Reviewed by John Hussey
After the agonising challenge of reviewing the Resident Evil film series I thought it would do me some good to actually review something that was actually good. So I turned my attention to the animated film series by Capcom and Sony Pictures Entertainment. I mean, they can’t be any worse than the mind-numbingly painful Paul W. S. Anderson movies surely?
Throughout my reviews for the Resident Evil film series I screamed constantly about them being unable to faithfully adapt the narratives of the video games. So naturally Resident Evil: Degeneration felt like a massive reward. The animated feature actually sets itself within the video game universe and acts as an extension of the games’ ongoing events. It’s almost as if Capcom got completely pissed off that their franchise was continually being raped by Anderson before finally snapping, “Fuck this shit! We’re going to make our own fucking movies, set within our own fucking series, and they’re without a doubt going to be better than your sorry fucking excuses for Resident Evil movies!”
Degeneration sets itself between the events of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, adding a little backstory of what went on behind-the-scenes. After the destruction of Raccoon City the Umbrella Corporation falls apart and is bought out by another company called WilPharma. But history begins to repeat itself as another Raccoon incident occurs in India, with WilPharma taking the blame. In an age of bio-terrorism the world begins to witness a new kind of horror as the innocent are transformed into zombies as villains gain power through inhuman means. This then spreads to the Harvardville Airport were the scene is set for another T-Virus outbreak.
Everything seems to be going well, with a neat setting for a Resident Evil story and brings in a couple of fan favourites to deal with the situation. But, things aren’t perfect. The first thing that has to be noted is the animation. It’s not God-awful, but it’s certainly not gorgeous either. If I had to describe it I’d say the animation reminds me of PlayStation 2 cut-scenes. Effective for the time but without a doubt outdated now. It’s just baffling really to see so much effort wasted by the very thing you have to fucking stare at throughout the entire feature, and it can be truly distracting (particularly when the lip-syncing doesn’t always sync).
Another problem is the old Resident Evil campy dialogue and questionable character decisions. There are multiple times within this film were I was just utterly confused as to why things were happening the way they panned out. At the beginning of the outbreak Claire Redfield just stands there and doesn’t do anything productive in order to help out the situation, despite being combat trained and being well aware of what was going on due to past experiences. Later on she rushes off to help a little girl but then doesn’t do anything. I was wondering what was going through her head (probably nothing) and without the assistance of Leon S. Kennedy she would’ve probably turned into zombie chow.
My final gripe with this animated feature is your dependence on knowing the in-and-outs of the Resident Evil law. There were multiple occasions were I had no idea what was going on simply because I’m not the biggest expect when it comes to the franchise. I haven’t played Resident Evil 4 (blasphemy I know) and I can only remember the events of Resident Evil 3 from watching my siblings playing it, and even then that’s quite hazy. And even though I love Resident Evil 5 (again blasphemy) I still didn’t get how this film linked into it. Heck, sometimes I couldn’t tell what was game history or what was just made-up for this film.
I think I have to say that the first act of Degeneration is my favourite, simply because interesting shit happens and we have some great character moments. Despite Claire being almost completely useless she manages to protect Senator Ron Davis (one of the biggest arseholes imaginable). He was the kind of character who was so arrogant and selfish that you wanted him to die every time he even breathed. Every time I thought he was going to get his just-reward he unfortunately kept going, making me further mad at the film for allowing such an arse-wipe to remain amongst the living whilst the innocent died left, right, and centre.
Then enters Mr. Badass himself, Leon, who from the moment he arrives becomes a dominant figure within the feature as he proves himself capable for every given situation. I think the problem is we get little development to his character and the animated feature goes along to expand upon his badass nature, whilst relying on fan’s knowledge of his inner-character from the actual games.
It was interesting to see characters Angela Miller and Greg Glenn being unaware of what was going on as they followed Leon into the now zombie infested airport. At first I found it infuriating that they lacked common sense in dealing with a zombie but when I looked at the scenario in perspective it really made sense. Umbrella covered up their tracks and so the incident within Raccoon City wasn’t made public, so why would Angela and Greg know how to deal with a zombie. Of course it becomes hard for Angela to adjust because she feels she’s essentially firing at civilians. Leon, however, never hesitates once to put them down and in a cold, harsh attitude demonstrates how they remain alive.
This was one of Degeneration‘s key selling points because it showed how this nightmarish world had affected Leon. He wasn’t new to this environment and after surviving the hells of Raccoon City, before going on to confront the horrifying effects of Las Plagues in Europe whilst trying to rescue the President’s daughter, it’s fair to say that it may have taken its tool on his perceptions. Angela was now seeing this first hand and quickly grew disgusted by the evil usage of bioweapons, which all steamed back to the American government.
I was actually delighted in seeing a Resident Evil film that actually felt like the video games. No more was I witnessing the bullshit of Anderson’s half arsed ideas, but a real incorporation of everything we know and love about the iconic franchise. Even down to the additional sound-effects like the clunks every time a character made a step. It brought you home, back to where it all started. I really enjoyed watching Leon working alongside Claire and protecting the few survivors (minus Ron) from the seemingly endless undead. Sometimes I just wanted to grab my controller and jump right into the action.
And that was another issue with this animated feature. Though it was great to be getting an actual Resident Evil movie I was left somewhat dissatisfied in places because I felt I’d rather be playing the games than sitting and watching it. I know it sounds silly but it ruined some of my enjoyment. It didn’t help that the second act was extremely dull with little, to nothing happening as it built up towards the climax. But there wasn’t a lot riding on this narrative. No real pay-off. It just added in the usual Resident Evil clichés and didn’t even bother to add anything else. The narrative ultimately became plain, lacking any real substance.
It’s a massive shame because the first act had everything going for it with the inclusion of a T-Virus outbreak in an airport and the simple narrative of surviving. The animated feature really tried to pull in a mystery as it kept you guessing as to who the culprit was. It was very clear from the beginning that Curtis Miller would be the middle-man but it was Capcom’s sorry excuse at trying to humanise this villain that became rather painful. In hindsight Curtis should’ve become a great villain because he was the perfect example of a fallen hero, having lost his wife and daughter in the Raccoon City incident and now wanted to exploit the government for their lies in the aftermath.
This guy has every reason to be doing what he’s doing. His family perished and their deaths didn’t receive any justice. The people responsible didn’t get punished as the government did their usual trick of putting a massive spin within the media. Curtis wanted to make sure that they were exposed as liars and paid for their sins. But the animated feature doesn’t really explore his character, nor delves into his dilemmas, or who he’s really working for and how this came about. More details were needed and more exploration would’ve been much appreciated. Instead he gets lost up in the chaos of the narrative and loses any potential heightening.
The narrative moves from the interesting airport setting to the dull looking WilPharma research building. Though the garden area looks nice to begin with it quickly becomes quite bland when it’s turned into a pile of rumble and flames. Also Claire’s character becomes rather redundant and serves no real purpose besides learning a few key elements to unravel the mystery, but even then she gets most of it wrong and Leon on two occasions had to clarify her accusations towards Ron.
Say it’s clever how the animated feature gives you a few red-herrings (mostly because it has to so as not to make the identity of the villain completely obvious from the beginning). In the end it’s revealed that Frederic Downey is the culprit behind the attacks. He’s at first made out to be a good guy because of his research to create a vaccine for the T-Virus but, as it turns out, he’s simply been using WilPharma to conduct his evil schemes, ultimately trying to sell his research on the black-market for the usage of bio-terrorism.
As the WilPharma research facility begins falling apart, the mooks drop off like fly’s, and the security system acts against our heroes, and a semi anti-climatic showdown occurs between Leon, Angela and Curtis. Angela is brought in to add more drama to this battle due to Curtis conveniently being her older brother. And again not much is done with that. There’s little hesitation for Angela to fight back after Leon explains Curtis is dead and the monster before her isn’t her brother. I suppose it was good of Capcom to have Curtis attempt to regain his humanity, after injecting himself with the G-Virus, in order to try and save his sister.
It’s neat how this third act feels like a massive boss-battle but again it’s not always very interesting and can become quite generic and bland. I suppose I would rather be playing the scene as it may have made it more engaging. Then after Curtis was killed without much drama or dilemma at the hands of Leon, Frederic is apprehended. Though I did like the fact that the scene let you believe (just for an instance) that Angela might’ve killed him to get her revenge for the death of Curtis, after he was used for Frederic’s selfish schemes. Leon and Claire even turn their backs as if to say, “He’s all yours,” but Angela nobly arrests him, believing he isn’t worth killing.
And that’s it. Damnation held such promise to me (particularly since I was told only good things about these animated films) but it became rather dull to watch. Not unbearable, but certainly not something I would quickly run back to. The second act seemed to drag out as Claire’s more interesting scenes got intercut constantly with unnecessary cutaways to Leon and Angela were they shallowly added to the plot. Also there were two cringe-worthy moments where these two characters simply starred at each other. It became uncomfortable to watch. I didn’t know whether the animators had suddenly dropped dead themselves or whether these two characters where creepily into one another. Either way I was fucking glad when Claire interrupted both scenes.
The third act became very generic (though somewhat entertaining) because there wasn’t much dilemma, and I certainly didn’t feel much threat value. I suppose it didn’t help that I knew Leon featured extensively in Resident Evil 6. Curtis’ character is totally wasted as his emotional backstory is completely pushed to the side. Instead of becoming a multi-layered villain he just became another generic Resident Evil menace that ended up mutating themselves into a tyrant-like creature.
Frederic was even worse as he didn’t even stand-out as a villain and his schemes were quite pathetic and didn’t warrant for any of the evil deeds throughout the film. I suppose that made him even more detestable because the suffering of both Curtis and the civilians within India and Harvardville Airport was down to money. But we never find out who he was working for. The only thing I could think of was it was a very vague tie-in to Resident Evil 5, to which the master-mind was Albert Wesker. But I can’t be certain. I guess it would explain the random addition of Tricell at the end. At least Ron finally died but it’s just a shame that the reasoning is left completely unanswered, along with the ending itself.
Resident Evil: Degeneration failed in many areas but at least it fulfilled its purpose of being a Resident Evil movie. It ultimately created a neat little filler story to fill in the gaps between the games, and gave fans an extra treat to stick their teeth into, and of course respected the core characters. So despite my slight disappointments this film still gets a recommendation from me. Just don’t expect anything too outstanding. But at the end of the day this film was a billion times better that Anderson’s Resident Evil films, even if they do have more flashy action sequences.