The Resident Evil video game franchise has somehow grown into something that can be called under ‘iconic status’ since the first game debuted in 1996. Capcom introduced and defined the survival-horror genre in the world of video games that the Resident Evil franchise birthed numerous video game sequels (with Resident Evil 6 on its way) and spin-offs. It even inspired a Hollywood movie franchise (the 5th movie sequel just recently released). The world of Resident Evil seems to be here for the much longer haul; re-mastered games, new characters and stories had been introduced to keep the franchise alive. Sure, I may be in a slight disadvantage since the last game I played was Resident Evil 4 but even then, director Makoto Kamiya’s follow-up to the first RE CGI flick “Resident Evil: Degeneration” is fit as a standalone action-horror flick and is easy to get into.
“Resident Evil: Damnation” (Japanese Title: “Biohazard Damnation”) is a prequel to the upcoming game RE:6 and fans of the franchise will easily recognize Leon Kennedy (from the second RE game) as the main protagonist. In this fictional world, the East and the West have been divided, and following the fall of the Berlin wall and Russia embracing the Western way of life and of capitalism, some breakaway nations were formed and among them was the Eastern Slav Republic. Seems like the accelerated change in economic structure had sparked a civil war.
Caught in all of this is federal agent Leon Kennedy (Matthew Mercer), sent in to acquire solid intel that Bio-Organic Weapons were being used so that the U.S. and Russia can get involved in the war. Despite being ordered to withdraw, Leon chooses to stay to uncover the real truth behind the dealings of President Svetlana Belikova (Wendee Lee). What Leon uncovers is something much more he had expected and this forces him to aid freedom fighters, Sasha (Dave Wittenberg) and J.D. (Val Tasso) in their struggle against Belikova. Oh, and then there is also voluptuously sexy Ada Wong (Courtenay Taylor) who has her own mysterious agenda…
Being a prequel to a coming video game, “Damnation” does not exactly introduce intricacies in its plot and devices. While the film does make action its central focus, and it achieves success in this department, the plot by itself is pure escapism much like the U.S. Resident Evil flicks. That is just what fans may have been asking for, the film was meant to whet the appetite of its fans. The film does not break new ground, it does not try to do anything ambitious, just so it could focus everything in the introduction of its characters in the upcoming game, at the same time set the groundwork through several revelations for its plot.
The film while capturing some political themes and maybe a subtle commentary about the possible corruptions of capitalism, is a just a way to adhere the genre, show dedication to its characters and backgrounds. Leon is his usual bad ass self while Ada Wong has her usual cunning, femme fatale personality. It expands the RE universe, lets the viewer into its fictional new technology and even comes up with some twists in this prequel. The film is a display of how far Capcom had come in evolving their CGI engine and appease fans of their need of some fun CGI blood and gore. If you look at it this way, then you would not be disappointed.
Sure, there really is nothing gripping or immersive in the film’s plot, but it is pretty straight-forward and is intriguing in its own way. It goes into a flow of introducing twists while it focuses on the action scenes as it shapes the story. The animation work may not be as impressive as those seen in “Final Fantasy: Advent Children” or even “Brave”, but it is superior to “Kaena” and to the recent “Starship Troopers: Invasion” in a variety of ways. I liked the way the CGI engine emulated textures and I enjoyed the way it mimicked skin tone. The set designs and layouts were also pretty impressive as I did feel that I was in a very different part of the world. I did have some issues with the facial expressions, that despite the decent voice-acting and solid character designs, it was hard to differentiate one emotion from another. However, there is a lot of action to be had with “Damnation”, granted they lacked the emotional content necessary to drive suspense and drama, but they CGI work was really pretty in the delivery of the CGI violence. The monsters (Lickers, zombies and Tyrants) were well-executed, and they looked pretty scary and intimidating in their own right.
“Resident Evil: Damnation” is the kind of movie meant for fans of the video game franchise, since it would be easy to connect its plot to the script of the video games. It is as simple and linear as expected. The action drives the pace, even has some subtle humor and sensuality, the gore is heavenly, the drama is a bit canned, but the film does have its successes. Purists and casual fans of the video games is sure to be satisfied with its fine animation and voice-work, even newcomers may be enticed to shell out some cash for Resident Evil 6. It is a good prequel to promote RE:6. It isn’t the best video-game inspired flick, but once you consider the fact that the video games themselves do not have many solid movies under its belt, this movie can hold its own.
Timid Recommendation to Fans of the Games, a RENTAL for everybody else. [3 Out of 5 Stars]