Hideo BruckheimerPaul W.S. Anderson: Not as Bad as Uwe BollHideo Bruckheimer - RSS 2.0
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Anderson didn't direct this fast-tracked sequel, but he wrote and produced it, which explains why it dovetails so neatly with the climax of the original. It also seems closely tied to one of the actual videogames, channeling key elements of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. The only recognizable surviving character from the first film is Alice, who scours a zombie-infested Raccoon City with a largely forgettable bunch of supporting characters to rescue a young girl. A lumbering, well-armed hulk in a trench coat stalks the streets in pursuit.
Inner film snob: Anderson again builds the story around Alice, who is growing in strength and kick-ass confidence. Recurring motifs include numerous scenes of CCTV surveillance, a preponderance of neck-snapping and the return of those zombie dogs. Though grander in scale, the story remains muddled and uninvolving - and while the post-nuclear-explosion ending tees up yet another film, it lacks the oomph of its predecessor.
Inner games freak: Finally, Jill Valentine (played by Sienna Guillory) turns up! There are also Lickers, Hunters and the chance to see the Umbrella Corporation be all ruthless and mean by shooting innocent civilians. This gets me psyched enough to want to go back and play the game, which must be some measure of the film's quality, right?
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
For the sweaty third instalment, Anderson returned as writer and producer, and perhaps more (the credited director, Highlander man Russell Mulcahy, was briefly hospitalized during filming in Mexicali). Five years after Apocalypse, Alice is evading Umbrella satellite surveillance by hiding out in the Utah desert. A convoy of survivors led by Claire Redfield heads for half-buried Las Vegas to resupply for a last-ditch odyssey to Alaska. And Umbrella is experimenting with Alice clones ...
Inner film snob: With the shimmering desert setting giving it a whole new look, Extinction feels like a film that has actually evolved beyond the games (although the recent Resident Evil 5 is pretty sun-baked). After being on the run for so long, seeing Alice tentatively reintegrate with humanity - even if it's just by blowing up zombies with her new Jedi mind powers - is almost affecting.
Inner games freak: Finally, Wesker (played by the main guy from Life On Mars) turns up! Except he's only a hologram. There are precious few fanboy nods, although the climax is surprisingly staged in the mansion from the first film. And Alice's desert get-up - stockings, duster and Ghurka knives - would be one hell of a costume unlock.
So, after almost eight hours in his cinematic company, does Anderson seem like one of "us" or one of "them"? He claims he's a veteran gamer, and from Mortal Kombat onwards he's obviously convinced financial backers that he has the expertise required to successfully repurpose videogame licenses. Gamers might think they want a slavish recreation of their beloved joypad experiences, but did anyone really enjoy the ridiculous FPS sequence in Doom (2005)? Anderson at least seems aware that videogame movies should try and bring a new dimension to the source material. So I don't think he's a hack who's only in it for the money. It's just a shame that his ideas about how to expand the source material are so muddled.
While his videogame movies are often topped-and-tailed by punchy, OMG vignettes, the long bits in the middle ¬ - the part most people call "the actual film" - are always overpopulated by barely-sketched characters engaged in incoherent action, a default setting that he's used three times in a row for the Resident Evil movies. From a wider perspective, it's fantastic that there's a successful, female-led Hollywood action franchise out there, but is it wrong to want it to be a bit better?
My conclusion? W.S. is a hack ... but he does it for love.
Graeme Virtue is a freelance writer based in Scotland. He is co-founder of the indecipherable naan-fanboy blog Trampy And The Tramp's Glasgow Of Curry.