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Wednesday
Oct112017

Resident Evil: A Bloody Valentine

By Salim Garami

What's good?

We're already one week into October and so that means a lot of us are in the middle of binging our favorite Halloween watches or trying out some new ones. Personally, I'm revisiting the long-time zombie science fiction action franchise Resident Evil, based on Capcom's survival horror games that made up my childhood and starring the brilliant Milla Jovovich as apocalypstic ass-kicker Alice (self-promotion moment: it's more than likely I'm going to be writing about the series on Motorbreath within the month) and I have a bit of an observation about the concept of the character that I think might at least amuse the Actressexuals among this site's audience...

Not to say that these are exactly great works of art or even ones that hit their target of being flawless action-horror cinema. They're very much dated of their early 2000s nu-metal aesthetic time (and later of the turn of the decade's crazed obsession with translating those metallic setpieces into 3D visual rides), but I do find them to crazy fun guilty pleasures with a lot of heart involved in them. And I mean a lot of personal love in the material, not that red beating hunk of physical meat that horror movies like to rip out of corpses.

More than meets the eye.

The thing that really sells Resident Evil as entertainment is their function as the low-key vehicles of Milla Jovovich's career. Not as much to make her a household name in this day and age, but enough to cement Alice as her signature role at this point. Alice as a character plays entirely to her strengths as a personality - the ability to sell steely survivalism in a manner at once more sexy and plausible (for a video game about clones battling zombies, monsters, undead pooches, and all that other weird stuff) than most modern-day action heroes. Over the course of the film franchise, we see her ride a chopper into a church wielding a shotgun,dodge moving lasers, jump off a building to into a helicopter, and so many frequent action star dream setpieces that would look ridiculous in a 1980s Cannon production, let alone a modern zombie horror film with "cutting-edge" technology. But she sells every inch of Alice's superhuman badassery.

And her performance alongside the character's shaping out over the course of producer-writer Paul W.S. Anderson's six screenplays affords Alice more dignity than one would believe possible in a franchise of such trashy roots as this. But then Alice is still afforded some semblance of an arc at least within each film if not one wholly consistent one. Certainly the fact that Retribution gives her a blatant Aliens-influenced maternal anchor while The Final Chapter is eager to give her a final sendoff with weight and a sense of satisfaction to everything the character went through is not something to scoff at.

There are clear reasons for this: one is just that Jovovich loves the character and wants to be able to show how kickass she is, but she's not the only one. Anderson is not only the main authorial voice behind the majority of the franchise (he directed 4 of the 6 movies), he's also married to Jovovich and the two had been together since the beginning of the franchise. It's impossible to imagine Anderson's affection for Jovovich as a person isn't a variable in crafting one unbeatable action heroine and tailoring it to his wife's strengths as an actress and circumventing her limitations*, which is why I'm almost certainly not the first person to note this objectification (though the franchise hesitates on - but doesn't avoid - going gazey. Jovovich's nude appearances feels more clinical than sexual).

In any case, "I made a whole film franchise to show how cool my wife is" is hardly the noblest reason to create art, but it ends feeling sweet anyway by the end of their work. Jovovich and Anderson both clearly love working together almost as much as they might love spending time together and they appear to be more than proud with the character they've created by the end of it all, a personal action hero that can catch our attention she's on the screen. It only goes to show how much more enjoyable movies are when you can feel the passion behind them and whatever else we can say about the movie surrounding them, that passion Anderson and Jovovich have for each other has resulted in the most compelling horror movie lead since Ellen Ripley left the building.

And that's not faint praise.

*My personal favorite anecdote of Milla IS Alice: Anderson including a moment in Apocalypse where Alice drops her gun and then dives for it before it hits the ground to shoot her enemies after Milla dropped a cigarette and caught it in a similar fashion.

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Reader Comments (4)

Salim: As far as "most compelling woman in any sort of horror franchise since Ripley left the building", I think I'd throw forward Jennifer Tilly's Tiffany Valentine for that honour before I stumped for Milla Jovovich's Alice.

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I have no shame in admitting I love this series. The first and last entry are pretty terrible, but the rest is pretty fun. I'm cool with fun action horror since way too many entries in the genre take themselves far too seriously. Plus, Milla Jovavich is awesome even in the worst films.

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Volvagia: Tiffany Valentine IS great, so you have me there. Not sure I'd hold her above Alice but I love both characters. I guess I should have said lead, but then it'd be hard not to shrug that the franchise may be called Chucky, but Tiffany's been co-lead for at least two great movies.

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSTinG

They have some spectacular set pieces

October 11, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjaragon

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