What Went Right: Resident Evil Part I

By Shalimar Sahota

September 11, 2012

Fun fact: There are now more Resident Evil movies than Die Hards.

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“Adapting videogames into movies is a tricky business to get right,” says writer, director and producer Paul W.S. Anderson. He has directed three Resident Evil films as well as having written and produced all five (this includes the upcoming Resident Evil: Retribution). Films based on videogames tend to be cursed with a fair amount of negativity, including a somewhat automatic stigma that just because it’s based on a game means that it’s going to be awful. Critical reviews for the Resident Evil films would back up that theory, yet they have all turned in a profit, with the worldwide gross of each film bringing in more than the last. Anderson must be doing something right. I mean, who would have guessed that this franchise would spawn five films?

There will be a few spoilers within so if you haven’t seen any of the Resident Evil films, or played any of the games… well… I’m surprised you read this far.

Capcom’s Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan) was released on the Sony PlayStation back in 1996. The creation of developer Shinji Mikami, he described how he wanted to create something akin to an amusement park’s haunted house, and recalling George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, decided to go with zombies. The game involved players controlling Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, members of the Raccoon City Police Department’s S.T.A.R.S. team, investigating strange murder cases. Their search finds them trapped inside a mansion, looking for the rest of their team whilst trying to survive against numerous creatures, the result of an experiment by the Umbrella Corporation and their T-Virus. A landmark game, it popularized the survival horror sub-genre and expanded the story with sequels.


By the time the first film was released in March 2002, with the exception of a few spin-offs, there were four canonical Resident Evil games that had been released; Resident Evil, Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil Code Veronica. They had sold a combined total of 16 million copies worldwide. Whereas other videogame based movies have fallen by the wayside (though Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider do currently have a reboot in the works), one of the reasons that Resident Evil lends itself so well to a big screen adaptation is largely because the games themselves were inspired by movies. They’re essentially the gaming equivalent of B-movies.

The first Resident Evil film was greenlit in 1999, with a significant amount of its budget coming from Constantin Film, headed by producer Bernd Eichinger. Capcom had some say into what was in the film, but no real control. Given the game’s roots, who better to write and direct the film than George A. Romero? His script revolved around the mansion incident from the first game, with Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine as lead characters. However, according to Romero, Eichinger was not keen on his script, and after a couple of drafts, he was fired from the project. It also turned out that Romero based his script on watching a video playthrough of the first game. Eichinger then brought in Paul W.S. Anderson. He had adapted the Mortal Kombat videogame into a hit back in 1995. He also revealed that he grew up watching the movies that influenced the games, and that he had played through all the Resident Evil games. He wrote, directed and produced the film through his production company Impact Pictures, along with his producing partner Jeremy Bolt.

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