RESIDENT EVIL JOINS TOMB RAIDER
Copyright 2001 www.tombraiderchronicles.com

[ November 17th 2001 ]

Milla Jovovich plays the Lara Croft-style heroine in a new film based on one of the world's scariest video games, Resident Evil. Having a name like a macrobiotic shampoo must be tough, but that hasn't prevented Milla Jovovich from seeing it in lights. And she's been around for longer than you'd think.

She was the girl who rolled the joints in Richard Linklater's 1993 film Dazed and Confused, the madame of the chilly frontier brothel in Michael Winterbottom's snowbound Western The Claim and the pudding-basined patriot in the title role of her former husband Luc Besson's Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc . You may also recall her splashing about as the female lead in Return to the Blue Lagoon.

Jovovich's next film, due for release next spring, takes her deep into Lara Croft and Tomb Raider territory. When she steps into the combat boots of Alice the Zombie Slayer, she'll be following in the footsteps of millions of video gamers, hunched intently over their PlayStation consoles.

Resident Evil - the Gothic shoot-'em-up game in which you are a SWAT member deadheading zombies in smalltown America - has sold 16 million copies worldwide. Additional merchandising and movie deals have made the game's Japanese developer, Capcom, Dollars 600 million richer.

The premise of the game is simple: you're stuck in a mansion full of hideous mutant zombies, unfortunates transformed into this putrefying state by a biotech company working on chemical weapons. Your mission is to solve puzzles that will gain you access to the exit and kill off any of the nasty characters who get in your way.

The original game owes something to Night of the Living Dead, George Romero's classic gore film, in which living corpses go wild in a Pittsburgh shopping mall. As an acknowledgement of that debt, Capcom hired Romero to make a million-dollar trailer for the game. They also persuaded him to direct a big-screen version. Odd, you'd think, for a renowned director to agree to oversee a film based on his own work.

Alan Bryce, editor of the horror magazine The Dark Side, is sensitive to this irony. 'Resident Evil is, in effect, the game of Night of the Living Dead, so making a film of it seems a pointless exercise. "The producers will want to aim the film at computer game players, who are mostly in their early teens, so they need it to have a 12 or a 15 certificate. They won't want someone such as Romero to make an horrific film that can only be shown to people aged over 18."

And, in this case, they don't. Paul Anderson, the man who transposed another popular video game, Mortal Kombat, from the arcade to the multiplex, soon replaced Romero as director. He is spending Dollars 67 million on his version of Resident Evil (due for release next spring), which dispenses with the original characters from the games.

Until Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was released early this year, films based on video games had endured a dismal record at the box office. The reason was obvious: it would take a genius to produce a workable film from such poverty-stricken source material as the games Super Mario Brothers, Street Fighter and Wing Commander. But none of them had a star with such a wacky name as Jovovich, or an inspiration so firmly in a legitimate tradition of Gothic narrative as Night of the Living Dead.

There are no great films about plumbers jumping over rolling logs, the basis of the game Super Mario Brothers. There are plenty of great films about the dead returning to plague the living. The makers of Resident Evil have history on their side.

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