After a total of eight films built out of the godfather franchise that gave birth to the survival horror video game, was it possible that this ninth, but subsequently third of the animated series portion, hit the jackpot? Having a limited one night only theatrical engagement, the new Resident Evil: Vendetta ran in select theatres nationwide on Monday, June 19th 2017. It is safe to say that if you felt the concluding entry in the live-action portion of the Capcom franchise, last winter’s Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, was probably best left unwritten and unproduced, this new animated film was everything that a Resident Evil film should have been from the start and more.
The live-action series, starting in 2002, did their own thing for better or worse, introducing established video game characters into an otherwise alternate RE world. Three of them, alright maybe four, were good and the other two sadly, were not as good. Flashback to 2008, Resident Evil: Degeneration – the first of the animated films – made its debut on DVD and Blu-Ray and that was a welcome return for fans of the franchise. Intertwined with the video game universe, that film welcomed adored characters like Claire Redfield (Alyson Court, “Resident Evil 2”, “Murdoch Mysteries”) and Leon S. Kennedy (voiced then by Paul Mercier, “Resident Evil 4”) back in a new storyline expanding on the corrupt corporation known as Umbrella and evolving the infamous, and infectious, T-Virus. However, it still lacked some of the “Umph” that the first few video games had. Fast forward to 2012, Resident Evil: Damnation pops up in a storyline focusing on Leon (Matthew Mercer, “Monsters University”, “Resident Evil 6”) and giving RE fans their extra fix with another beloved character, Ada Wong (Courtenay Taylor, “Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City”, “Skylanders Academy”). Soviet nation corruption, mixed with experimentation on the T-Virus, lead to a better developed story and the appearances of the tyrant monster Mr. X, so it hit some of the right notes. But what else could be done with this animated line of the franchise? Where are more of the major characters that populated the video games; characters that we all wanted to see come alive in this format.
Keep reading after the trailer
Worry no more Resident Evil gruesome gorehounds – Resident Evil: Vendetta delivers from the very beginning. Launching with a more defined and intriguing narrative structure, we are re-introduced right away to Leon Kennedy (veteran voice actor Matthew Mercer reprising the role once again) in a scene that foreshadows how he will play into this new story while simultaneously letting us all reflect on the loves and the loss in his life so far throughout the video games and movies – story remnants of the Los Illuminados from RE4 are even carried over later on in a nice touch. The best part of these animated films is that they indeed interlock with the running storylines of the games – making it one mass true-to-form Resident Evil world. No sooner after this tease of Leon are we launched into action that is reminiscent of the very first game with a team, led by the number one contender for franchise favorite character, Chris Redfield (Kevin Dorman, “Fallout 4”, “Real Steel”, “Avatar”), as he heads into Mexico on a rescue mission to retrieve a woman and her young son both of whom have been kidnapped by arms dealer and now bio-weapons terrorist Glenn Arias (John DeMita, “Final Fantasy”, “Friday the 13th: The Game”). The helicopter descends and the team gets right to…a creepy old mansion. Perfect. There is just the right balance between the “we have seen this before” element and the “danger lurks so grab the edge of your seat quick” adventure looming on the horizon.
A lot goes down in this opening ten minutes, and then the opening title screen hits. Seriously!? All this and the film is only really beginning. The main antagonist is introduced with such bravado and a hint of compassion, as is a peak at his subsidiaries that will both play prominent sub-boss roles, and we see how the vendetta story arc comes into play. One quick negative remark here and that is that we get the proverbial and clichéd “Noooooooo” shouts into the sky by not one, but two characters; whether it was meant to mirror the other and their vendettas – these just get a bit ridiculous after how many years in movies. Granted, this is the only negative for which can be said here. Right back into the positive saddle is the face that long-time fans have clamored to see whether in the animated or the live-action but never had, and that is the character of Rebecca Chambers (Erin Cahill, “Power Rangers: Time Force”, “Boogeyman 3”); Chambers is an original game character that actually encountered the T-Virus before Chris Redfield and others – she even had her own prequel game on just that encounter with Resident Evil Zero. Where favorites like Jill Valentine and Ada Wong have their no-nonsense and tough-as-nails attitude, and Claire Redfield has her heart on her sleeve with innocence even in her strongest times, Rebecca Chambers is the full real deal combining strength, skills, wills, and the smarts to deal with all kind of situations. In fact, she will play right on the equal field along with Chris and Leon because of her smarts – she has figured out Arias’s new “A-Virus” and developed a vaccine! For this reason, she also becomes the major target in the new story. Not to jump ahead but if you want to see why Chris Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy are the faces that run the RE places – you will not be disappointed as both get some star-shining, serious ass-kicking moments.
The animation is by far the best yet of any of the animated movies, which are a testament to the ever growing CGI technology, but also the team behind-the-scenes who gives the direction and editing to make these scenes blend together and actually forget you are watching animated characters. There is a ton of action here, with some superb hand-to-hand combat sequences and a jaw-dropping scene with Leon, on his motorcycle, racing to evade the nasty virus-infected dogs known as the Cerberus. We have zombies. We have blood. We have brains. We have guts. We have creepy, dark settings like the aforementioned Mexican mansion, as well as dark halls of institutes and even New York City skyscrapers. We have characters that, although established through video games and previous films, still have their own demons and work to face them each day. This is not a fictitious land where heroes experience these horrors then move on – these are characters that hurt, feel, reflect, and ponder what their life is. There is even a great scene with Chris Redfield where he downplays fellow soldiers’ compliments to him with an insight into the reality of being a heroic soldier in a corrupt, virus-infected world. There is a formula that resonated with every game player in 1996, 1998, 2000 and so on up until, maybe Resident Evil 5, that was simply: establish the horror, work the mood, follow the characters, uncover the secrets of the plot, fight horrific zombies and other nasties and lastly, have a climactic battle with a huge experiment turned monster that will gladly make someone need a change of underwear when revealed. Unlike any of the live-action, and the past animated films though they did have their climactic battles with evolved virus-infected characters, Resident Evil: Vendetta gives us the biggest and best while paying homage to the classic Tyrant of the original, and the extremely popular William Birkin G-Monster of RE2.
In a time where the reboot button was partially set on the video games with the recent back-to-the-basics Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, and an actual remake planned to start a fresh line of live-action films, there was nothing more rewarding than knowing that after all this time – the creative was able to hit this entry out of the park and out of this world. The other audience members in the theatre this evening equally shared this enthusiasm – reacting to certain scenes – and geeking out by the time the end credits rolled; clearly ready to rush home to play their favorite entries or discuss and theorize where Vendetta fits in and speculate what will happen now (or where it exactly fits though one viewer did mention she believed it was just before, or just after, Resident Evil 6). It is a rarity to have such a compelling horror video game turned animated movie that asks questions, gives the answers, and takes you on one hell of a ride in between. RE fans have no vendetta against the creative anymore – this time fans have a movie that truly can make them proud to be resident, evil.
Resident Evil: Vendetta is scheduled for Blu-Ray and DVD release July 18th, 2017.