Copyright 2002

[ March 14th 2002 ]

Can Milla Jovovich's Alice, in leather boots and mini skirt, match Angelina Jolie's butt-kicking Lara Croft at the box office, or is model-turned-actress Jovovich headed down the same route to a box office flop as all-digital Dr. Aki Ross?

These are questions inquiring producers of Resident Evil, the latest film based directly on a successful video game, are asking ahead of the movie's debut on Friday. Last year's two major games-turned-movies, Tomb Raider, starring Jolie as the game's heroine, and Final Fantasy, with the fully-digital character Ross, had very mixed results. Tomb Raider was made for about $80 million and grossed over $131 million in the United States alone.

But Final Fantasy, widely regarded as one of the most advanced animated films ever, reportedly cost $137 million to make and grossed only $32.1 million in the U.S., a result so poor the studio arm of Japanese video game publisher Square Co. Ltd. , which made the film, went out of business. What's to say Resident Evil won't meet the same fate? The answer may well be the director's obsession with the game. "I lost like three months of my life with 'Resident Evil' (the game)," director Paul W.S. Anderson told Reuters. "What really helps is if you have a team making the movie... that are really big fans of the game."

The Resident Evil franchise began in 1996, has spawned four games and sold 18 million units worldwide, according to Bill Gardner, president of Capcom Entertainment, the U.S. arm of Capcom Co. Ltd. , the game's publisher. "The strategy and direction this film took is a little bit different than has been taken in past," Gardner told Reuters. "This time the strategy was to let the movie makers make the movie ... about the video game." Gardner said Capcom was not involved in the making of the film beyond having script approval, and he said he has not yet even seen the film.

The movie tells the story of "Alice," a security operative for the multinational conglomerate Umbrella Corp., which derives most of its profits in secret from research into genetic engineering and viruses. That secretive research is done underground in a facility called "The Hive." When the experimental T-Virus is released into the Hive's air system, the "Red Queen," a computer system that controls the Hive's functions, kills all its occupants.

Alice, suffering from amnesia as the result of one of the Red Queen's security measures, must lead a commando team into the hive to find and stop whoever spread the virus. They also must try to escape the scores of Hive workers killed by the Red Queen, who have been reanimated by the T-Virus's nerve regeneration properties and turned into blood-sucking undead.

The film is being released by Screen Gems, a unit of Sony Pictures Entertainment, itself a part of Sony Corp.

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