking the Resident Evil series to its logical conclusion.
The stories diverge pretty distinctly with Resident Evil 4, which took Capcom’s story off in a different direction, and Resident Evil: Afterlife. The latter took the film series away from being similar to the games pretty much at all, other than incorporating some of the same characters and monsters.
Capcom took a few ideas from the movies
Resident Evil is by far the most successful game-to-film franchise going, and it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Capcom has noticed how well the movies do all over the world, and has taken a few cues from the films just as they have from the games. All of the film elements, even the ones that don’t seem grounded in the game lore or components, are at least inspired by things seen in the games. Faster zombies that appear in Extinction, for example, were drawn from Resident Evil 4 — even though the monsters in RE4 aren’t technically zombies. Anderson felt that the quicker monsters allowed him to speed up the zombies in the film, especially given a rash of “fast zombie” movies that had come out between Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction.
For Capcom’s part, a few game elements have been inspired by things that appeared in the films. Most notable are the Red Queen artificial intelligence and the “laser corridor,” both seen in the first Resident Evil film. The laser grid trap somewhat famously sliced up the members of the Umbrella paramilitary unit sent to investigate the underground lab in the film, wielded by the Red Queen. A version of the laser corridor appears in Resident Evil 4, with Leon Kennedy doing some gymnastics to avoid getting diced by it. The Red Queen shows up in The Umbrella Chronicles and was originally in charge of the Arklay Lab — which is its role in Resident Evil as well. The games don’t include the murderous AI part, though.
Resident Evil was originally “Alice in Zombieland”
The Resident Evil films are primarily about a character called Alice who never appears in the video game series, and the choice of name, as well as a number of other motifs in the first film, were all meant to create a layer of symbolism related to the Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The motif has a bit of a goofy execution, but comes up a number of times in the original film. For example, the characters open a door hidden behind a mirror in order to access the underground lab known as The Hive – they literally go “through the looking glass.” Several characters were arranged in shots in order to invoke elements from the story: in one scene, for example, the character of Matt is perched above the others in order to invoke Alice’s meeting with the caterpillar. Other characters played different roles from the story, such as the White Rabbit, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, and the Red Queen.
While this might have made for an interesting take on a zombie story, the motif was abandoned midway through shooting because it didn’t seem to be playing very well, and the final film includes a number of these elements that don’t really sync up together. The motif was referenced later, in Resident Evil: Extinction, with the addition of another Umbrella AI character called the White Queen.