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Review - Resident Evil: Vendetta

By Yoamiwaii, Oct 8 2017 08:00AM

[Article By: Amiwaii]

A third foray for the CGI movies series brings Leon S. Kennedy back to our screens with Chris Redfield and Rebecca Chambers in tow to take on more virus-born nightmares.

It’s not often you get to see these types of movies turn up at a mainstream cinema chain, so I jumped at the chance to see a limited screening run by the Showcase Cinema on 14th June 2017. Having the cinema ambience just felt like an extra treat to go along with the viewing. It wasn’t a particularly packed out showing I attended, though having only discovered it was playing almost last minute myself, maybe it was a case that many people didn’t know it was on. Aside, it was nice not to have too full a cinema; it was a very chilled out atmosphere.

Vendetta was definitely one of the movies I was looking forward to seeing, as a bit of a Rebecca Chambers fan, but after seeing the film, I have a rather mixed opinion about it. The CGI was beautifully animated and an absolute treat to behold, and particularly the opening sequence invoked some wonderful nostalgia of the Resident Evil of old, while some of the latter action scenes were pretty engaging and well planned out. Unfortunately, the plot itself wasn’t all that great and flowed in a clunky manner, even slowing the film down at points so they could pour on the exposition.

The movie opens with what I wished had been the main setting of the entire plot. A dark mansion in the depths of the wilderness. The design, the atmosphere, it all screamed Resident Evil 1, so much so it was ultimately painful when the film took a very different turn. Chris is joined by fellow Special Forces agents on a mission to track down the arms dealer, Glenn Arias, and find Chris’s missing colleague and her son. Needless to say, the mission goes horribly wrong very quickly. Notably here, it was great to see a child zombie. It was pretty unnerving, particularly with the remote control car and how he still somewhat had a teeny little bit of mental processing capability to be interacting with the toy. It very much embodied the true horror of the series.

The first sequence does contain quite a lot of zombies. Running zombies. For as much as I enjoy zombies in the Resident Evil setting (more so than parasite infected Las Plagas victims), the pace becomes so fraught and hard to visually process. It just makes me miss the old style zombies in the early games that lumbered about sluggishly, building tension in a slower way to prolong the dread. Yeah, these newer zombies had their own scare factor with their adequacy with quickly taking down the task force Chris was with (sort of predictable, but never mind!), but for the most part they were just treated like mooks who were soon to be mowed down.

There is also the mention of some sort of viral manipulation, meaning that some of the zombies can distinguish between ‘friend’ and ‘foe’. Or basically Glenn just making sure the zombies don’t attack him or his posse and just go for everyone else. This fascinating inclusion is one plot point which, if I'm honest, doesn't make all that much of an impact. It was sort of there, but not in any significant way for me to remember it. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention, but it just seemed more of a footnote than anything to the later action in the film.

Glenn Arias as a villain was okay at best. He was what you expect from most Resident Evil villains really. Clever, resourceful, resilient… but otherwise, he didn’t particularly stand out from the crowd as someone particularly special. His back-story was built in an attempt at drawing some ounce of sympathy for his position, which doesn’t exactly work when it becomes clear that he was always a war-profiteering dickhead. But it also makes the government look decidedly callous as well, going to extreme lengths to rid themselves of such a dangerous man; but then again, with some of the stuff learned from Resident Evil 6 about the government, it wasn’t too hard to believe they’d go that far. I mean, their idea of a wedding present is dropping a bomb on his reception, with such blatant disregard for the possible innocents in the congregation. Then again, this is Glenn Arias, dodgy arms dealer. He probably didn’t get where he was without some shady support. But you kind of get some of his motivations for doing some of the things he does in the movie; but he seemed like a man who had been happily causing chaos beforehand that he didn’t really need a dead wife to fuel his motives – but oh well, when you want to feed the piranhas in the tragedy pool, give them something juicy. Then again, wasn’t Curtis Miller’s motivation from Degeneration of a similar ilk? Though, he didn’t quite go to the levels of Glenn to take revenge. But I digress.

After Chris’s failed mission, we finally get to see what Professor Rebecca Chambers is up to. She seems to have kept the same haircut since 1998, but hey, if that’s what she likes, why change it? Rebecca was a welcome return after so long away from the series, and it’s hammered home verbally on screen about her new prominent position with a bit of banter between herself and her colleague. Though technically, Rebecca has appeared in Biohazard: The Stage before this, but it seemed like Vendetta was ignoring this fact with the way she and Chris interacted when they do eventually meet up. Rebecca is basically treated as a plot device throughout the movie. She had worked out what the bad guys have been doing behind the scenes, and had managed to create a vaccine to fight back against their product. Of course, the bad guys aren’t happy about this and attack the institution where she works and release their airborne virus to zombify everyone. Rebecca, by sheer willpower alone it seems, manages to drag herself towards a vaccine before she becomes one of the mindless hordes, curing her ails. Her colleagues aren’t so fortunate.

It would have been nice to see Rebecca be a little more capable after surviving two nights in Raccoon City’s forests with all sorts of virus monstrosities, but it did seem she’d traded in her gun for a science book long ago and wasn’t quite as well prepared physically to handle such a threat like Leon and Chris were, so I can sort of forgive it a bit. But after the scenes of her dodging death, there isn’t a moment I really feel does justice to her character. She doesn’t do anything to make her stand tall with her fellow film leads. Much like all the women in this movie, they are an afterthought with varying degrees of usefulness – with Rebecca being predictably thrown into the damsel in distress role. Even the female villain who is seen prowling around during the film feels incredibly underdeveloped, even to the point that she is kicked to the curb a little later in the movie, only to turn up at the end just to look a little bit miffed before the credits roll. Obviously she was miffed for losing her loved one, but I like to think she was a bit miffed for basically doing sod all aside some meagre lackey work.

Once Chris turns up to aid Rebecca, they’re eventually given reason to go hunt down Leon, who after appearing for a few minutes at the beginning of the movie, is missing for about half an hour before he turns up having some sort of midlife crisis while trying and failing to have a vacation. Again.

For as much Leon gets on my nerves and I’m sick of seeing him, this whole other side of Leon was a welcome insight into his psyche. He’s not always a wise-cracking hero, but someone who has doubts about the future and is clearly worn down by constantly dealing with viral catastrophes. Chris and Leon bickering is fantastically highlighted by Rebecca, who calls them out on being brats – you go girl! Aside, you can’t blame Leon for his recent disillusioned state. His last mission was botched by someone on the team selling them out, which resulted in his unit being massacred. Of course, then this said person turns up – as you do – wanting protection. It just so happens that his previous betrayal was all to do with Glenn Arias and he now has in his hands some very important information from the man, which now means his life is now in danger. Of course, Glenn’s cronies turn up, kill the ‘rat’ and they kidnap Rebecca, leaving Leon and Chris to use Rebecca’s and the ‘rat’s’ info to track down Glenn, getting a picture of his next plan of action; to infect New York City with what is dubbed as the ‘A-Virus’.

While Chris and Leon are gearing up to go all badass, Rebecca finds herself dressed up as a bride – God knows who did the dressing up – in a faux wedding reception scene, as Glenn Arias has now become fixated on her because, low and behold, she looks pretty much like his dead wife. Weird he was so determined to kidnap her all of a sudden, after, you know, trying to kill her earlier in the movie without much consideration. Unless when they discovered her work originally, he didn’t actually look her picture up. But yeah, small details...

The scene is pretty intense with how bizarre Glenn is, but also particularly as the ‘wedding guests’ are his previous wedding guests who were killed by the bomb and have been zombified by viral intervention and are kept in boxes, because that’s not fucking weird at all. But even weirder is Glenn introducing Rebecca to what’s left of his wife – just an arm, which he has been cherishing a little too dearly. It was intriguing scene, if not a bit farfetched, with Rebecca and Glenn’s back and forth over his plans which is very much exposition-laden. I was intrigued by the end of the scene after Rebecca’s vehement refusal to fill in for his dead wife as his new bride, that he was thinking about cutting Rebecca’s arm off and replacing it with his wife’s. But yeah, that doesn’t happen, because the next scene they’re in, he’s kind of stopped giving two hoots that she resembles his wife and is using her for a new variation of the virus. Make up your mind, man!

Glenn’s cronies start unleashing the virus through gas into the city, causing zombifications aplenty and the city to quickly go into chaos. Leon, Chris, and some B.S.A.A. support turn up to locate Glenn and get hold of the vaccine. A whole lot of action takes the forefront at an extraordinary pace. We get zombie dogs, a mainstay of the series, who at one point chase Leon on a motorcycle in a scene that was just a little too ridiculous for my liking. Leon was pulling off all sorts of bike stunts while taking out the dogs, who for some reason could run about as fast as the bike and when they jumped on or hit cars, caused insane damage, as if they weighed as much as a full grown moose. I think that was one of the few scenes I really just didn’t enjoy at all – it was just Leon showboating and weird physics.

I do have to admit the action scenes are pretty well choreographed, though there was little to no horror or tension really there throughout the latter stages, but with the way the series had gone prior to Resident Evil 7 switching back onto the horror bandwagon, this was kind of a given. Leon and Chris as a team handled themselves pretty well, as you would expect. They were badasses through and through. I wasn’t too worried that something terrible would happen to them to the point of no return... because this is Leon and Chris after all. It’s with these intricate forays of action going on that makes me grump over Rebecca just being a victim needing rescuing, doing next to nothing but gasping for air for the latter part of the movie as she tries not to zombify.

Glenn and Chris having their showdown on the rooftop was typical action movie stuff, with Glenn seeming to have the upper hand throughout the fight. I mean, I’m surprised with the amount of punishment Chris takes in that fight that he is able to muster the strength to flip Glenn off him to deal him his fatal blow, which is him basically crashing through the skylight dramatically. But even after falling multiple storeys, he survives long enough to merge with his monstrous companion to become a new Tyrant as the movie’s ‘final boss’. Leon and the B.S.A.A. guys join Chris to take on Glenn-Tyrant, and I was honestly surprised that the B.S.A.A. guys in the chopper survived the fight – when Glenn targeted that chopper a few times, I thought they were definitely done for – but low and behold, they weren’t quite the Red Shirts I imagined they were. Leon gets thrown at hard objects again and walks away without significant injury, because he’s made of titanium or something, as has been the case with this movies series. Oh, and they’re firing insanely powerful weapons willy-nilly that cause quite the damage to other buildings. You just hope nobody else was in the line of fire. And Chris is the one to finish Glenn off – not a rocket launcher shot, but close enough. After which, Rebecca is saved as expected in the nick of time and they cure those infected in the city. The end. Well, until some other loon comes along to come up with some dastardly plan, which could likely be the female villain by how she turns up at the end.

Visually, Vendetta is stunning; some of the best CGI on the big screen in 2017. But it just ended up being all style and lacking major substance. The story was nothing spectacular – and somewhat clichéd – and the action played out in a very predictable manner. I mean, as an action movie alone, Vendetta ticked all the boxes and had a certain appeal. Leon and Chris looked spectacular as usual, doing all their action hero posturing and tricks. Leon even got a little bit more character development than I expected. Even so, I’m tired of Leon and Chris as the frontrunners. Yeah, they’re icons of the series, but maybe it’s time they focused on other characters for once. What have Billy and Carlos been up to all these years? Has Jill recovered enough from her Resident Evil 5 ordeal to get back out into the field? Then again, with the way the movies have handled the female heroines, I’m kind of glad that Jill has been left out of it. The likes of Claire and Rebecca have pretty much played second fiddle to Leon and Co., acting as the pacifists and sidekicks. At least Claire got Revelations 2 to recover some of her badassery, while Rebecca hasn’t had anything really since she appeared in Zero and Remake. Okay, so there is Biohazard: The Stage, if we can count that.

In comparison to Degeneration and Damnation, Vendetta is certainly a step up as an overall presentation, though, not by much. Personally, Vendetta and Degeneration had really good opening and ending portions to their movies, with the middle parts floundering a bit with clunky exposition. Damnation on the other hand, I found rather lacking until the latter stages – the Tyrant showdown at the end was done really well and was exciting to watch. I just didn’t connect with the characters as much in that film, even though Ada played a decent enough role. Maybe my dislike of Leon got in the way there, but despite him upgrading himself from a cardboard cut out personality from Degeneration, I just found him so dull. Aside, Resident Evil 6 and Vendetta has improved my thoughts about him with toning down the cocky repertoire.

I went into the movie with no major expectations, though I was excited and hopeful Rebecca would do something significant, and was not particularly pleased with her role, but I was glad to at least get to see her again as she had been left in limbo after her role in the Mansion Incident. It fits in well enough with the Resident Evil universe, though is a predictable standalone story that does nothing new. If you’re wanting an action movie, Vendetta will definitely please you for its violent set pieces, and that’s who I’d mainly recommend this film to aside the diehard Resident Evil fans. Don’t go expecting a masterpiece of storytelling, but what you do get is adequate enough as the backbone to action that plays out on screen. I hope if they do make another movie in the series, they will do something a bit more refreshing, maybe focusing a bit more on what Resident Evil 7 is starting to build. I’ll be waiting, possibly with some form of sharp object at hand to take on the zombie hordes!

Images © Capcom, Sony

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