Resident Evil: Damnation DVD Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Directed by Makoto Kayima
Written by Shotara Sugo
2012, Region 2 (PAL), 96 minutes, Rated 15
DVD released on 24 September 2012
Matthew Mercer as Leon S. Kennedy
Dave Wittenberg as Buddy/Alexander 'Sasha' Kozachenko
Wendee Lee as Svetlana Belikova
Val Tasso as JD
Courtenay Taylor as Ada Wong
Salli Saffioti as Ingrid Hunnigan
Neither the film, nor the game, but a sequel to the latter's animated tie-in movie (which will itself lead into the events of the sixth videogame), Damnation is the start of a very busy year for Resident Evil fans. At this rate, all that resident evil is going to overcrowd the place something terrible.
The adventures of floppy fringed special agent Leon S. Kennedy (looking less like a tough super-soldier and more like a tormented Kurt Kobain wannabe) won't be to all tastes, but fans of the videogame and its rich history should find more to enjoy than in Paul WS Anderson's increasingly irrelevant Resident Evil series. Kennedy actually makes an appearance in Anderson's latest, Retribution, but he's as disposable and essentially interchangeable as the rest of the characters in those films. At least Anderson gets his fringe right though, which is the core of the character anyway.
In Damnation, Leon and his amazing hair investigate the threat of biological warfare in a war-torn Eastern European country. Matters become complicated when Leon is captured by local militia and attacked by hordes of the drooling monsters known as 'Lickers'. It's more of a fast-paced action movie than a survival horror tale, but there are moments of the series' characteristic extreme violence and ghastly horror. Also, lots and lots of complicated plot.
Taking the animated route means that we get the fringe in all its golden glory. Damnation looks a lot like a cut-scene from one of the videogames throughout, but it works very well in parts. The monsters look fantastic (Lickers mostly, with nary a look in for the series' zombies) as do the darker, more atmospheric scenes. It's not so great where character work is concerned though, with everyone wandering around looking like one of Doctor Who's Autons or something out of a Robert Zemeckis animated movie. It's very difficult to care about a protagonist when their face is effectively a blank, emotionless space (the same reason I don't watch Hollyoaks). It attempts to appeal to the red-blooded crowd with sexy mercenary Ada Wong, but it's hard to get too worked up about a cartoon creation (Futurama's Leela aside). The red dress she sports in the film just left me wishing I were watching Milla Jovovich's Alice instead.
The lack of any introduction to Leon and Ada doesn't help the film's cause either. Straight away, we're thrown into action, the story assuming we already know who the characters are and what's going on. It's a stand-alone story in the Resident Evil universe, but it assumes the viewer already knows quite a bit about that universe to begin with. It quickly gets very convoluted. While not difficult to follow, those who get the most from the story will probably be die-hard scholars of Resident Evil.
Resident Evil: Damnation is a nice attempt at fan service, giving those who enjoy the videogames a valid alternative to Anderson's daft live-action franchise. Those of us who go no further than the occasional game of Resi or the Milla Jovovich movies will likely find themselves a little lost and bored.
Watching Damnation is like looking over a friend's shoulder as they play through one of the videogames. It's very pretty and all, but you'll spend most of the time waiting for your go.
Video and Audio:
Fittingly, it looks a lot like a videogame. The monsters, gore and environments look great, but the character work is dull and a little inhuman (not in a good way). That fringe though, is incredible. They should use this movie to advertise hair conditioner.
There's a cheesy gag reel, a couple of featurettes about the film's monsters, and a trailer for Resident Evil 6, as though the whole film isn't effectively an advertisement itself.