Paul W.S. Andersen’s Resident Evil movies have long been derided by fans of the game (including me) for being accurate to their source material in only the most tenuous of fashions. Of course, after 5 movies, expecting anything different isn’t just an exercise in futility, it’s a workout regimen; the RE films became their own canon a long time ago.
Thankfully, Capcom seems to have heard the grumblings of the game’s fans and have released a duo of CG-rendered Resident Evil films that firmly fit into the game’s canon, first with the excellent Resident Evil: Degeneration, and now Damnation.
The movie starts off with a quick and dirty history lesson: after the dissolution of the USSR, the Eastern Slav Republic known as the Eastern Slav Republic (not a typo...couldn’t they call it Randomia or something?) is embroiled in a brutal civil war between the oligarchy and a band of scrappy freedom fighters. The war saw even more vicious escalation with the introduction of black market B.O.W.s to the mix, which draws the attention of Leon S. Kennedy as well as his old nemesis/love interest Ada Wong, who find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy involving Las Plagas, mind-controlled Lickers, and political intrigue that threatens to destroy the young country.
Those expecting a fully fleshed-out Resident Evil experience may find Damnation a little lacking in that department, with only a handful of enemies to face off against Leon—a few small groups of Plaga zombies, more lickers than I could even count, and a hellish handful of Mr. X’s (how do you pluralize that?)—as he tries to get to the bottom of the B.O.W. mystery that pretty much telegraphs its twist from the first moments of the movie.
But once you slog through the talky bits, the action is so balls-to-the-wall, so well-shot, and so goddamn exhilarating that you’re left almost breathless at times. The pacing is positively breakneck, with an immense body count—both human and B.O.W.—and lots of fantastic set pieces to give fans the RE cinematic experience that they’ve been craving for years. Some of the shots are a bit questionable at times, with a massive surplus of “lunging toward the screen” angles that hint that this was meant for a 3D experience, but the level of polish that the CG shows is impressive.
The other aspect that shows great polish is the dedication to the source material. Leon is equally capable of showing great nobility as well as delivering one-liners (the S. stands for sassy), even n the face of great peril. Ada is an enigma as always, switching between good actions and bad seemingly at random, and the cast of new characters in the film are all familiar, but well fleshed out archetypes. There is also some fantastic fan service thrown about, including a giddying brawl between a pack of lickers and the iconic Mr. X. Best of all? The fan service has canonical context! Imagine that…
Let’s be honest, a Resident Evil movie based completely off of the game canon is not going to win any awards or blow people away with a taut, compelling script. However, it panders to fans of the game series in a way that’s satisfying, offering a canonical aside that’s both faithful and fun.